Did Heath Ledger Really Slag Off Philip Seymour Hoffman? The ‘Times’ Says So!

Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features, Sony Picture Classics


In the middle of Leon Wieseltier's thoroughly entertaining review of Martin Amis's book The Second Plane — you know, the one in the Times Book Review that includes the deathless put-down, "Pity the writer who wants to be Bellow but is only Mailer" — Wieseltier attributes a quotation to Heath Ledger that we're almost certain isn't true. He claims, in making a point about how Amis's flourishes of style defeat his purpose, that Heath Ledger shit-talked Philip Seymour Hoffman after Hoffman won the Oscar for Capote. Writes Wieseltier:

He is dead to the damage his virtuosity inflicts upon his urgency. Instead, he pulls focus, and pulls, and pulls. His book reminds me of what Heath Ledger is said to have remarked, in disappointment, about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar: “I thought it was for the best acting, not the most acting.”


Wait, really? Heath Ledger said that? We call B.S.

The phrase "I thought it was for the best acting" is a Googlewhack — it yields but one result, Wieseltier's review. A broader Google search, "best acting" + "most acting" + "heath ledger," yields only six results, and the only relevant one is a blog post quoting Wieseltier's review.

Wieseltier cloaks his quotation in some butt-covering language, of course: It's not something Ledger definitely remarked, it's "what Heath Ledger is said to have remarked." "Is said" … by whom? No one on the Internet. Did someone tell Wieseltier this story at a party? If so, isn't it sort of weird to just toss it into a book review that has nothing to do with either Heath Ledger or Philip Seymour Hoffman? And why did the Book Review's editors let this line get through? Just because Heath Ledger is dead, and therefore can't sue?

We know we're making a big deal out of a small line, but it bugs us when stuff like this gets introduced into the world. Because ten years from now everyone will think Heath Ledger said this, and Google-searching for the line will yield thousands of results, just because of a seed planted by Leon Wieseltier on April 27, 2008. And even though we happen to agree with this comparison of Ledger's and Hoffman's performances, we don't think Ledger actually said it.

So, Leon Wieseltier — where'd you hear this story? Drop us a line and let us know. Also, while you're reading, we should tell you the rest of the review was awesome. Please don't destroy us like you did Amis.

The Catastrophist [NYTBR]