Heath Ledger ~ Invincible
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), Monster's Ball (2001), 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 BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. 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. He was nominated and won awards for his 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, the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.
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, his death coming during editing of the film and casting a shadow over the subsequent promotion of the $180 million production. 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.
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. 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, 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. 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 to both perform in and 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's Dawson's Creek castmate Busy Philipps. Ledger sold his residence in Bronte, New South Wales, and moved to the United States, where he shared an apartment with Williams, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, from 2005 to 2007. In September 2007, Williams' father 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.