HEATH Ledger was a bold, imaginative Australian actor who was at the height of his career before he tragically died at the age of just 28.
Ledger secured his legendary status by playing the Joker in Batman movie The Dark Knight, for which he won a posthumous Oscar following his tragic death in 2008.
Who was Heath Ledger?
Heathcliff Andrew Ledger, 28, was born April 4, 1979 and was an Australian actor and director.
After performing roles in several Australian television and film productions during the 90s, Ledger left for the United States in 1998 to further develop his film career.
The Perth native biggest films include:
- The Dark Knight
- Brokeback Mountain
- Monster's Ball
- A Knight's Tale
- 10 Things I Hate About You
How did Heath die?
Heath accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs on January 22, 2008 during the editing of The Dark Knight, and midway through shooting for his final movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
He was found dead in bed in his Manhattan flat by his housekeeper and masseuse at around 3pm.
He'd taken six types of drug, and the toxicology report states: "We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescribed medications."
Johnny Depp Jude Law and Colin Farrell stepped in to complete filming for Heath's character Tony in Terry Gilliam's film.
Claims that playing the Joker had pushed Heath to overdose were also trashed by director Gilliam, who said at the time: "Heath was so solid. His feet were on the ground and he was the least neurotic person I've ever met."
It's more likely Heath's insomnia led him to self-medicate, a theory that has been backed up by Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer.
What was Heath like as an actor?
Often compared to James Dean, Heath was known for taking roles that were "on the edge" and that challenged him, as nothing else piqued his interest.
Explaining why he took on a variety of characters rather than playing romantic heroes, he said: "I feel like I'm wasting my time if I repeat myself."
Despite being a heartthrob, his real interest lay in becoming a director himself, and the visionary was always pointing cameras at things.
In 2007, he told a reporter: "There are so many stories inside of me and a lot I want to achieve outside of one flat note."
Christopher Nolan said of working with the actor on The Dark Knight: "I've never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents."
Was Heath's death linked to his Joker role?
Since Heath's part as the Joker in The Dark Knight was the last film role he completed — and his darkest by far — fans have rather inevitably linked it to his tragic death.
But according to the family member he was closest to, there is no truth in the rumour Heath grew depressed or manic as a result of becoming the villain.
At a Q&A at the I Am Heath Ledger premiere, his older sister Kate said: "I was really shocked because that was him having fun.
"Every report was coming out that he was depressed and that [the role] was taking this toll on him, and we're going, honestly, it was the absolute opposite. It couldn't be more wrong.
"He had an amazing sense of humour, and I guess maybe only his family and friends knew that, but he was having fun. He wasn't depressed about the Joker!”
The maker of the documentary, Matt Amato, added: "I hope it's an antidote to a lot of the gossip that exists in the world.
"There are some really terrible things about Heath out there."
In the "immaculately clean" apartment where Heath died, investigators found comic books, research on clowns and the Joker's origins, small clown statues and recordings of the actor's Joker voice experiments.
He also wrote a journal as the Joker in the run-up to the movie shoot, which ominously ended with the words "bye bye".
Heath Ledger has a daughter with his former girlfriend Michelle Williams
Was Heath Ledger married and did he have children?
Heath had a daughter with American actress Michelle Williams in 2005, called Matilda Rose, who is now eleven.
Michelle and Heath split in 2007 and all Heath's fortune, around £13million, was left to Matilda in its entirety.
Through his life, Heath also had relationships with Naomi Watts, Lisa Zane, Heather Graham and, close to his death, supermodel Gemma Ward.
Did Heath have plans beyond 2008?
Before his death, the former chess champion was planning to direct a feature film called The Queen's Gambit, based on a 1983 novel.
Heath, who would have turned 38 years old on April 4, wanted to segue into film directing, having learned from filmmakers like Nolan, Gilliam, Marc Forster, Ang Lee and Catherine Hardwicke.
No doubt Heath would have been invited back to play the Joker, who he described as "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy", in more movies.
Despite his tragic death, Heath's enduring impact on cinema and the art of performance is beyond question.
He said in 2006: "You know when you see the preachers down South? And they grab a believer and they go, 'Bwoom! I touch you with the hand of God!' And they believe so strongly, they're on the ground shaking and spitting… Now, I don't believe in Jesus, but I believe in my performance.
"And if you can understand that the power of belief is one of the great tools of our time and that a lot of acting comes from it, you can do anything."
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