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Meet the latest Aussie breakout star

We talked to Heath Ledger last summer, when his star was just beginning to rise

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Heath Ledger
Gregory Pace/Corbis Sygma

He played Mel Gibson’s son in this summer’s ”The Patriot,” the role that made him one of EW’s breakout stars of 2000. But we talked to the young hunk in July about all the buzz he was generating. Here’s our July article in its entirety…

To the ‘Max’

Mel Gibson has scored another hit with his role as a gun toting rebel in the war epic ”The Patriot,” which has raked in a flag waving $65.5 million at the box office. But it’s his 21 year old costar who’s really been blowing audiences away. Heath Ledger’s performance as Gibson’s headstrong son Gabriel has the Internet buzzing with rumors about his latest project, linking him to everything from ”A Simple Plan” director Sam Raimi’s upcoming adaptation of ”Spider-Man” to the latest ”Mad Max” sequel from director George Miller. ”I have an open mind to playing anything,” says Ledger, the Australian import who first made a splash as a sullen loner in the teen romance ”10 Things I Hate About You” (opposite ”Hamlet”’s Julia Stiles). ”And I’d love to play Mad Max.”

Even Gibson, who played the postapocalyptic wanderer in the three early-’80s Mad Max films (”Mad Max,” ”The Road Warrior,” ”Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”) is keen on the idea of Ledger stepping into his well-worn combat boots. ”He’d be the love child of Mad Max and the Gyro Captain [the films’ jittery inventor/ pilot character],” Gibson jokes. ”And he’s a nice kid who has his act together. I don’t get it. I was nuts at his age.”

So far, though, all the Internet speculation about a fourth ”Mad Max” is just that. ”It’s complete rumor,” Ledger sighs. ”They haven’t even contemplated writing a script yet. You bet I checked that one out, though.” The Perth native probably wouldn’t be able to squeeze the role into his busy schedule, anyway. He’s currently shooting the medieval action adventure ”A Knight’s Tale” in Prague before flying off to Morocco to costar with ”American Beauty”’s Wes Bentley in the love versus honor military drama ”Four Feathers.” ”I’m pretty packed up for the rest of the year,” Ledger admits.

But there’s always the chance he could make room for ”Spider-Man.” Or maybe not. Even though such Hollywood hotshots as Freddie Prinze Jr., Jude Law, and Leonardo DiCaprio have expressed interest in the role, Ledger doesn’t have their passion for web slinging. ”I’m not a big fan of putting on tights,” he explains. So much for that ”open to playing anything” attitude.

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