One day, Heath Ledger made me smile.

Today, I have a lot to talk about.

Today, I could talk about the Oscar nominations. I could talk about how Madame Tutli-Putli is an absolute lock to win Best Animated Short. I could talk about how I’m glad the Academy agreed with me and nominated Cate Blanchett for both I’m Not There and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I could talk about how I’m stunned that both The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Persepolis didn’t make cut for Best Foreign Language Film. I could talk about how I’m happy Juno is getting the respect it deserves. I could talk about how I’ve seen 53 of the 58 nominated films. I could talk about how Canada was well-represented in the nominations this year. I could talk about how I expected almost every single nomination and there were very few surprises.

Instead, today I will talk about Heath Ledger. Most of you know by now that Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Tuesday afternoon. Most of you know that Heath Ledger’s performance in the upcoming The Dark Knight is already being rumored as being one of the best acting performances of 2008. Most of you will acknowledge, like I do, that Ledger was probably one of the most promising actors in the film industry.

What most of you don’t know is that one day, Heath Ledger made me smile.

In 2006, Ledger was in Toronto for the North American premiere of the film Candy, and I ran into him in Yorkville. Always one to speak to strangers, I told him that I thought he was a brilliant actor and that I was a huge fan. He looked back at me and replied:

“Just doing my job. I’m sure someone out there is your fan too.”

At 28, Heath Ledger was much too young to die: he had enormous amounts of untapped potential. Most people will miss him because of his proven acting talent. I will miss him because he reminded me to take advantage of my own talent and potential.