Tribute to Heath Ledger

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Heath Ledger, an actor who combined a movie star’s rugged good looks with the subtlety, depth, and range of an Oscar contender, was found dead at the age of only 28 in his Manhattan apartment January 22nd, 2008.

No cause of death was immediately reported, but NYPD spokesman said pills were found scattered around his bed in his home in the city’s SoHo section. According to The Associated Press, Ledger had an appointment with a masseuse, and when his housekeeper went to tell the actor that the masseuse had arrived, she found him unconscious. Police declared him dead at about 3:30 pm.

Ledger appears in the recently released film I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’ unusual biopic about Bob Dylan in which six actors portray different personas of the music icon. Ledger plays Robbie Clark, an actor, father, and husband struggling with the demands of fame and a disintegrating relationship, a rough approximation of Dylan’s life in the 1970s, and perhaps Ledger’s as well.

Like many good-looking actors who find fame early, Ledger was a target of the paparazzi. He and former girlfriend Michelle Williams, with whom he has a daughter, Matilda, moved to the relatively low-key neighborhood of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, more of a yuppie enclave than hipster hangout, and found some solace but did not escape the tumult entirely. According to the Internet Movie Database, he and Williams broke up in September of last year, and Ledger moved to SoHo.


Heath Ledger was born April 4th 1979 in Perth, Australia as the son of a french teacher, and a race car driver and mining engineer. Ledger’s mother is descended from the Clan Campbell of Scotland and his father comes from a family known in Perth for their ownership of the Ledger Engineering Foundry. Heath and his sister Kate were named after the two main characters in Emily Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff and Catherine. The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust was named after his great-grandfather. Ledger attended Guildford Grammar School, where he had his first acting experiences, starring in a school production as Peter Pan at age 10.

At sixteen, Ledger sat for early graduation exams, and left school to pursue an acting career with his best friend, Trevor DiCarlo, Ledger made the cross-country drive to Sydney. He returned to Perth for the TV series Sweat (1996), in which he played a gay cyclist. In 1996, prior to his film debut in the 1997 Australian movie Blackrock, Ledger was involved in the short lived Fox Broadcasting Company fantasy-drama Roar. In 1999, Ledger starred in the teen comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” and also had the lead role in the acclaimed Australian movie “Two Hands”, directed by Gregor Jordan

From 2000 to 2005, he starred in “The Patriot”, “Monster’s Ball”, “A Knight’s Tale”, “The Four Feathers”, “Ned Kelly”, “The Order”, and “The Brothers Grimm”. In 2001, he won a ShoWest Award for the Male Star of Tomorrow based on his performance in “The Patriot”, and worldwide release of “A Knight’s Tale”. In 2003, he was named one of Australian GQ‘s Men of the Year for acting.

Ledger received "Best Actor of 2005" awards from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for his acclaimed performance in “Brokeback Mountain”, in which he plays Wyoming ranch hand Ennis Del Mar, who has a love affair with aspiring rodeo rider Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He also received a nomination for Golden Globe Best Actor in a Drama and a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance.

Also in 2005, Ledger played a fictionalised version of Giacomo Casanova in “Casanova”. The film, a romantic comedy which co-starred Sienna Miller, drew mixed reviews from critics and failed to find a significant audience among general moviegoers. In 2006, Ledger was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2007, he was one of six actors to portray different sides of singer Bob Dylan in the film “I’m Not There”.

Ledger played iconic comic book villain “The Joke” in “The Dark Knight”, the sequel to the 2005 film Batman Begins, opposite fellow “I’m Not There” star Christian Bale. The film is set to debut on July 18, 2008. Since “The Dark Knight” was in post-production at the time of Ledger’s death, the film itself will be unchanged, although the viral marketing campaign that centered around Ledger’s character may be affected.

The film “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, in which he had been cast in a major supporting role, was in production at the time of his death. He was working with Scottish writer/producer Allan Scott on an adaptation of “The Queen’s Gambit” by Walter Tevis, which would have been his first feature as a director.

Ledger had aspirations to become a film director and had started exploring this avenue by making some music videos, as well as a short film. In 2006, Ledger directed three music videos:"Morning Yearning" for Ben Harper and two video clips for Australian hip-hop artist N’fa – "Cause an Effect" and "Seduction Is Evil (She’s Hot)".

In 2007, at a news conference at the Venice Film Festival, he spoke of his desire to make a film about the British troubadour Nick Drake who died tragically young at the age of 26 in 1974. As a first step towards this project he created and appeared in a short film set to Drake’s recording of his 1974 song about depression titled "Black Eyed Dog". Ledger’s film was included in an anthology of short films about Drake titled “Their Place: Reflections On Nick Drake” which received its world premiere at the Mods & Rockers Film Festival held at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday October 5, 2007. Ledger started a record company with singer Ben Harper. As part of his involvement he directed a music video for Harper’s song "Morning Yearning".

From August 2002 to April 2004, Ledger had a relationship with actress Naomi Watts, whom he met during the filming of Ned Kelly. Previously, he had dated actresses Lisa Zane and Heather Graham.

Ledger was engaged to actress Michelle Williams, whom he met on the set of “Brokeback Mountain”. Their daughter, Matilda Rose, was born on October 28, 2005 in New York City. The child’s godparents are Ledger’s Brokeback costar Jake Gyllenhaal and Williams’ Dawson’s Creek castmate Busy Philipps. Ledger and his family divided their time between Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Sydney. In August 2007 Ledger and Williams had ended their relationship. In early 2008, Ledger was reported to have been seeing model Gemma Ward after media articles linked the two together at end of 2007 holiday celebrations.





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