One of the most unappreciated roles in Heath Ledger's career is actually one of his best performances, playing a surfer-turned-skateboarder in 2005's Lords of Dogtown. The seventies wardrobe, coupled with the surfer drawl, breathes life into the character of Skip Engblom, and it seems improbable that another actor could have given a better performance.
Even the little details, like the way Ledger sticks out his front teeth from his upper lip, show his complete devotion to the craft, even neutralizing his Aussie accent in the process. He speaks in perfect California surfer talk, his hair is the same grizzly gold of the California surfers, and he also walks on sea legs, slightly duck-footed with a pirate swagger.
This role manages to capture the essence of Heath Ledger as an artist. Ledger is a natural, and his acting ability is innate. And like Skip Engblom, Heath Ledger is also a true bohemian, preferring unemployment over doing roles he doesn't like. And this role is a statement that he has graduated from teen flicks and rom-coms, and he isn't going back.
Heath Ledger's maturity in acting is also what separates him from other actors of his age. Although only 24 when he did this movie, Ledger has proven that his talents truly place him light-years ahead of his generation.
Sadly, there is very little literature on this movie, making me think that the critics took this Skip Engblom performance as a sort of joke. But believe me, critics, when I say that this performance is no joke at all. I personally wanted to watch Dogtown because of its historical value as a film about the rise of the sport known as skateboarding. And as soon as I saw that grizzly-haired surfer chilling out in his surf shop, talking like a beach bum, I thought to myself, "That actor's good." And slowly it began to dawn on me that the guy behind the gold locks and the big sunglasses was actually Heath Ledger. The realization crept slowly, but my respect for him as an actor skyrocketed. This was the film that made me realize that Heath Ledger is indeed a brilliant actor, way before Brokeback Mountain would cement that status with an Oscar nomination.
May the Lord bless the soul of Heathcliff Andrew Ledger (April 4, 1979 - January 22, 2008). Requiescat in pace.