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Heath Ledger (1979)

Heathcliff Andrew Ledger

Type :  

  Summary  

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 , The Patriot , A Knight's Tale , Brokeback Mountain , and The Dark Knight . In addition to 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. 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, 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.

Ledger died on 22 January 2008, 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, he had completed about half of his work performing the role of Tony in Terry Gilliam's film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

  Biography  

 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. The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust is named after his great-grandfather. 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, 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 , his mother's daughter with her second husband and his stepfather Roger Bell, and Olivia Ledger , his father's daughter with second wife and his stepmother Emma Brown.

 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 three years old, Ledger drove across Australia from Perth to Sydney, returning to Perth to take a small role in Clowning Around , the first part of a two-part television series, and to work on the TV series Sweat , in which he played a gay cyclist. From 1993 to 1997, Ledger also had parts in the Perth television series Ship to Shore ; in the short-lived Fox Broadcasting Company fantasy-drama Roar ; in Home and Away , one of Australia's most successful television shows; and in the Australian film Blackrock , his feature film debut. 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.

 2000s
From 2000 to 2005, he starred in supporting roles as Gabriel Martin, the eldest son of Benjamin Martin , in The Patriot , and as Sonny Grotowski, the son of Hank Grotowski , in Monster's Ball ; and in leading or title roles in A Knight's Tale , The Four Feathers , The Order , Ned Kelly , Casanova , The Brothers Grimm , and Lords of Dogtown . 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 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.

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 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."

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 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.

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 Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a film that was completed after Ledger's death by fellow actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell replacing him in different "fantasy transformations" of his character, so that Ledger's final performance could eventually be seen in theaters.

 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. 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" ; 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. 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. Ledger's final directorial work, in which he shot two music videos before his death, premiered in 2009. The music videos, completed for Modest Mouse and Grace Woodroofe, include an animated feature for Modest Mouse's song, "King Rat", and the Woodroofe video for her cover of David Bowie's "Quicksand". The "King Rat" video premiered on 4 August 2009.

 personal life
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. 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. 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.

 death
At about 2:45 p.m. , on 22 January 2008, Ledger was found unconscious in his bed by his housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, his chef, Alex Breslau, 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 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, " 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 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. At 3:36 pm, Ledger was pronounced dead and his body was removed from the apartment.

 Memorial tributes and services

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.

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. 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. , and thousands of Ledger's fans around the world.

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." 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 ."

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.

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

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, with his ashes to be interred later in a family plot at Karrakatta Cemetery, next to two of his grandparents. Later that night, his family and friends gathered for a wake on Cottesloe Beach.

 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. 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." It states definitively: "We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications." 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. Although the Associated Press and other media reported that "police estimate Ledger's time of death between 1 pm and 2:45 pm" , the Medical Examiner's Office announced that it would not be publicly disclosing the official estimated time of death. 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 .

 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."

On 4 August 2008, citing unnamed sources, Murray Weiss, of the New York Post, first reported that Mary-Kate Olsen had "refused ... immunity from prosecution," and that, when asked about the matter, Miller at first declined further comment. 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. 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 are incomplete and inaccurate."

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. 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.

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... n a roundly acclaimed performance as the Joker in the year's biggest box office hit The Dark Knight."

 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, 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". 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. 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.

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." 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.

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...." According to this report by Fife-Yeomans, earlier reports citing Ledger's uncles, 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 $20 million."

On 27 September 2008, Ledger's father Kim stated that "the family has agreed to leave the US$16.3 million fortune to Matilda," adding: "There is no claim. Our family has gifted everything to Matilda." 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$991 million in box office revenue worldwide" –– as "US$20 million."

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Леджер, Хит", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.