"He was one of those guys that had that weird light around him."
-from Apocalypse Now
I'm not gonna jump on the band wagon and pretend that I was a huge fan or I was closely following his career, but this 28 year old guy was just taking off with his acting chops. He was going to be like a darker (if that's possible)and edgier Johnny Depp, taking on oddball characters and roles that would keep him sharp, and always restless for more.
I didn't want to watch Brokeback Mountain because of all the hype, but the EclecTic Wife insisted. I have to say it was his performance that made that movie work. He carried it. Quite a thing to do at such an early age. Like Rod Steiger, he became the character-wearing their skin and with that, all the other complex vagaries of human fallibility.
In interviews, he seemed shy, always trying to articulate those artistic goals which are always so difficult to define, let alone accomplish. In short, he was the real deal. We'll never know what he could have brought to the screen as he matured.
He was one of those guys. Call it a light. With light though, sometimes darkness is a close companion. I suspect without knowing any details that this was the case. You could sense it in his work. He spoke about the trouble he was experiencing in his personal life while inhabiting the Joker's skin in the forthcoming Batman. That's art, baby.
But it comes with a cost.