Despite a short-lived start on series television, Academy Award-winning actor Heath Ledger moved into features as a heartthrob in teen films, quickly developing into one of Hollywood's most prominent...
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
|Two Hands (1999)||Actor||Jimmy||1999||1|
|Lords of Dogtown (2005)||Actor||Skip Engblom||2005||1|
|Ned Kelly (2004)||Actor||Ned Kelly||2004||1|
|Two Hands (2013)||Actor||Jimmy||2013||1|
|10 Things I Hate About You (1999)||Actor||Patrick Verona||1999||1|
|Brokeback Mountain (2005)||Actor||Ennis Del Mar||2005||1|
|The Order (2003)||Actor||Father Alex Bernier||2003||1|
|A Knight's Tale (2001)||Actor||William Thatcher||2001||1|
|The Four Feathers (2002)||Actor||Harry Faversham||2002||1|
|The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)||Actor||Tony||2009||1|
|The Brothers Grimm (2005)||Actor||Jacob Grimm||2005||1|
|The Patriot (2000)||Actor||Gabriel Martin||2000||1|
|The Dark Knight (2008)||Actor||The Joker||2008||1|
|I'm Not There (2007)||Actor||Robbie||2007||1|
|Monster's Ball (2001)||Actor||Sonny Grotowski||2001||1|
|History or Hollywood? The Patriot (1998-1999)||Actor||Interviewee||N/A||1|
|Blackrock (1996)||Actor||Toby Ackland||1996||1|
|The 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (2004-2005)||Actor||Presenter||N/A||1|
|The 2002 MTV Video Music Awards (2001-2002)||Actor||n/a||N/A||1|
|The 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2001-2002)||Actor||Presenter||N/A||1|
|Played a drug addict in "Candy" opposite Abbie Cornish|
|Portrayed the Joker in the second installment of the revived "Batman" series, "The Dark Knight"; film was released after his death|
|Had a starring role opposite Bryan Brown in the gangster comedy "Two Hands"|
|Cast as legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly in the film "Ned Kelly"|
|Portrayed Skip Engblom, co-owner of the Zepher surf shop in Catherine Hardwicke's "Lords of Dogtown," a fictionalized take on a group of skateboarders that originated in Venice, CA during the 1970's|
|Raised in Perth, Australia|
|Reunited with Helgeland and co-stars Mark Addy and Shannyn Sossamon in "The Order"|
|Played Billy Bob Thornton's son in "Monster's Ball"|
|Feature acting debut, "Blackrock"|
|Cast in the lead in "A Knight's Tale," directed by Brian Helgeland|
|Had been cast to play the Devil in "End of Days," but was replaced when another director assumed the reins|
|Appeared in the Australian TV series "Sweat" as Snowey Bowles, a gay bicyclist hoping to land a spot on an Olympic team|
|Co-starred with Julia Stiles in "10 Things I Hate About You," an updated take on "The Taming of the Shrew"|
|Cast as a ranch hand who falls in love with Jake Gyllenhaal in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain"; earned Oscar, Independent Spirit Award, Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Best Actor|
|Directed the music video "Morning Yearning" for Ben Harper|
|Portrayed Bob Dylan at one distinct stage of his life in Todd Haynes' film "I'm Not There"|
|Played Mel Gibson's son in the Revolutionary War drama "The Patriot"|
|Appeared in final film, Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"; film was in production at the time of his death and his role was completed by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell|
|Co-starred opposite Matt Damon in Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm"|
|Starred in the remake of "Four Feathers"|
|Starred as a Celtic warrior prince on the Fox series "Roar"|
Heathcliff Andrew Ledger was born on April 4, 1979 and raised in Perth, Australia by mother Emma, a French teacher, and father Kim, a mining engineer and amateur racecar driver. Because his parents were Wuthering Heights fans, they named their son Heathcliff and daughter Catherine after the star-crossed lovers in Emily Bronte's classic tearjerker. Indeed, young Ledger seemed to have a natural gift for drama himself, with an early interest in acting resulting in a stage debut with Perth's Globe Shakespeare Company when he was only 10 years old. Ledger's budding thespian tendencies were no secret at Guildford's Boys Grammar School, where he was a member of the school hockey team, but also choreographed and led a school dance troupe to victory in a national competition. As hard-working academically as he was on the stage and hockey rink, Ledger hit the books and passed his high school graduation exams at age 16 in order to move to Sydney in search of an acting career.
