Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger
Close up of a man's face with brown eyes, tousled brown hair and scraggly beard growth. He is looking toward his left. He is wearing a grey jumper with an orange stripe near his left shoulder and upper left arm. The background is blue with out of focus writing.
Ledger at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival
Born Heath Andrew Ledger
4 April 1979(1979-04-04)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Died 22 January 2008(2008-01-22) (aged 28)
New York City, New York, United States
Cause of death Accidental prescription drug overdose
Occupation Actor
Years active 1992–2008
Partner Michelle Williams (2004–2007)

Heath Andrew Ledger (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008) was an Australian television and film actor. After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger moved to the United States in 1998 to develop his film career. His work encompassed nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight's Tale (2001), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and The Dark Knight (2008).[1] In addition to acting, he produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.[2]

For his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, Ledger won the 2005 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and the 2006 "Best Actor" award from the Australian Film Institute and was nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor[3] as well as the 2006 BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.[4] Posthumously he shared the 2007 Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award with the rest of the ensemble cast, the director, and the casting director for the film I'm Not There, which was inspired by the life and songs of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. In the film, Ledger portrayed a fictional actor named Robbie Clark, one of six characters embodying aspects of Dylan's life and persona.[5] Ledger received numerous accolades for his critically acclaimed portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, for which he became the first actor to win an award posthumously,[6] the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor[7] and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.[4]

Ledger died in January 2008,[3][8] from an accidental "toxic combination of prescription drugs".[9][10][11] A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his penultimate performance, as the Joker in The Dark Knight, his death coming during editing of the film and casting a shadow over the subsequent promotion of the $180 million production.[12] At the time of his death, on 22 January 2008, he had completed about half of his work performing the role of Tony in Terry Gilliam's film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.


Early life

Heath Ledger was born in Perth, Western Australia, the son of Sally Ledger (née Ramshaw), a French teacher, and Kim Ledger, a racing-car driver and mining engineer, whose family established and owned the Ledger Engineering Foundry.[13] The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust is named after his great-grandfather.[13] He was half Scottish on his mother's side and his father has Irish ancestry. Ledger attended Mary's Mount Primary School, in Gooseberry Hill,[14] and later Guildford Grammar School, where he had his first acting experiences, starring in a school production as Peter Pan at age 10.[3][13] His parents separated when he was 10 and divorced when he was 11.[15] Ledger's older sister Kate, an actress and later a publicist, to whom he was very close, inspired his acting on stage, and his love of Gene Kelly inspired his successful choreography, leading to Guildford Grammar's 60-member team's "first all-boy victory" at the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge.[13][16] Heath's and Kate's other siblings include two half-sisters, Ashleigh Bell (b. 1989), his mother's daughter with her second husband and his stepfather Roger Bell, and Olivia Ledger (b. 1997), his father's daughter with second wife and his stepmother Emma Brown.[17]



After sitting for early graduation exams at 16, Ledger left school to pursue an acting career.[15] With Trevor DiCarlo, his best friend since he was three years old, Ledger drove across Australia from Perth to Sydney, returning to Perth to take a small role in Clowning Around (1992), the first part of a two-part television series, and to work on the TV series Sweat (1996), in which he played a gay cyclist.[13] From 1993 to 1997, Ledger also had parts in the Perth television series Ship to Shore (1993); in the short-lived Fox Broadcasting Company fantasy-drama Roar (1997); in Home and Away (1997), one of Australia's most successful television shows; and in the Australian film Blackrock (1997), his feature film debut.[13] In 1999, he starred in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and in the acclaimed Australian crime film Two Hands, directed by Gregor Jordan.[13]


From 2000 to 2005, he starred in supporting roles as Gabriel Martin, the eldest son of Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), in The Patriot (2000), and as Sonny Grotowski, the son of Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), in Monster's Ball (2000); and in leading or title roles in A Knight's Tale (2001), The Four Feathers (2002), The Order (2003), Ned Kelly (2003), Casanova (2005), The Brothers Grimm (2005), and Lords of Dogtown (2005).[1] In 2001, he won a ShoWest Award as "Male Star of Tomorrow".[18]

Ledger received "Best Actor of 2005" awards from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for his performance in Brokeback Mountain,[19][20] 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.[21] 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,[22][23] making him, at age 26, the ninth-youngest nominee for a Best Actor Oscar. In The New York Times review of the film, critic Stephen Holden writes: "Both Mr. Ledger and Mr. Gyllenhaal make this anguished love story physically palpable. Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character. It is a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn."[24] In a review in Rolling Stone, Peter Travers states: "Ledger's magnificent performance is an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides. Ledger doesn't just know how Ennis moves, speaks and listens; he knows how he breathes. To see him inhale the scent of a shirt hanging in Jack's closet is to take measure of the pain of love lost."[25]

After Brokeback Mountain, Ledger costarred with fellow Australian Abbie Cornish in the 2006 Australian film Candy, an adaptation of the 1998 novel Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction, as young heroin addicts in love attempting to break free of their addiction, whose mentor is played by Geoffrey Rush; for his performance as sometime poet Dan, Ledger was nominated for three "Best Actor" awards, including one of the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, which both Cornish and Rush won in their categories. Shortly after the release of Candy, Ledger was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[26]

Heath Ledger posing with Charlotte Gainsbourg at the 64th Venice Film Festival in 2007.

