"The director Terry Gilliam is beside himself too, as he scrambles around the set of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to persuade his mutinous crew to agree to one more take; but it's too late – the permit to film ran out at midnight, and pieces of equipment are already being hastily stashed into their silver flight-boxes, ready for the next job.
In a final attempt to salvage the situation, Heath joins Terry in petitioning them: "C'mon guys... Please! Just one more take... Just one more. I mean, c'mon, what difference is another 10 minutes going make?" But it's all in vain as they continue packing.
As it will transpire, the scene that's just been shot – a vile mob giving chase to Heath Ledger through the winding backstreets of London's East End – will be the last he'll ever shoot.
Heath Ledger as the Joker, with lax, yellow hair, caved-in face, and smudged, blood-red lipstick, bright and colourful and terrible, like a Japanese water-demon, or something from a Corman horror. This image, loaded with ghostly resonances, speaks solely of death; and this is what I find strange, because in those last three days I worked with Heath, I encountered a man who was so full of life.
[...] And with that, Gilliam beckoned him over to the monitors. It was soon apparent that Heath was utterly immersed in this role and in this whole project. After each scene had been shot, he'd be running off to watch it played back, regardless of whether he had starred in it or not. He was so active on set that if he wasn't wearing such an outlandish costume, it would have been impossible to distinguish him from the any of the production team's top brass.
All the talk on the set of was of his performance as the Joker. The buzz was that once it was released, Heath would to be seen in a whole new light – as a "proper" actor, a "brilliant" actor, possibly. He would be massive – absolutely massive; and after what I'd seen of his work ethic on that first day, absolutely wasted too. '
Back on set, Terry and Heath were soon having another of their private conversations. It was hard to tell who was directing who. I shimmied closer, only to overhear some scurrilous gossip about Tom Cruise. Heath eventually broke off and came over to ask if any of us had seen the new film about Joy Division – Anton Corbijn's Control: "Their music's amazing!"
On the final day of filming, Saturday 19 January, there were guns and explosions and violence on set. There were arguments, and a bad vibe descended on the pub. Heath himself no longer looked like a clown. He was dirty, wired and manic: he hadn't stopped for three days – kicking about the set whether or not he was due to shoot a scene. He'd be there when I arrived and after I'd gone. And I was doing a 10-hour shift. When he wasn't on set he was back in his hotel room reading or watching some of the Oscar-nominated movies that, as a member of the Academy, he'd be asked to vote on.
He'd been throwing himself around a lot, doing his own stunts, take after take – attempting to lob himself on to the "Imaginarium", a horse-drawn, travelling sideshow, decorated with a series of Gilliam's own hallucinogenic graphic confections – sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.
[...] By the time Heath and Terry calmed down, the set had thinned out dramatically. Heath walked around, thanking and hugging people, then came over to us few extras who were still left and thanked us and began walking off. I walked after him to ask if he was going to stay and have a few drinks.
"Sorry, but I'm on the wagon... have been for about 17 months now", he said, mock-triumphantly.
"Oh... nice one!" I replied, somewhat tongue-tied.
"Cheers, mate" he said before turning and sloping off despondently up the narrow lane back towards unit base and his warm trailer. "Bye Heath..."
The following Tuesday, at about 8pm, I received a text-message from my sister, who I'd been keeping in the loop regarding my adventures on Doctor Parnassus. As I sit here, looking at his picture, I still really don't know what to say about Heath Ledger".