With his tall, masculine looks and dimpled charm, he quickly landed a role in the feature film "Blackrock" (1997), a gripping fictionalization of the rape and murder of a teenage girl in a surf community. Ledger's auspicious film debut led to a recurring role as Australian TV's first gay character, cyclist Snowy Bowles in the drama "Sweat," which was set at an elite training academy for young athletes. His career snowballed with a solid run of guest work on Australian TV series "Ship to Shore," "Bush Patrol," and "Home and Away" before he was tapped for American television as the star of "Roar" (Fox, 1997). In the medieval-set adventure, Ledger played a teenaged Celtic prince who becomes the leader of his people when Romans murder his family. With a job description that included bellowing a mighty roar before beating the baddies, in addition to dealing with his inner turmoil, Ledger proved an impressive recruit and was well loved by the series' cult audience. In 1999, Ledger starred in the crime thriller "Two Hands" (1998) from Australian director Gregor Jordan and earned a Best Actor nomination from the AFI Film Festival, where both the film and director earned top awards. Despite the independent accolades, Ledger earned considerably more attention for the American teen comedy, "10 Things I Hate About You" (1999). In this modern retooling of "The Taming of the Shrew," he starred as a moody student with a reputed criminal past who is enlisted to woo Julia Stiles. A teen heartthrob was born and now movieg rs on both sides of the pond were smitten.
Not surprisingly, the newcomer was barraged with Hollywood offers to repeat his onscreen success in a multitude of cookie cutter teen romantic comedies, but Ledger waited out the deluge until he found a vehicle that would show audiences another side of his talent. That opportunity was realized when Ledger played Mel Gibson's son in the much-heralded "The Patriot" (2000), a Revolutionary War saga about a pacifist (Gibson) forced to choose sides after his soldier son is captured by the enemy. Following the flurry of magazine covers and articles, the in-demand actor starred as medieval swashbuckler in a film set to arena rock standards in "A Knight's Tale" (2001) - with the tagline "He Will Rock You" reportedly embarrassing the young actor, who worried about the pressures of such a promise.
Determined to take another route than that predetermined by his rugged, blonde good looks, Ledger impressively held his own opposite Billy Bob Thorton as the anguished of a cold-hearted prison guard who kills himself in "Monster's Ball" (2001). He signed on opposite Kate Hudson to headline the Victorian military drama "Four Feathers" (2002), directed by Shekhar Kapur, but the film made nary a ripple at the box office. Commencing a high-profile and long-time romance with actress and fellow Aussie, Naomi Watts - ten years his senior - Ledger became a favorite subject of the paparazzi and entertainment media, particularly in the couple's homeland. As his public profile rose, he sought to shore up his professional reputation with a portrayal of a renegade priest who runs afoul of an ancient and evil sect operating within the church in "The Order" (2003).
Ledger again earned favor with AFI Festival critics for "Ned Kelly" (2004), playing a good man driven to striking back at a corrupt British colonial system in 19th century Australia, after serving a prison term on trumped-up charges. Despite AFI recognition and a cast that included Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Naomi Watts, "Ned Kelly" was released by Universal into less than 20 theaters. Ledger's next appearance was in "Lords of Dogtown" (2005), a fictionalized rags-to-riches tale of the Southern California figures who revolutionized skateboarding and propelled themselves into wanton celebrity. Ledger was virtually unrecognizable as Skip Engblom, who owns a surf shop and forms the skaters into the celebrated Zephyr Skateboard Team. Exploring still new territory, the hungry up-and-comer teamed with Matt Damon to play fictionalized versions of the famed Bavarian fairy tale spinners "The Brothers Grimm" (2005), re-imagined by director Terry Gilliam as a pair of curse-removing con artists who are suddenly tasked with solving a genuine magical mystery that ultimately inspires many of their famous stories.
The unfortunate misfire was soon forgotten, however, in the face of his following project - director Ang Lee's adaptation of the E. Annie Proulx's story "Brokeback Mountain." In the finest performance of his short career, Ledger played Ennis Del Mar, a stoic, rough-around-the-edges ranch hand who unwittingly finds himself in a sexual relationship with a fellow cowboy (Jake Gyllenhaal) while on a lengthy and remote sheep drive. Adding to his character's torment, the couple continues their complex relationship for the next 20 years, despite both getting married - with Ennis marrying Alma (Michelle Williams) and starting a family. Ledger's quiet, haunting, convincingly tortured performance was such a revelation, he was honored with a slew of nominations, including Oscar and Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor. By the time the film hit theaters, Watts and Ledger had broken up and he was dating his on-screen wife Williams, previously best known for her work on "Dawson's Creek" (WB, 1998-2003). The two had a daughter, Matilda Rose, on Oct. 28, 2005, and were often photographed in the midst of a remarkably normal looking life in a Brooklyn neighborhood.
Ledger's final 2005 film, "Casanova," was director Lasse Hallstrom's fictionalized account of the legendary lothario. It was easily one of the most disappointing films of the year, despite lavish production values and game performances by Ledger and the all-star cast. He bounced back with "I'm Not There" (2007), playing the "egomaniac superstar" incarnation of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' unique character study of the iconic singer. Ledger and Williams got some unwelcome ink after their breakup that year, but Ledger rebounded with news that he appear as the legendary comic book villain, The Joker, opposite Christian Bale's Batman in "The Dark Knight" (2008); the second film in director Christopher Nolan's popular revival of the Caped Crusader's film franchise. But before the "Dark Knight" was released, tragedy struck on Jan. 22, 2008, when Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment. Authorities were called and arrived on scene, discovering no apparent foul play but numerous pills nearby and declared his body in "full cardiac arrest" upon their arrival.