As one of six actors embodying different aspects of the life of Bob Dylan in the 2007 film I'm Not There, directed by Todd Haynes, Ledger "won praise for his portrayal of 'Robbie [Clark],' a moody, counter-culture actor who represents the romanticist side of Dylan, but says accolades are never his motivation."[27] Posthumously, on 23 February 2008, he shared the 2007 Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award with the rest of the film's ensemble cast, its director, and its casting director.[28]

In his next to last film performance, Ledger played the Joker in The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, first released, in Australia, on 16 July 2008, nearly six months after his death. While still working on the film, in London, Ledger told Sarah Lyall, in their interview published in the New York Times on 4 November 2007, that he viewed The Dark Knight's Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy."[29]

To prepare for the role, Ledger told Empire, "I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices – it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts"; after reiterating his view of the character as "just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown", he added that Nolan had given him "free rein" to create the role, which he found "fun, because there are no real boundaries to what the Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke."[30][31][32] For his work in The Dark Knight, Ledger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, his family accepting it on his behalf, as well as numerous other posthumous awards including the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, which Christopher Nolan accepted for him.[33][34]

At the time of his death, on 22 January 2008, Ledger had completed about half of the work for his final film performance as Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.[35][36]

Directorial work

Ledger had aspirations to become a film director and had made some music videos, which director Todd Haynes praised highly in his tribute to Ledger upon accepting the ISP Robert Altman Award, which Ledger posthumously shared, on 23 February 2008.[28] In 2006 Ledger directed music videos for the title track on Australian hip-hop artist N'fa's CD debut solo album Cause An Effect[37] and for the single "Seduction Is Evil (She's Hot)".[38][39] Later that year, Ledger inaugurated a new record label, Masses Music, with singer Ben Harper and also directed a music video for Harper's song "Morning Yearning".[29][40]

At a news conference at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Ledger spoke of his desire to make a documentary film about the British singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who died in 1974, at the age of 26, from an overdose of an antidepressant.[41] Ledger created and acted in a music video set to Drake's recording of the singer's 1974 song about depression "Black Eyed Dog"—a title "inspired by Winston Churchill’s descriptive term for depression" (black dog);[42] it was shown publicly only twice, first at the Bumbershoot Festival, in Seattle, held from 1 to 3 September 2007; and secondly as part of "A Place To Be: A Celebration of Nick Drake", with its screening of Their Place: Reflections On Nick Drake, "a series of short filmed homages to Nick Drake" (including Ledger's), sponsored by American Cinematheque, at the Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, in Hollywood, on 5 October 2007.[43] After Ledger's death, his music video for "Black Eyed Dog" was shown on the Internet and excerpted in news clips distributed via YouTube.[41][44][45][46]

He was working with Scottish screenwriter and producer Allan Scott on an adaptation of the 1983 novel The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis, for which he was planning both to act and to direct, which would have been his first feature film as a director.[2][47][48] Ledger's final directorial work, in which he shot two music videos before his death, premiered in 2009.[49] The music videos, completed for Modest Mouse and Grace Woodroofe,[50] include an animated feature for Modest Mouse's song, "King Rat", and the Woodroofe video for her cover of David Bowie's "Quicksand".[51] The "King Rat" video premiered on 4 August 2009.[52]

Personal life

Ledger was an avid chess player, winning Western Australia's junior chess championship at the age of 10.[53] As an adult, he often played with other chess enthusiasts at Washington Square Park.[54] Allan Scott's film adaptation of the chess-related 1983 novel The Queen's Gambit, by Walter Tevis, which at the time of his death he was planning to both perform in and direct, would have been Ledger's first feature film as a director.[2][47]

Among his most notable romantic relationships, Ledger dated actress Heather Graham for several months in 2000 to 2001,[13] and he had a serious on-and-off-again long-term relationship with actress Naomi Watts, whom he met during the filming of Ned Kelly and with whom he lived at times from 2002 to 2004.[55][56] According to the 10th Anniversary commentary by his co-stars for "10 Things I Hate About You", he and Julia Stiles began dating during the film and dated for several years. In the summer of 2004, he met and began dating actress Michelle Williams on the set of Brokeback Mountain, and their daughter, Matilda Rose, was born on 28 October 2005 in New York City.[57] Matilda Rose's godparents are Ledger's Brokeback co-star Jake Gyllenhaal and Williams's Dawson's Creek castmate Busy Philipps.[58] Ledger sold his residence in Bronte, New South Wales,[59] and moved to the United States, where he shared an apartment with Williams, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, from 2005 to 2007.[60] In September 2007, Williams' father confirmed to Sydney's Daily Telegraph that Ledger and Williams had ended their relationship.[61] After his break-up with Williams, in late 2007 and early 2008, the tabloid press and other public media linked Ledger romantically with supermodels Helena Christensen and Gemma Ward and with former child star, actress Mary-Kate Olsen.[62][63][64][65]

Press controversies

Ledger's relationship with the press in Australia was sometimes turbulent, and it led to his relocating to New York City.[66][67] In 2004 he strongly denied press reports alleging that "he spat at journalists on the Sydney set of the film Candy," or that one of his relatives had done so later, outside Ledger's Sydney home.[66][67] On 13 January 2006, "Several members of the paparazzi retaliated ... squirting Ledger and Williams with water pistols on the red carpet at the Sydney premiere of Brokeback Mountain."[68][69]

