From film stills and celebrity portraits, costumes and movie memorabilia, Heath Ledger was everywhere to be seen at the National Film and Sound Archive on Friday.
But while the new exhibition about the late actor’s life and art could have been filled with sadness, fellow actor Abbie Cornish said seeing her old friend’s face on every wall filled her with joy.
“There’s a lot of light in the exhibition,” she said.
“I think that was his life - he was like a shooting star.”
The exhibition, which runs at the archive until February 10, showcases the many facets of Ledger’s personality, from his eclectic film oeuvre to his passion for skateboarding and chess.
It's showing in Canberra after a successful run at the Art Gallery of Western Australia earlier this year, to mark 10 years since the actor’s untimely death.
Born in Perth, Ledger left school at 16 to pursue his acting career.
By the time he was 20, he had landed his big break in the film Two Hands, and over the next eight years would star in several Hollywood movies, including Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, for which he was awarded a posthumous Oscar.
He died in 2008, aged 28, after accidentally overdosing on prescription drugs.
Working with the Ledger family, who had originally approached the gallery for advice on what to do with Ledger’s personal archive, curator Allison Holland said the show had been a challenge to put together from the 5000-odd photographs, 30 hours of film footage and dozens of costumes, scripts and storyboards.
Among the displays are the costume Ledger wore in his Oscar-winning turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight, and the jacket from the famous still of him as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain.
“I picked the things that I thought spoke most not just about Heath and his creativity, but also about the whole film industry,” Ms Holland said.
“It's a really good way of exploring the collaborative nature, the depth of skill base that's there. Obviously there's the filmography, but interwoven with that is celebrity portraits taken by Australian celebrity photographers who live in LA, or New York, and there's also his personal photographs that he was taking, really to hone his eye to be a director.”
By interpersing the exhibition with film footage and music videos, Ms Holland said she wanted to communicate Ledger’s larger-than-life presence.
“The anecdotal stories go that he would walk into the room and everybody would just be attracted to look at him and hear his voice,” she said.
“He had a very strong physical presence, and he was just a very genuine, down-to-earth person, and he was interested in people, which made him very likeable.
It's also trying to give people a very celebratory memory.”
Cornish, who starred with Ledger in the 2006 film Candy - a gritty love story about two heroin addicts - had fond and vivid memories of working with him on set.
“I felt like in a way, we were on a journey together. We became very close very fast, he was like a brother to me, and I was very lucky to catch him at a really deeply artistic moment in his life, a very creative moment in his life,” she said.
She was proud to be invited to be the show’s ambassador.
“I just had a feeling that this is a really wonderful representation, it’s what I like about this exhibition.
Shooting stars can't go forever....He had a really magic, amazing, beautiful, light-filled life, and touched so many people around it. It is what it is, you can't change it. So celebrating it is the best way to go about it.”
Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures is showing at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra until February 10. Entry is free.