At the same time the actor's body was being prepared for burial in Perth, Australia, the Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York concluded in his report - based on the toxicology findings - that Ledger had suffered an "accidental overdose" by the combined effects of oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), diazepam (Valium), temazepam (Restoril, a sedative), alprazolam (Xanax), and doxylamine (a sleep aid). Meanwhile, "The Dark Knight" was released in summer 2008 to huge fanfare and box office success, becoming the fourth highest grossing movie of all time. Though there was much to praise about the film - despite being a summertime blockbuster, it was deeply engaging and well-written - Ledger was singled out above all for his chilling, but darkly comic portrayal of The Joker. In fact, some felt that he bested Jack Nicholson's take from "Batman" (1989) by a large margin. Because of his memorable performance, Ledger was nominated for and won a Golden Globe for Best Performance By a Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, which was accepted by Nolan. He was then honored with an Academy Award nomination in the same category, followed by a win for Outstanding Supporting Actor at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild awards. "Dark Knight" co-star Gary Oldman accepted on Ledger's behalf. To almost no one's surprise, Ledger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His family touchingly accepted the award on his behalf, leaving not a dry eye in the house.
|Roger Bell||Step-Father||Married to Heath's mother|
|Sally Bell||Mother||Divorced Ledger's father c. 1989; Later remarried|
|Ashleigh Bell||Half-Sister||Born c. 1989; Parents were Sally and Roger Bell|
|Christina Cauchi||Companion||Reportedly lived together in early 2000; No longer together|
|Heather Graham||Companion||Dated from October 2000 to June 2001|
|Kim Ledger||Father||Divorced Ledger's mother c. 1989; Lived with Emma Brown|
|Matilda Ledger||Daughter||Born October 28, 2005 in Brooklyn, NY; mother, Michelle Williams|
|Catherine Ledger||Sister||Older; Named for the heroine of "Wuthering Heights"|
|Olivia Ledger||Half-Sister||Born c. 1997|
|Gemma Ward||Companion||Reportedly dated at end of 2007|
|Naomi Watts||Companion||Met in 2002 on the set of "Ned Kelly" (2004); Began dating in summer 2002; Separated briefly in 2003; Rekindled relationship in November 2003; Announced split in May 2004|
|Michelle Williams||Companion||Met in 2004 while filming "Brokeback Mountain" (2005); Mother of his daughter Matilda; Separated amicably in August 2007 after three years together; Ledger died on Jan. 22, 2008 from an accidental overdose|
|Lisa Zane||Companion||Sister of actor Billy Zane; Became involved during the filming of "Roar" (1997); No longer together|
|Marys Mount Primary School|
|Guildford Grammar School|
|"Once every 50 years a guy like that comes along. For his age, Heath has an incredible manliness about him." - "A Knight's Tale" director Brian Helgeland in Vanity Fair magazine, August 2000|
|"I'm in control of my life, not anyone in Hollywood. I only do this because I'm having fun. The day I stop having fun, I'll just walk away. I wasn't going to have fun doing a teen movie again. I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. I don't. I don't even want to spend the rest of my youth doing this in this inducstry. There's so much more I want to discover." - Ledger quoted in Vanity Fair magazine, August 2000|
|"I had a year where I sat around on my butt and declined generous offers to do more teen movies and more of the same characters as the one from '10 Things.' I was literally living off ramen noodles and water just because I was sticking to my guns. It was very hard because they offer you so much money. It's so easy to say, 'Ah fuck it, at least I can live and eat.'" - Ledger quoted in Detour magazine, Summer 2000|
|"I love acting. Oh, God, I love it. But all this fame and all this bullsh*t attention, I'm not supernatural. I've done nothing extremely special to deserve the position. It happens every couple of years, and it's happened to hundreds of people before me." - Ledger to Newsweek, July 10, 2000|
|Ledger told The London Times (July 1, 2000) that he was "an extremely private dude and all this is happening so damn quick. I really haven't had any time to rationalize it. But it's nothing that I'm going to let freak me out or take control of me or my thoughts or my real life."|
|Ledger told The London Times (July 1, 2000) that his motto was: "Work as if you didn't need the money. Love as if you've never been hurt. And dance as if no one's watching."|
|"In order to tell this story, to portray this form of love, I needed to mature as an actor, and as a person, and that really excited me." - Ledger on his role in "Brokeback Mountain" to GQ magazine, December 2005|
|"I hadn't done anything. I hadn't really proven myself. So over the last four years I've been somewhat destroying the career that was handed to me and creating one that I feel like I've deserved." - Ledger quoted in Empire magazine, March 2006|
|Ledger formed a record company with musician Ben Harper in 2007.|
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