After his performance on stage at the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards, when he had giggled in presenting Brokeback Mountain as a nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, the Los Angeles Times referred to his presentation as an "apparent gay spoof."[70] Ledger called the Times later and explained that his levity resulted from stage fright, saying that he had been told that he would be presenting the award only minutes earlier; he stated: "I am so sorry and I apologise for my nervousness. I would be absolutely horrified if my stage fright was misinterpreted as a lack of respect for the film, the topic and for the amazing filmmakers."[71][72]

Ledger was quoted in January 2006 in Melbourne's Herald Sun as saying that he heard that West Virginia had banned Brokeback Mountain, which it had not; actually, a cinema in Utah had banned the film.[73] He had also referred mistakenly to West Virginia's having had lynchings as recently as the 1980s, but state scholars disputed his statement, observing that, whereas lynchings did occur in Alabama as recently as 1981, according to "the director of state archives and history" quoted in The Charleston Gazette, "The last documented lynching in West Virginia took place in Lewisburg in 1931."[74]

Sleep difficulties and other work-related health issues

In their New York Times interview, published on 4 November 2007, Ledger told Sarah Lyall that his recently completed roles in I'm Not There (2007) and The Dark Knight (2008) had taken a toll on his ability to sleep: "Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night. ... I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going."[29] At that time, he told Lyall that he had taken two Ambien pills, after taking just one had not sufficed, and those left him in "a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing."[29]

Prior to his return to New York from his last film assignment, in London, in January 2008, while he was apparently suffering from some kind of respiratory illness, he reportedly complained to his co-star Christopher Plummer that he was continuing to have difficulty sleeping and taking pills to help with that problem: "Confirming earlier reports that Ledger hadn't been feeling well on set, Plummer says, 'we all caught colds because we were shooting outside on horrible, damp nights. But Heath's went on and I don't think he dealt with it immediately with the antibiotics.... I think what he did have was the walking pneumonia.' [...] On top of that, 'He was saying all the time, "dammit, I can't sleep"... and he was taking all these pills to help him.' "[75]

In talking with Interview magazine after his death, Ledger's former fiancée Michelle Williams "also confirmed reports the actor had experienced trouble sleeping. "For as long as I'd known him, he had bouts with insomnia. He had too much energy. His mind was turning, turning turning – always turning."[76]


At about 2:45 p.m. (EST), on 22 January 2008, Ledger was found unconscious in his bed by his housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, and his masseuse, Diana Wolozin, in his fourth-floor loft apartment at 421 Broome Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.[3][8]

According to the police, Wolozin, who had arrived early for a 3:00 pm appointment with Ledger, called Ledger's friend, actress Mary-Kate Olsen, for help. Olsen, who was in California, directed a New York City private security guard to go to the scene. At 3:26 pm, "[fewer] than 15 minutes after Wolozin first saw him in bed and only a few moments" after first calling Olsen and then calling her a second time to express her fears that Ledger was dead, Wolozin telephoned 9-1-1 "to say that Mr. Ledger was not breathing." At the urging of the 9-1-1 operator, Wolozin administered CPR, which was unsuccessful in reviving him.[77]

Emergency medical technicians (EMT) arrived seven minutes later, at 3:33 pm ("at almost exactly the same moment as a private security guard summoned by Ms. Olsen"), but were also unable to revive him.[8][77][78] At 3:36 pm, Ledger was pronounced dead and his body removed from the apartment.[8][77]

Memorial tributes and services

Dark doorway and doorstep with section of footpath. On the lower part of the dark door is a partly obscured Australian flag with dark blue background; red and white crosses on top left, large white star underneath and three white stars at the right with others obscured. Obsuring the right side of the flag is a white sheet with light blue writing, "Love + Miss You Always Heath" with two red hearts nearby, other writing includes "I'll never quit you" in darker blue, more writing is indistinct. This sheet also has six photos of a man. Above the flag, on the door is a smaller sheet with a photo of a man and indistinct writing below. On the doorstep and section of footpath are some 14 groups of flowers wrapped in plastic or paper, together with nine or so cards, five or six lit candles, and more photos. On the right side is a straw hat.
Memorial for Ledger, outside 421 Broome Street, SoHo, Manhattan, 23 January 2008

As the news of Ledger's death became public, throughout the night of 22 January 2008, and the next day, media crews, mourners, fans, and other onlookers began gathering outside his apartment building, with some leaving flowers or other memorial tributes.[79][80]

The next day, at 10:50 a.m., Australian time, Ledger's parents and sister appeared outside his mother's house in Applecross, a riverside suburb of Perth, and read a short statement to the media expressing their grief and desire for privacy.[81] Within the next few days, memorial tributes were communicated by family members, Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, Deputy Premier of Western Australia Eric Ripper, Warner Bros. (distributor of The Dark Knight), and thousands of Ledger's fans around the world.[82][83][84][85]

Several actors made statements expressing their sorrow at Ledger's death, including Daniel Day-Lewis, who dedicated his Screen Actors Guild Award to Ledger, saying that he was inspired by Ledger's acting; Day-Lewis praised Ledger's performances in Monster's Ball and Brokeback Mountain, describing the latter as "unique, perfect."[86][87] Verne Troyer, who was working with Ledger on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at the time of his death, had a heart shape, an exact duplicate of a symbol that Ledger scrawled on a piece of paper with his email address, tattooed on his hand in remembrance of Ledger because Ledger "had made such an impression on [him]."[88]

