Perth actor’s life celebrated in Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures at Art Gallery WA


Costume designer Jean Turnbull Marashlian. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Heath Ledger and Jean Turnbull Marashlian. Copyright Jean Turnbull Marashlian.
Costume designer Jean Turnbull Marashlian. Picture: Andrew Ritchie Heath Ledger and Jean Turnbull Marashlian. Copyright Jean Turnbull Marashlian.

HEATH Ledger: A Life in Pictures exhibition curator Allison Holland is grateful costume designer Jean Turnbull Marashlian does not always follow instructions.

When television series Roar, which starred a young Ledger, finished in 1997, Turnbull Marashlian was told to pack the costumes off to local theatre companies or trash them.

“I couldn’t bear to do that because I was so sure they’d change their minds and continue the show; I kept just a few of the principal costumes so I had something to work from if they did,” Turnbull Marashlian, who grew up in Perth, said.

“Of course it didn’t happen because as soon as Heath hit LA he was off and running and there would have been no way to get him back. I kept them in boxes in my roof and carted them around for decades. I think after his death particularly, I just felt that I had to keep them. There was no way I could just throw them away at that point.”

The Roar costumes are just part of the exhibition that pays tribute to Ledger, who died 10 years ago next January.

Presented by the WA Museum in collaboration with Art Gallery WA and with the support of Ledger’s family, the free exhibition Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures features photographs, personal research journals, film footage, more costumes and even Ledger’s chess set – a game he was highly skilled in and the subject of The Queen’s Gambit, which would have been Ledger’s directorial debut.

There is also the chance to view his Best Supporting Actor Oscar and BAFTA for The Dark Knight.

“Whether he is a West Australian or not, he was an absolute unique talent,” Turnbull Marashlian, who now lives on the Gold Coast, said.

“He was just a natural and learnt as he went and he watched everybody. He didn’t copy them but he took that information, processed it and made it his.

“And he was a very physical actor; his movement was so marvellous and he had grace, co-ordination and balance. Whether it was riding a horse, fighting with a sword or dancing down the steps, he was in control of all of that physicality.”

Ledger was 17 years old when Turnbull Marashlian began working with him on Roar and she said even then she knew he was something special.

“I remember thinking how proud his parents must be to have brought up a young man as gorgeous as he was,” she said.

“When he was back in Australia doing Ned Kelly I sent him a message because I knew some of the costume people down there. I said hi and how pleased I was with how well he’d done and he sent a message back.

“I hope people visiting the exhibition remember his wonderful, joyous career and see more of the man behind the camera and not just the person on the screen.”

Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures opens at Art Gallery WA October 14 to January 29.

A list of free and ticketed October 14 opening day workshops and events is at www.artgallery.wa.gov.au.