Heath Ledger filmography and biography
Date of birth: 4 April 1979, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Date of death: 22 January 2008, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (accidental overdose of prescription drugs)
Heath Ledger biography
When a young, hunky 20 year old heart-throb Heath Ledger first came to
the attention of the public in 1999, it was all too easy to tag him as
a "pretty boy" and an actor of not much depth. He has spent the past
five years trying desperately to sway this image away, but this has
indeed been a double-edged sword. But that comes much later in his
story. Heath Ledger was born on the fourth of April 1979, in Perth,
Western Australia. As the story goes, in junior high it was compulsory
to do one of two electives, either cooking or drama, and as Heath could
honestly not see himself in a cooking class, he tried his hand at
drama. Heath was talented, there was no denying that. However, the rest
of the class did not acknowledge his talent, possibly out of jealousy.
When he was 17, he and a friend, decided to pack up, leave school, take
a car and rough it to Sydney. Heath believed Sydney to be the place
where dreams are made, or at least, where actors can possibly get their
big break. However, upon arriving in Sydney with a purported 69 cents
to his name, Heath tried everything to get a break. His first real
acting job came in a low budget movie called Blackrock, a
largely unimpressive clichÃ©; a teen angst film about one boy's struggle
when he learns his best mate raped a girl. He did not have a large part
in this movie. In fact, it was a very small one. The only thing of
notice in his role is you get to see him get his lights punched out.
After that small role, Heath auditioned for a role in a TV show called
Sweat about a group of young Olympic hopefuls. He got
offered one of two roles, one as a swimmer, another as a gay cyclist.
Heath accepted the latter because he felt to really stand out as an
actor one had to accept unique roles that stood out from the bunch. It
got him small notice, but unfortunately the show was quickly axed,
which led him to look for other roles. He was in
Home and Away for a very short period, in which he
played a surfer who falls in love with one of the girls of Summer Bay.
Then came his very brief role in Paws. Paws was a film
which existed solely to cash in on guitar prodigy
Nathan Cavaleri's brief moment of fame, where he was the hottest
thing in Australia. Heath played a student in the film, involved in a
stage production of a Shakespeare play, in which he played "Oberon". A
very brief role, this did nothing other than give him a small paycheck,
but nothing to advance his career. Then came Two Hands.
He went to America trying to audition for film roles, showcasing his
brief role in Roar opposite then unknown
Vera Farmiga. He could not find any American roles but then
Australian director Gregor Jordan auditioned him for the lead in
Two Hands, which he got. An in your face Aussie crime
thriller, Two Hands was outstanding and helped him secure
a role in 10 Things I Hate About You. After that, it
seemed Heath was being typecast as a teen hunk, which he did not like,
so he accepted a role in a very serious war drama
What followed was a stark inconsistency of roles, Ledger accepting virtually every single character role, anything to avoid being typecast. Some met with praise, like his short role in Monsters Ball, but his version of Ned Kelly was an absolute flop, which led distributors hesitant to even release it outside Australia. Heath finally had deserved success with his role in Brokeback Mountain, for which he was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA. Ledger was found dead on January 22, 2008 in his apartment in the Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo, with a bottle of prescription sleeping pills nearby. It was concluded weeks later that he died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. After his death he received more than 30 posthumous awards for his portrayal as the psychopathic clown prince of crime in The Dark Knight (including the Oscar, SAG, BAFTA, and Golden Globe)
Heath Ledger trivia
- He and his older sister, Kate Ledger, are named after the two main romantic characters of the Emily BrontÃ« novel, "Wuthering Heights".
- Concentrated on drama and sports in school. When asked to choose between the two, he picked drama. Attended a private all-boys school called Guildford Grammar.
- Auditioned for the part of Max on the TV show Roswell. However, the show was originally developed for Fox and since he had already starred in Roar, which was unsuccessful for Fox, they did not want to hire him.
