The Queen's Gambit has an unexpected Heath Ledger connection

Abby Robinson
·3-min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

From 10 Things I Hate About You to Brokeback Mountain to The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger cemented himself as a favourite with both critics and the public over the course of his career, which was cut short by his unexpected and tragic death in 2008.

Had Ledger still been with us today, he would undoubtedly have continued to star in and create work that captured the world's imagination.

One such project that he had his eye on was The Queen's Gambit, Walter Tevis's novel about a chess prodigy who also struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

It was adapted into a limited series for Netflix by Scott Frank and Allan Shiach, pen name Allan Scott, arriving on the platform in October this year.

But if not for Ledger's passing, that particular version, starring Anya Taylor Joy as the brilliant but troubled Beth Harmon, might never have been made.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Shiach told The Independent back in March 2008, just a few weeks after Ledger's death, that he had been working with him on a film version of The Queen's Gambit, which the actor would appear in alongside Ellen Page.

It would also have marked the actor's feature film directorial debut following several music videos that he already had under his belt.

Photo credit: Carlo Allegri - Getty Images
Photo credit: Carlo Allegri - Getty Images

After acquiring the rights and writing a draft of the screenplay, Shiach tried to get the project off the ground with other directors including Michael Apted and then Bernardo Bertolucci.

But "things fell by the wayside", he told the publication, and it wasn't touched for about a decade.

Eventually, it started to garner interest once again, and one of the people who contacted Shiach was Ledger.

"He was passionate about it; he was an intense, interested young man and I was drawn to him immediately," he said.

"We spent a lot of time over the last three months working on his vision. I did draft after draft and he gave his input."

Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images
Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images

Shiach said that "Heath was full of ideas" about the cast and the music, and he would send him hundreds of emails, often late at night, full of musings and suggestions.

The pair were "planning to make a movie at the end of 2008", and Page had already been sent a copy of the script.

But sadly, that never came to pass.

"On a personal level I am incredibly sad," said Shiach when asked how he felt about Ledger's passing. "One is always sad to lose someone as a friend.

"But, what is more, the movie business lost a real talent. I think he would have been an extraordinary director."

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