On 1 February, in her first public statement after Ledger's death, Michelle Williams expressed her heartbreak and described Ledger's spirit as surviving in their daughter.[89][90]

After attending private memorial ceremonies in Los Angeles, Ledger's family members returned with his body to Perth.[91][92]

On 9 February, a memorial service attended by several hundred invited guests was held at Penrhos College, garnering considerable press attention; afterward Ledger's body was cremated at Fremantle Cemetery, followed by a private service attended by only 10 closest family members,[93][94][95] with his ashes to be interred later in a family plot at Karrakatta Cemetery, next to two of his grandparents.[92][96][97] Later that night, his family and friends gathered for a wake on Cottesloe Beach.[98][99][100]

Autopsy and toxicological analysis

After two weeks of intense media speculation about possible causes of Ledger's death, on 6 February 2008, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York released its conclusions, based on an initial autopsy of 23 January 2008, and a subsequent complete toxicological analysis.[9][10][101] The report concludes, in part, "Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine."[9][11] It states definitively: "We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications."[9][11] The medications found in the toxicological analysis are commonly prescribed in the United States for insomnia, anxiety, depression, pain, or common cold symptoms, or any combination thereof.[9][11] Although the Associated Press and other media reported that "police estimate Ledger's time of death between 1 pm and 2:45 pm" (on 22 January 2008),[102] the Medical Examiner's Office announced that it would not be publicly disclosing the official estimated time of death.[103][104] The official announcement of the cause and manner of Ledger's death heightened concerns about the growing problems of prescription drug abuse or misuse and combined drug intoxication (CDI).[10][101][105]

Federal investigation

Late in February 2008, a DEA investigation of medical professionals relating to Ledger's death exonerated two American physicians, who practice in Los Angeles and Houston, of any wrongdoing, determining that "the doctors in question had prescribed Ledger other medications – not the pills that killed him."[106][107]

On 4 August 2008, citing unnamed sources, Murray Weiss, of the New York Post, first reported that Mary-Kate Olsen had "refused [through her attorney, Michael C. Miller] to be interviewed by federal investigators probing the accidental drug death of her close friend Heath Ledger ... [without] ... immunity from prosecution," and that, when asked about the matter, Miller at first declined further comment.[108][109] Later that day, after the police confirmed the gist of Weiss's account to the Associated Press, Miller issued a statement denying that Olsen supplied Ledger with the drugs causing his death and asserting that she did not know their source."[110][111] In his statement, Miller said specifically: "Despite tabloid speculation, Mary-Kate Olsen had nothing whatsoever to do with the drugs found in Heath Ledger's home or his body, and she does not know where he obtained them," emphasizing that media "descriptions [attributed to an unidentified source] are incomplete and inaccurate."[112]

After a flurry of further media speculation, on 6 August 2008, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan closed its investigation into Ledger's death without filing any charges and rendering moot its subpoena of Olsen.[113][114] With the clearing of the two doctors and Olsen, and the closing of the investigation because the prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office "don't believe there's a viable target," it is still not known how Ledger obtained the oxycodone and hydrocodone in the lethal drug combination that killed him.[114][115]

Eleven months after Ledger's death, on 23 December 2008, Jake Coyle, writing for the Associated Press, announced that "Heath Ledger's death was voted 2008's top entertainment story by U.S. newspaper and broadcast editors surveyed by The Associated Press," as it resulted in: "shock and confusion" about "the circumstances", the ruling of the death as an accident caused by "a toxic combination of prescription drugs", and the continuation of "his legacy... [i]n a roundly acclaimed performance as the Joker in the year's biggest box office hit The Dark Knight."[116]

Controversy over will

After Ledger's death, in response to some press reports about his will, filed in New York City on 28 February 2008,[117][118] and his daughter's access to his financial legacy, his father, Kim Ledger, said that he considered the financial well-being of his granddaughter Matilda Rose the Ledger family's "absolute priority" and her mother, Michelle Williams, "an integral part of our family", adding "They will be taken care of and that's how Heath would want it to be".[119] Some of Ledger's relatives may be challenging the legal status of his will signed in 2003, prior to his involvement with Williams and the birth of their daughter and not updated to include them, which divides half of his estate between his parents and half among his siblings; they claim that there is a second, unsigned will, which leaves most of that estate to Matilda Rose.[120][121] Williams' father, Larry Williams, has also joined the controversy about Ledger's will as it was filed in New York City soon after his death.[122]

On 31 March 2008, stimulating another controversy pertaining to Ledger's estate, Gemma Jones and Janet Fife-Yeomans published an "Exclusive" report, in The Daily Telegraph, citing Ledger's uncle Haydn Ledger and other family members, who "believe the late actor may have fathered a secret love child" when he was 17, and stating that "If it is confirmed that Ledger is the girl's biological father, it could split his multi-million dollar estate between ... Matilda Rose ... and his secret love child."[123][124][125] A few days later, reports citing telephone interviews with Ledger's uncles Haydn and Mike Ledger and the family of the other little girl, published in OK! and Us Weekly, "denied" those "claims", with Ledger's uncles and the little girl's mother and stepfather describing them as unfounded "rumors" distorted and exaggerated by the media.[126][127]

