Writer-director Stephen Gaghan is sharing new details about a movie he was planning to make with Heath Ledger at the time of the “Brokeback Mountain” actor’s death.

Appearing on author Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” podcast this week, Gaghan recalled his experience developing a film adaptation of Gladwell’s 2005 book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” with Leonardo DiCaprio in mind for the starring role.

While working on the “Blink” script, Gaghan was introduced to Ledger, and ultimately decided that he was better suited for the part.

“I’d just had a real connection with him that was kind of unusual and really special to me,” he explained. “I had a feeling that I just love this guy, and I was going to make a bunch of movies with him.”

Sadly, those plans came to a halt when Gaghan received a phone call from Ledger’s father and one of the actor’s close friends, who informed him that Ledger had been found dead in New York.

“I got a phone call, they were on speakerphone, and it was Heath Ledger’s father, who I had never met,” he told Gladwell. “The dad and the guy who was closest to him in his professional life, they were there with the body. Our script was in bed with him and your book was on the bedside table.”

Filmmaker Stephen Gaghan, left, and actor Heath Ledger.
Filmmaker Stephen Gaghan, left, and actor Heath Ledger.

He went on to note: “I think my number was on the script. These guys are, as you can imagine, in shock, and they dialed that number.”

Ledger died Jan. 22, 2008, of an accidental overdose that involved several prescription medications. At the time of his death, the 28-year-old had recently completed filming on “The Dark Knight,” and would later posthumously receive an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Joker.

Gaghan, whose Hollywood credits include 2000’s “Traffic” and 2005’s “Syriana,” said that he’d never spoken publicly about Ledger’s death prior to his chat with Gladwell.

At the time of the phone call, Gaghan and his wife, Minnie Mortimer, were traveling through an airport.

“I literally just collapse. It’s never happened to me before or since,” he said. “My feet went out from under me. I just literally sat down because I was like: ‘What? What?’ … My wife was looking at me. I remember her face and I was just speechless. I just listened and listened and listened. It was just really, really sad. And it’s still sad.”

Though the “Blink” adaptation fell by the wayside after Ledger’s death, Gaghan said that he reread the film’s script in advance of his podcast interview, and hinted that it might someday be worth revisiting.

“I could be crazy, but I think this script is really good. I think we really had something really special,” he said. “We might have been a little ahead of our time.”

Listen to Gaghan discuss Ledger on “Revisionist History” below, beginning around the 34:13 mark.





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