Heath Ledger Biography
Date of Death: 22 January 2008,
Birth Name: Heath Andrew Ledger
Heath Andrew Ledger 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 movie career. His work includes nineteen films, most notably 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), Monster's Ball (2000), A Knight's Tale (2001), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and The Dark Knight (2008). In addition to his acting, he produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.
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 as well as the 2006 Best Actor award from the BAFTA. 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 the iconic Dylan. He has also been nominated for and won awards for his portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, including a Best Actor International award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, for which he became the first actor to win an award posthumously, and the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor and the 2009 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a motion picture.
He died at the age of 28, from an accidental "toxic combination of prescription drugs." A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his penultimate performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. 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 forthcoming film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Family and personal life
Heath Ledger was born on 4 April 1979, in Perth, Western Australia, the son of Sally Ledger Bell (née Ramshaw), a French teacher, and Kim Ledger, a racing-car driver and mining engineer, whose family established and owned the Ledger Engineering Foundry. The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust is named after his great-grandfather. Ledger attended Mary's Mount Primary School, in Gooseberry Hill, and later Guildford Grammar School, where he had his first acting experiences, starring in a school production as Peter Pan at age 10. His parents separated when he was 10 and divorced when he was 11. Ledger's older sister, Kate, an actress and later a publicist, with 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. 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.
Ledger was an avid chess player, winning Western Australia's junior chess championship at the age of 10. As an adult, he often played with other chess enthusiasts at Washington Square Park. 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 both to perform in and to direct, would have been Ledger's first feature film as a director.
Among his most-notable romantic relationships, Ledger dated actress Heather Graham for several months in 2000 to 2001, 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. 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. Matilda Rose's godparents are Ledger's Brokeback co-star Jake Gyllenhaal and Williams' Dawson's Creek castmate Busy Philipps. Problems with paparazzi in Australia prompted Ledger to sell his residence in Bronte, New South Wales and move to the United States, where he shared an apartment with Williams, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, from 2005 to 2007. In September 2007, Williams' father, Larry Williams, confirmed to Sydney's Daily Telegraph that Ledger and Williams had ended their relationship. 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.
Career - 1990s
After sitting for early graduation exams at 16, Ledger left school to pursue an acting career. With Trevor DiCarlo, his best friend since he was 3, 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. 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 movie Blackrock (1997), his feature film debut. In 1999, he starred in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and in the acclaimed Australian crime movie Two Hands, directed by Gregor Jordan.
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). In 2001, he won a ShoWest Award as "Male Star of Tomorrow".
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, 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, 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." 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."
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 renowned Australian actor 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 2006, which both Cornish and Rush won in their categories. A couple of weeks after the release of Candy, Ledger was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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,' a moody, counter-culture actor who represents the romanticist side of Dylan, but says accolades are never his motivation." 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.
In his penultimate film performance, Ledger plays the Joker in The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, the sequel to the 2005 film Batman Begins, 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." 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." For his work in The Dark Knight, Ledger has received several posthumous awards and nominations.
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.
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.
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 and for the single "Seduction Is Evil (She's Hot)".
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".
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. 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); it was shown publicly only twice, first at the Bumbershoot Festival, in Seattle, Washington, held from 1 September 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. After Ledger's death, his music video for "Black Eyed Dog" was shown on the internet and excerpted in news clips distributed via YouTube.
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
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.
According to the police, Wolozin, who had arrived early for a 3:00 p.m. 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 p.m., " 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.
Emergency medical technicians (EMT) arrived seven minutes later, at 3:33 p.m. ("at almost exactly the same moment as a private security guard summoned by Ms. Olsen"), but were also unable to revive him. At 3:36 p.m., Ledger was pronounced dead and his body removed from the apartment.