On 15 July 2008, Fife-Yeomans reported further, via Australian News Limited, that "While Ledger left everything to his parents and three sisters, it is understood they have legal advice that under WA law, Matilda Rose is entitled to the lion's share" of his estate; its executors, Kim Ledger's former business colleague Robert John Collins and Geraldton accountant William Mark Dyson, "have applied for probate in the West Australian Supreme Court in Perth, advertising "for 'creditors and other persons' having claims on the estate to lodge them by 11 August 2008 ... to ensure all debts are paid before the estate is distributed...."[128] According to this report by Fife-Yeomans, earlier reports citing Ledger's uncles,[119] and subsequent reports citing Ledger's father, which do not include his actual posthumous earnings, "his entire fortune, mostly held in Australian trusts, is likely to be worth up to [A]$20 million."[128][129][130]

On 27 September 2008, Ledger's father Kim stated that "the family has agreed to leave the [US]US$16.3 million fortune to Matilda," adding: "There is no claim. Our family has gifted everything to Matilda."[129][130][131] In October 2008, Forbes.com estimated Ledger's annual earnings from October 2007 through October 2008 – including his posthumous share of The Dark Knight's gross income of "[US]US$991 million in box office revenue worldwide" –– as "[US]US$20 million."[132]

Posthumous films and awards

Ledger's death affected the marketing campaign for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008)[12][35] and also both the production and marketing of Terry Gilliam's film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, with both directors intending to celebrate and pay tribute to his work in these films.[35][36][133][134] Although Gilliam temporarily suspended production on the latter film,[36] he expressed determination to "salvage" it, perhaps using computer-generated imagery (CGI), and dedicated it to Ledger.[75][135][136] In February 2008, as a "memorial tribute to the man many have called one of the best actors of his generation," Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell signed on to take over Ledger's role, becoming multiple incarnations of his character, Tony, transformed in this "magical re-telling of the Faust story,"[137][138][139] and the three actors have donated their fees for the film to Ledger's and Williams' daughter.[140]

Speaking of editing The Dark Knight, on which Ledger had completed his work in October 2007, Nolan recalled, "It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day. ... But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish."[134] All of Ledger's scenes appear as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously.[141] Nolan dedicated the film in part to Ledger's memory, as well as to the memory of technician Conway Wickliffe, who was killed during a car accident while preparing one of the film's stunts.[142]

Released in July 2008, The Dark Knight broke several box office records and received both popular and critical accolades, especially with regard to Ledger's performance as the Joker.[143] Even film critic David Denby, who does not praise the film overall in his pre-release review in The New Yorker, evaluates Ledger's work highly, describing his performance as both "sinister and frightening" and Ledger as "mesmerising in every scene", concluding: "His performance is a heroic, unsettling final act: this young actor looked into the abyss."[144] Attempting to dispel widespread speculations that Ledger's performance as the Joker had in any way led to his death (as Denby and others suggest), Ledger's co-star and friend Christian Bale, who played opposite him as Batman, has stressed that, as an actor, Ledger greatly enjoyed meeting the challenges of creating that role, an experience that Ledger himself described as "the most fun I’ve ever had, or probably ever will have, playing a character."[12][145]

Ledger received numerous awards for his Joker role in The Dark Knight. On 10 November 2008, he was nominated for two People's Choice Awards related to his work on the film, "Best Ensemble Cast" and "Best Onscreen Match-Up" (shared with Christian Bale), and Ledger won an award for "Match-Up" in the ceremony aired live on CBS in January 2009.[146]

On 11 December 2008, it was announced that Ledger had been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight; he subsequently won the award at the 66th Golden Globe Awards ceremony telecast on NBC on 11 January 2009 with Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan accepting on his behalf.[7][33]

Film critics, co-stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Caine and many of Ledger's colleagues in the film community joined Bale in calling for and predicting a nomination for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in recognition of Ledger's achievement in The Dark Knight.[147] Ledger's subsequent nomination was announced on 22 January 2009, the anniversary of his death;[148] Ledger went on to win the award, becoming the second person to win a posthumous Academy Award for acting, after fellow Australian actor Peter Finch, who won for 1976's Network. The award was accepted by Ledger's family.[34]



Year Title Role Notes
1993 Ship to Shore Cyclist
1996 Sweat Snowy Bowles Series regular
1997 Home and Away Scott Irwin Guest
Roar Conor Leading role


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Clowning Around Orphan clown Uncredited
1997 Blackrock Toby
1997 Paws Oberon
1999 Two Hands Jimmy
1999 10 Things I Hate About You Patrick Verona Nominated – MTV Movie Award for Best Musical Sequence
2000 The Patriot Gabriel Martin Blockbuster Entertainment Awards – Favorite Male – Newcomer
2001 Monster's Ball Sonny Grotowski
2001 Knight's Tale, AA Knight's Tale Sir William Thatcher / Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland
2002 Four Feathers, TheThe Four Feathers Harry Faversham
2003 Order, TheThe Order Alex Bernier
2003 Ned Kelly Ned Kelly
2005 Casanova Giacomo Casanova
2005 Brothers Grimm, TheThe Brothers Grimm Jacob Grimm
2005 Lords of Dogtown Skip Engblom
2005 Brokeback Mountain Ennis Del Mar
2006 Candy Dan
2007 I'm Not There Robbie Clark 2007 Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award (Shared with cast and crew)
2008 The Dark Knight The Joker
2009 Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, TheThe Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Tony

