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Heath Ledger goes to the ‘Dogs’

Aussie star enjoys change-of-pace role as skateboarders' mentor
/ Source: Access Hollywood

Is Heath Ledger going to the "Dogs?" Hardly.

But the star is nearly unrecognizable in his role as a ’70s surf shop owner and skateboard guru in his new film "Lords of Dogtown," which opens Friday.

The role was a dramatic departure for the handsome Aussie. But at least he got to keep his feet on the ground, which wasn't the case for his young co-stars who faced some very real danger on the set.

Venice, Calif., in the late 1970s was the setting for a revolution in skateboarding led by legends Tony Alva, Stacey Peralta and Jay Adams.

The trio was the core of the Z boys, a team of Venice teens that blew everyone's mind by taking the sport vertical in backyard pools.

And now comes the rowdy film inspired by the documentary "Dogtown and Z Boyz." In the film, Ledger plays the skaters' mentor Skip.

"The level of appreciation just went through the roof for the amount of talent these guys have," Ledger told us.

Victor Rasuk, John Robinson and Emile Hirsch are the ones lucky enough to play the legendary skaters.

"When I found out I got the role, it was just excitement," Hirsch, who plays Jay Adams, said. "It was like I won the lottery or something."

But the actors paid a price to approximate that kind of talent.

"I was doing things I shouldn't have been doing," said Rasuk, who plays Tony Alva. "I was going down a ram and I kind of slipped off my board and fractured an orbital bone."

But the real-life skating legends felt little sympathy for the acting counterparts.

"That is part of being on the team. If you wanna be on this team, you are gonna have to give a little blood," Alva joked.

And if being a team member requires giving blood, then director Catherine Hardwick is clearly the team captain.

"She fell head first into an empty swimming pool on her head and she almost died," Emile Hirsch revealed.

I got knocked out for about two minutes," Hardwick added. "[There was] blood gushing outta my nose."

Luckily, after about ten days, Catherine recovered to finish the film, earning the respect of the pros.

"Catherine is like a super ball, she bounced back so high and hard," Alva told us.

"[The skaters] were like, 'Hey man, now you know what it's like,'" she concluded.