- Had three sisters: Catherine (Kate) Ledger, married to Nathan Buckey, and half sisters Olivia Ledger (b. 1997) and Ashleigh Bell (b. 1989).
- Mother was Sally Ramshaw (daughter of John and Jackie Ramshaw) and father was Kim Ledger (son of Colin and Es Ledger). Stepfather was Roger Bell and stepmother was Emma Brown. His great-grandfather was Sir Frank Ledger, son of Edson Leger.
- Named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 2001.
- (October 2000 - June 2001) Dated Heather Graham (I).
- Was a part of the 1990 Kalamunda Field Hockey team, whose president his father Kim was from 1990 to 1992.
- Was a men's-fashion judge at the Melbourne Cup Carnival in November 2001.
- Was originally set to star in Oliver Stone (I)'s Alexander before Colin Farrell (I) took over the role.
- Was considered for the role of Kar in Bulletproof Monk but eventually turned it down. The role later went to Seann William Scott.
- Dated Naomi Watts from August 2002 to May 2004.
- He and Naomi Watts broke up for the 2nd time in April 2004.
- Was named "the new Matt Damon" in Josie and the Pussycats. They now act side by side in The Brothers Grimm
- Most of his wardrobe was designed by his friend Shem.
- Was of Irish and Scottish ancestry.
- Starred in 3 films which screened at the 2005 Venice Film Festival. They included Brokeback Mountain, The Brothers Grimm and the out-of-competition Casanova.
- Former fiancÃ©e Michelle Williams (I) gave birth to daughter Matilda Rose Ledger on 28 October 2005, who weighed in at 6 lb, 5 oz.
- Met Michelle Williams (I) on the set of Brokeback Mountain.
- Was selected in the State U17 squad in field hockey and was touted as one of the up and coming young stars, but chose to pack it in and try to make a career out of acting.
- Jake Gyllenhaal is the godfather of his daughter Matilda Ledger.
- Was mentored by, lived with, and was very good friends with Martin Henderson (I).
- Invited to join AMPAS in 2006.
- Was the first non-American actor to portray the Joker.
- Set to star in Baz Luhrmann's pre-WWII drama, but backed out to play The Joker in The Dark Knight.
- Michelle Williams (I)' Dawsons Creek co-star Busy Philipps and his Brokeback Mountain co-star Jake Gyllenhaal are his daughter's godparents.
- When he was cast as The Joker in The Dark Knight, rumors circulated that his Brokeback Mountain cast mate Jake Gyllenhaal would be playing district attorney Harvey Dent. Instead, Jake's sister Maggie Gyllenhaal was cast as assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes.
- Dropped out of Australia to do The Dark Knight.
- Was one of seven godparents of Elizabeth Hurley (I)'s son Damien.
- Called off his engagement to Michelle Williams (I) in September 2007.
- Chosen by Empire Magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars in the world (#79) 2007.
- Resided in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Sydney.
- (22 January 2008) Was found dead in his apartment at 421 Broome Street in the SoHo neighborhood in New York City at 3:26 p.m. EST by his housekeeper and a massage therapist, finding him face down and unconscious in his bed with sleeping pills on a nearby table.
- Directed three music videos for Australian artist N'fa and Ben Harper (II).
- Was painfully shy.
- First acting role was as "Peter Pan", at age 10, at a local theater company.
- Lived in Roman Way, Islington while filming his last movie ever in London in 2007.
- Was very good friends with Russell Crowe.
- Was considered for a role in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
- Actor Daniel Day-Lewis made a dedication to him at the SAG Awards 2008.
- Owned a pet kangaroo that was found by his mother as a child.
- Favorite food was risotto.
- Was good friends with Ben Harper (II).
- He was the co-founder of record label Music Masses Co with singer Ben Harper (II), and directed Harper's video for the song 'Morning Yearning'.
- The youngest actor to play the Joker in a Batman movie The Dark Knight, as oppose to Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero.