Music videos

  • (2006) "Cause an Effect" and "Sex is Evil (She's Hot)", songs by N'fa, videos directed by Ledger.
  • (2006) "Morning Yearning," song by Ben Harper, video directed by Ledger.
  • (2007) "Black Eyed Dog," song written by Nick Drake (1948–1974), video directed by and featuring Ledger.[41]
  • (2009) "King Rat", song by Modest Mouse and conceived by Ledger.[50][151]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Heath Ledger – Credits". Variety. http://www.variety.com/profiles/people/CreditsByRole/Actor/28390/Heath%20Ledger.html?dataSet=1. Retrieved 16 October 2009. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Dawtrey, Adam (23 January 2008). "'Parnassus' Team Faces Dilemma". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117979492.html?categoryid=13&cs=1. Retrieved 23 January 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Heath Ledger: The Times Obituary". The Times (UK). 23 January 2008. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article3237974.ece. Retrieved 27 April 2008. 
  4. ^ a b "Awards Database". British Academy of Film and Television Awards. http://www.bafta.org/awards-database.html?sq=Heath+Ledger. Retrieved 16 October 2009. 
  5. ^ "Heath Ledger Honored at Independent Spirit Awards". Entertainment Tonight. 23 February 2008. http://www.etonline.com/news/2008/02/58948/. Retrieved 8 August 2008. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Ledger Honoured at AFI Awards". ABC. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/12/07/2439750.htm?section=entertainment. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "Golden Globes: Heath Ledger's Family 'So Proud' of Globe Nod". People. 11 December 2008. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20245919,00.html. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c d Barron, James (23 January 2008). "Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/movies/23ledger.html. Retrieved 27 April 2008. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Chan, Sewell and James Barron (contributing) (6 February 2008). "City Room: Heath Ledger's Death Is Ruled an Accident". The New York Times. http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/06/heath-ledgers-death-is-ruled-an-accident/. Retrieved 17 August 2008. 
  10. ^ a b c "Ledger's Death Caused by Accidental Overdose". CNN. 6 February 2008. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/02/06/heath.ledger/index.html. Retrieved 17 August 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Heath Ledger Died of Accidental Overdose: 28-Year-Old Actor Had Oxycodone, Anti-Anxiety, Sleep Aids in His System". MSNBC. 6 February 2008. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23029566/. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  12. ^ a b c Halbfinger, David M. (9 March 2008). "Batman's Burden: A Director Confronts Darkness and Death". The New York Times: pp. 1, 16. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/movies/09halb.htm. Retrieved 10 March 2008. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Wills, Dominic (2008). "Heath Ledger Biography". Tiscali TV (UK). http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/heath_ledger_biog.html. Retrieved 22 April 2008. "The Ledger name was well-known in Perth, the family having run a foundry that provided much of the raw material for the famous Perth to Kalgoorlie Pipeline ... The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust, named after Heath's great-grandfather, was renowned for granting funds to the area's universities, paying for visiting lecturers and scholarships for gifted students." 
  14. ^ "Heath Ledger among WA's Finest Sons, Says Eric Ripper". The Sunday Times (Australia). 23 January 2008. http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,23096806-948,00.html. Retrieved 8 February 2008. "'I understand he was a former student at both Mary’s Mount Primary School in Gooseberry Hill and later at Guildford Grammar,' Mr Ripper said." [dead link]
  15. ^ a b Lipsky, David (23 March 2006). "Heath Ledger's Lonesome Trail". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9448111/heath_ledgers_lonesome_trail. Retrieved 21 April 2008. "His dad wanted him to race cars. Hollywood wanted him to play Spider-Man. But he wanted to play a gay cowboy. Now he's a huge star, and he's not happy about it." [dead link]
  16. ^ Sessums, Kevin. "We're Having a Heath Wave". Vanity Fair (August 2000). http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2000/08/heath200008. Retrieved 21 April 2008. 
  17. ^ "Heath Ledger Biography". Yahoo! Movies. 6 February 2008. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800018553/bio. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  18. ^ "Showest Awards: Past Award Winners". showest.com. ShoWest (Nielsen Business Media Film Group). http://www.showest.com/filmexpo/showest/general/past_winners.jsp. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  19. ^ "'Brokeback Mountain' leads Golden Globe nominations". CNN. 13 December 2005. http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Movies/12/13/golden.globes/. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  20. ^ "The San Francisco Film Critics Circle". San Francisco Film. splicedwire.com. 12 December 2005. http://sffcc.splicedwire.com/2005awards.html. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  21. ^ Jen Chaney (15 December 2005). "'Mountain' Man Ledger's Steady Climb to the Top". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/15/AR2005121500491_pf.html. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  22. ^ "HFPA – Awards Search". Golden Globes Official Website. goldenglobes.org. http://www.goldenglobes.org/browse/member/30863. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  23. ^ "Results Page – Academy Awards Database". Awards Database. http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1216319365795. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  24. ^ Holden, Stephen (9 December 2005). "Film Review – Brokeback Mountain – Riding the High Country, Finding and Losing Love". The New York Times: p. 1. http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/12/09/movies/09brok.html. Retrieved 17 August 2007. [dead link]
