Interview: Griffin Collins remembers Heath Ledger

ESPN-Griffin Collins By Chris Nieratko
Stephen Lovekin/Getty

The late Heath Ledger: An actor and a skateboarder.

Photographer and friend to Toy Machine team (check him out in the Bonus footage of "Suffer The Joy") Griffin Collins has got some great stories. The most recent issue of the Skatebook features Heath Ledger on the cover as well as some of Logan Kincade's (Grif's alter ego) photos of Heath inside. For his remaining days, Heath became good homies with Griffin and actually skated with him a bunch. We figure we'd talk to Griff about those experiences.

Griff, are you a professional stuntman?
No. At one point I got employed for stunt work but I wouldn't say that I carried it to a career. I was the stunt double for Emile Hirsch on the "Lords of Dogtown" movie. He played Jay Adams. In general, it was pretty fun. It was me, Adam Alfaro, Don Nguyen, the real TonyAlva and the original Steve Olson on the daily. And Lance Mountain would show up and we'd just skate random pools that Alva chose for us and kick it. We got paid a bunch of money and ate good food three times a day.

What happened on the set to brainwash Adam Alfaro to think he really was Tony Alva for all those years afterwards?
I don't know. Maybe he got into the whole scene of it. It was a time period piece and maybe he just liked that time period.

He's a method actor?
Yeah, it's possible but a lot of people are these days. People wear tie-dye shirts again, some go with the '80s glam look; they're all method actors.

Is that when you became friends with the late Heath Ledger?
Yeah, around that time. I didn't know who he was or anything like that. I just wandered into getting that part. I went up there with Austin Stephens and Josh Harmony one day and the director asked me to come back. I found out Heath was in the movie. But I didn't know anything about him. We met up at the beach one day and he came out of the water in a wetsuit with a surfboard and introduced himself. That worked for me. He seemed like a cool, normal dude.

Did he skate at all?
Yeah, he grew up surfing and skating in Australia. I don't know if it was his exact passion but he definitely knew what he was doing on a board. He wasn't pushing mongo or anything like that. He could ollie and try some kickflips. Any time we were out skating he'd grab a board and jam with us.

I heard he was skating the pools with you.
Oh yeah, for sure. He'd get in there and it didn't matter if his costume was flip-flops, he'd just be in wardrobe shredding the pool. He was down. He was just carving but he could definitely carve it better than any of the actors could do it. All the actors were pretty weak at it. They had no soul about it but you could tell Heath had a board growing up and he knew what he was up to. It made it a lot more believable.

Are the photos in the new Skatebook from your time with him?
A lot of the photos are from the set but we'd party at his house so I have a bunch of those. I have a Polaroid in the book of a bunch of people in a hammock and there is a girl spreading her legs. The guy next to her fell off the balcony right before this. I thought he was dead but he got right up. I shot it at Heath's house. And Natalie Portman might have been in that hammock too. It was always interesting hanging out with Heath off set. He was beyond humble with what he had. I got some good photos out of those parties.

Courtesy of Skatebook

The cover and spine of the new Skatebook. This is the Logan Kincade issue.

What kind of adventures would yous guys have?
I just remember walking into his house. You'd walk out back and see fire throwers and Scarlet Johanson. I tried to take a Polaroid of Scarlet Johanson and she shut me down. And then my friend Kevin asked her to dance and she shut him down too. But she shut me down and was like, "No. No Polaroids." That chick was not cool.

As a result of hanging with Heath did you have any success with any Hollywood starlets?
Not so much. I definitely chatted up a few but nothing notable. It would have been nice.

No make out session with Jessica Biel?
No, that would have been essential though. I gave Brook Burke the 'What up?' and she shut me down.

Who else shut you down?
A bunch of 'em. All the girls on set we'd give them the 'What up?' They were snobby actress girls so us skaters would just stick together and skate the pool. But I was at a party at Heath's and Josh Hartnett was there. One of my friends put a Josh Hartnett poster above my bed previously as a joke and we were in the kitchen and he introduced himself and I was like, "Oh yeah, dude. I have a poster of you above my bed." Everyone in the room started laughing. I didn't realize I shut him down that hard. I was pretty psyched on it. It was an accidental shutdown.

How did you react when you heard Heath had died?
I still think about how crazy it is that the dude is gone. I got a photo of him on the set of "The Dark Knight" trying to kickflip over Patrick Bateman or whatever the actor's name is that played Batman. I call him Patrick Bateman because he was Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho." It just seems crazy that someone larger than life getting taken out like that.

To order the new Skatebook featuring more of Griffin's words and pictures, go here.

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