'I Am Heath Ledger': 10 Things We Learned From Spike TV Doc

“I’m not supposed to be talking about this with you. This is not something that is supposed to be happening right now,” musician Ben Harper says at the beginning of the new Spike TV documentary I Am Heath Ledger. “Some people are just bigger than the world has room for.”

Harper, a close friend of the actor who died in 2008 of an accidental drug overdose, is one of several friends, peers and family members who discuss both the actor’s singular talents and constant search for adventure and creative pursuits. The poignant film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month and made its network debut on Spike last night, culls from archival interviews of the actor alongside handheld footage the actor shot throughout his life (as the film shows, Ledger was rarely without a camera).

More than just a cradle-to-grave portrait, I Am Heath Ledger transcends box-checking filmography and gushing tributes, looking past Ledger The Movie Star to focus on the young man who dedicated his life to pursuing – and helping others pursue – a wide variety of creative endeavors. Directors Derik Murray and Adrian Buitenhuis spend as much time on the actor’s other pursuits – music, directing, nurturing talent – as his acting, giving a 360-degree view of the perpetually energetic and curious star. Here are 10 things we learned from the informative doc.

1. Venice Carnival Inspired His Early Development
Prior to auditioning for 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You, Ledger’s then-girlfriend Lisa Zane took the actor to the Carnival of Venice. The pair donned costumes and shot 8mm films; it was that trip, according to friend and Ledger’s creative collaborator Matt Amato, “that created him as an actor.” Ledger would go on to nab the role of the romantic lead in that teen-comedy take on The Taming of the Shrew, which became an unexpected hit and his first big break in Hollywood.

2. He Thought He Bombed The Patriot Screen Test
Midway through his screen test for The Patriot, Ledger stopped and said, “Sorry, I’m wasting your time.” Despite telling his agent he bombed, he got the part of Gabriel Martin, Mel Gibson’s oldest child who joins the Continental Army. Intimidated by the opportunity to act alongside his idol, Ledger had what his agent calls an on-set “crisis of confidence … Heath would get caught up in the fear of whether or not he could accomplish what he wanted to do. He almost pulled out of every movie he ended up doing.” This self-doubt would haunt Ledger his whole career.

3. He Loved Burning Man
In 1999, Ledger and his friends went to Burning Man to enjoy downtime between movies, and the actor quickly became awestruck at the creativity of the Nevada festival’s participants. “I think Burning Man was his favorite place on Earth,” friend Matt Amato said. Added another longtime buddy Trevor DiCarlo, “It was a bunch of half-naked people and dance music 24/7 … we fit in really well.”