  25. ^ Travers, Peter (1 December 2005). "Review: Brokeback Mountain". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/6169704/review/8878365/brokeback_mountain. Retrieved 27 April 2008. [dead link]
  26. ^ "Academy of Motion Picture Arts, Sciences invites 120 new members". USA Today. 5 July 2006. http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-07-05-academy_x.htm. Retrieved 23 January 2009. 
  27. ^ Honie Stevens (18 November 2007). "Squaring the Ledger". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22763328-5006011,00.html. Retrieved 24 July 2008. 
  28. ^ a b "Todd Haynes Dedicates Robert Altman Award to Heath Ledger" (video clip). You Tube. 23 February 2008. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fI7KcDKGLo. Retrieved 8 August 2008. [dead link]
  29. ^ a b c d Lyall, Sarah (4 November 2007). "Movies: In Stetson or Wig, He's Hard to Pin Down". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/movies/moviesspecial/04lyal.html. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  30. ^ Dan Jolin (January 2008). "Fear Has a Face". Empire 223: 87–88. http://www.empireonline.com/magazine/covers/image.asp?id=24227&gallery=1365&caption=%23223%20%28January%202008%29. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 
  31. ^ Dan Jolin (July 2008). "The Dark Knight". Empire 229: 92–100. http://www.empireonline.com/magazine/covers/image.asp?id=27819&gallery=1365&caption=%23229+%28July+2008%29. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  32. ^ Olly Richards (28 November 2007). "World Exclusive: The Joker Speaks: He's a Cold-blooded Mass-murdering Clown". Empire. http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?nid=21560. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  33. ^ a b Abramowitz, Rachel (12 January 2009). "Accolades flow after Heath Ledger's 'Dark Knight' win". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-globesstory12-2009jan12,0,6073218.story. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  34. ^ a b "‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fulfills its Oscar destiny". Associated Press. MSNBC. 23 February 2009. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29332714/. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  35. ^ a b c David M. Halbfinger (25 January 2008). "Actor’s Death May Mean Film's End". The New York Times: p. 12. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/25/movies/25parn.html. Retrieved 2 February 2008. 
  36. ^ a b c Christine Kilpatrick (24 January 2008). "Production Suspended on Heath Ledger's Latest Movie". People. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20173511,00.html. Retrieved 24 January 2008. 
  37. ^ "Music: Cause An Effect – N'Fa". The Scene. thescene.com.au. http://www.thescene.com.au/Music/Reviews/Cause-An-Effect---NFa/. Retrieved 5 March 2008. [dead link]
  38. ^ "Seduction Is Evil". Inertia Catalogue. inertia.net. 28 October 2006. http://www.inertia-music.com/catalogue/41236/Nfa/Seduction_Is_Evil/. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  39. ^ Andrew Drever (21 August 2006). "N'Fa: Frontman for 1200 Techniques May Be Doing Solo Work, But Everything's Cool". The Age (Melbourne): p. 2. http://www.theage.com.au/news/gig-previews--reviews/nfa/2006/08/21/1156012452247.html. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  40. ^ "Heath Ledger Teams Up with Ben Harper to Launch New Record Label". Starpulse Entertainment News Blog. starpulse.com. 14 February 2007. http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2007/02/14/heath_ledger_teams_up_with_ben_harper_to. Retrieved 5 March 2008. 
  41. ^ a b c Jim Fraenkel and Rodrigo Perez (22 January 2008). "Heath Ledger's Video for Nick Drake Song: Eerie Postscript to Actor's Death". MTV. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1580085/20080122/drake_nick.jhtml. Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  42. ^ Anthony Storr (1990). Churchill's Black Dog and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780006375661. 
  43. ^ "Egyptian Theatre Programming" (PDF). American Cinematheque Film Calendar. americacinematheque.com. 5 October 2007. http://www.americancinematheque.com/CalendarPDF/2007/Oct2007/CalendarTEXTOctober2007.pdf. Retrieved 18 March 2008. "This very special evening celebrating [Drake's] life and music includes films, guests and a unique art and photographic exhibit. It includes the World Theatrical Premiere of 'Their Place: Reflections On Nick Drake', 2007, Bryter Music, 30 min. Various Directors – a series of short filmed homages to Nick Drake – created by admirers including Heath Ledger, Jonas Mekas and Tim Pope. (NOT ON DVD!) ..." 
  44. ^ Daniel Kreps (29 February 2008). "Footage from Heath Ledger's Nick Drake Video Surfaces". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2008/02/29/footage-from-heath-ledgers-nick-drake-video-surfaces/. Retrieved 18 March 2008. "The video, for Drake’s posthumously released song 'Black Eyed Dog,' was filmed by the actor in late 2007 and included in a multimedia instalment about Drake called 'A Place to Be.' The project was only screened publicly twice before the actor's death, and the Ledger family said the 'Black Eyed Dog' video would not be released." 
  45. ^ "A Place To Be: Reflections Of Nick Drake". A Place To Be. http://www.aplacetobe.cc/. Retrieved 18 March 2008. "A Place To Be: a collection, a celebration, in film, photography, painting, drawing and prose, of the impact the music of Nick Drake has had on other artists"  ("Introductory film" includes excerpts of the music video, Black Eyed Dog, by Heath Ledger, among others.)
  46. ^ Drake's song "Black Eyed Dog" is featured as track number five on the soundtrack album for the 1974 film Practical Magic, directed by Griffin Dunne and starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.
  47. ^ a b Cazzulino, Michelle (29 March 2008). "Heath Ledger's Gambit to Be a Director". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23446583-5006013,00.html. Retrieved 24 April 2008. "It was an opportunity tailor-made for Ledger, Scott said. 'The movie is about chess, and what is a little known fact is Heath was very close to being on the grandmaster level. He was a chess whiz, and he intended to get his grandmaster rating before he started shooting the picture.'" 
  48. ^ Rob Sharp and Allan Shiach (18 March 2008). "Heath Ledger–A Prophetic Tragedy". The Independent (UK). http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/film-and-tv/features/heath-ledger--a-prophetic-tragedy-795344.html. Retrieved 20 March 2008. "Until last month [January 2008] he [Allan Schiach, aka Allan Scott,] was working with the late Heath Ledger on a film adaptation of Walter Tevis's 1983 novel The Queen's Gambit, about a chess prodigy's chequered history. The Australian actor was pencilled in to direct and star alongside the Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page." 
  49. ^ Michaels, Sean (16 March 2009). "Heath Ledger-directed music video to be released". The Guardian (UK). http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/mar/16/heath-ledger-modest-mouse-music-video. Retrieved 17 March 2009. 
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  52. ^ "Heath Ledger’s Video For Modest Mouse’s "King Rat" Premieres". Rolling Stone. 4 August 2009. http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2009/08/04/heath-ledgers-video-for-modest-mouses-king-rat-premieres/. Retrieved 5 August 2009. 
  53. ^ "Heath Ledger obituary: An actor of promise". The Daily Telegraph (UK). 23 January 2008. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1576375/Heath-Ledger-obituary-An-actor-of-promise.html. Retrieved 17 October 2009. "At the same time he showed promise in other areas, as a junior go-kart racing champion and, aged only 10, as Western Australia’s junior chess champion." 
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  58. ^ Balogh, Stefanie (24 January 2008). "Heath Ledger's ex-fiancee Michelle Williams home with baby Matilda". Herald Sun (Australia). http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/michelle-matilda-back-in-new-york/story-e6frf7jo-1111115389511. Retrieved 8 October 2009. 
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  120. ^ Sean Cowan (15 March 2008). "Ledger Feud Grows Over 'second' Will". The Age (Melbourne). http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/03/15/1205472100775.html. Retrieved 15 March 2008. "Some of Heath Ledger's relatives may be planning a legal challenge against his will after it emerged the actor may have written a second will after his daughter was born, leaving most of his multimillion-dollar fortune to her. ... Ledger's second will, which is understood to be unsigned, was reportedly drawn up after Matilda's birth. ... The looming battle over which of Ledger's wills should be used to divide his estate ... has caused waves on this side of the Pacific, with his uncles Mike and Haydn Ledger accusing their brother – and Heath's father – Kim of mismanaging their late grandfather's [A]$2 million estate. ... Kim Ledger hit back this week, issuing a statement claiming his estranged brothers did not know what they were talking about. ... Under the terms of the first will, the division of the estate will be managed by Kim Ledger's former business colleague Robert John Collins and Geraldton accountant William Mark Dyson." 
  121. ^ Mitchell, Peter (3 September 2008). "Ledger's Estate Sells His Hollywood Hills Home". news.com.au (News Limited). http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/story/0,26278,24287252-5015787,00.html. Retrieved 2 September 2008. "[According to Los Angeles County public records], Heath Ledger's estate has sold ... [his] Hollywood Hills home ... for [US]US$2.5 million (A$2.99 million) [in May 2008]." 
  122. ^ Melissa Castellanos (24 March 2008). "Williams' Dad Questions Ledger's Will: Larry Williams Wants Kim Ledger To Explain Why Estate Is Valued At Only US$145,000". Showbuzz. http://www.showbuzz.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/24/people_hot_water/main3964602.shtml. Retrieved 30 March 2008. 
  123. ^ Gemma Jones and Janet Fife-Yeomans (31 March 2008). "Did Heath Ledger Father a Secret Love Child?". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23455968-5001021,00.html. Retrieved 25 July 2008. "The April will lists only [US]US$145,000 in assets and names the late actor's father, Kim, mother Sally Bell, sister Kate Ledger and half sisters Olivia Ledger and Ashleigh Bell as the only beneficiaries. The New York documents also acknowledge Matilda Rose, as Ledger's only known child, as an interested party." 
  124. ^ Garry Maddox (29 March 2009). "Good Will Hunting". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/03/28/1206207397015.html. Retrieved 30 March 2008. "Beyond the tangled web of Heath Ledger's estate, two final films and his celebrated Brokeback performance ensure the money will keep flowing." 
  125. ^ Nick Squires (1 April 2008). "Heath Ledger 'fathered a secret love child' ". The Daily Telegraph (UK). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1583417/Heath-Ledger-'fathered-a-secret-love-child'.html. Retrieved 6 August 2008. "If the claims are proved to be true, Ledger's multi-million pound estate would have to be divided between the child he fathered in his teens and his two-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose, whose mother is Hollywood actress Michelle Williams. ... The actor's parents, Kim and Sally Ledger, have declined to comment on the reports [based on comments by other family members, including his uncle Haydn Ledger]." 
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