- In 2006, took a year off from acting to raise his daughter Matilda Ledger while his girlfriend at the time, Michelle Williams (I), worked.
- On February 9, 2008, a memorial service attended by several hundred invited guests was held at Penhros College in Perth, Western Australia followed by a private wake on Cottesloe Beach with his family and friends.
- After his death his body was returned to Perth, Western Australia, where his body was cremated at Fremantle Cemetery, with his ashes to be "scattered in a family plot at Karrakatta Cemetery, next to two of his grandparents.
- Before appearing with Christian Bale in The Dark Knight, the two of them both played incarnations of Bob Dylan in Im Not There.. This makes Ledger the second Joker actor to share a role with a Batman actor. Previously, Cesar Romero (I) shared the role of lawman John "Doc" Holliday with Adam West (I) and Val Kilmer.
- His favorite Australian bands and musicians were Spiderbait, Powderfinger, and Silverchair.
- Was good friends with Joaquin Phoenix.
- Said in 1999 that his favorite actors and directors were Gene Kelly (I), Judy Garland (I), Bob Fosse, Stanley Kubrick (I), Katharine Hepburn, 'Jack Nicholson', Marcel Cann, Terrence Malick, Mel Gibson (I), and Meryl Streep. Later, he went on to co-star with Gibson; and play The Joker (previously portrayed by Nicholson) with his character was partly inspired by Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange; and had almost been cast in Malick's The Tree of Life.
- In an interview shortly before his death, he stated that his favorite role so far in his career had been his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
- Swiss actor and filmmaker Philippe Vonlanthen worked as his Body-double and stand-in on Roar. Filming took place in Queensland, Australia.
- Played the character of Scott Irwin in the long-running Australian soap opera Home and Away for 10 episodes in 1997. Scott was a local bad boy who took advantage of Sally Fletcher. It is said that the producers wanted to extend his stay with the show but Heath opted not to.
- His Golden Globe Award win for The Dark Knight came eleven days before the first anniversary of his death.
- When actress Nell Campbell moved back to her homeland of Australia, she sold her house to Ledger in 2005.
- Received his Oscar-nomination for The Dark Knight on the first anniversary of his death, January 22, 2009.
- He is not only the first and only actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Joker, but the first and only actor to secure an acting nomination for a Batman film.
- In both his first and final complete roles, he portrayed a clown.
- The day after he died, he was supposed to meet with 'Steven Spielberg' to explore the idea of playing Tom Hayden (II) in a movie about the Chicago 7.
- Has co-starred with a Gyllenhaal sibling in his two most acclaimed roles: as Ennis Del Marr with Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, and as the Joker with Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight.
- Was awarded the 2009 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work as the Joker in The Dark Knight. This made him the first person to win a posthumous acting Oscar in this category.
- His daughter Matilda Ledger will be the recipient of his Oscar for The Dark Knight when she turns 18. Up until then the statuette will be in custody of his father Kim Ledger, mother Sally Bell and sister Kate Ledger, per Academy rules.
- Very first performer to win an Oscar for acting in a comic movie-adaptation.
- Was a great admirer of Johnny Depp's work. Like Depp, Ledger worked hard to avoid being typecast as a teen heartthrob early on, in the hopes of expanding his career options. Both actors enjoyed taking risky, physically unappealing roles that surprised audiences. Depp was one of the three actors who filled in for Ledger's last unfinished role after his death, in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
- The second person to win a posthumous acting Oscar. The first was Peter Finch (I).
- Won almost every award in which he was nominated for his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight including the quintuple crown (a Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, Critics' Choice Award, and Oscar).
- Is one of 8 actors to have won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Critics' Choice Award, Golden Globe Award and SAG Award for the same performance. The others in chronological order are Geoffrey Rush for Shine, Jamie Foxx for Ray (2004/I), Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote, Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland, Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men, Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood, and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.
- Son of Kim Ledger.
Heath Ledger quotes
- "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 want to spend the rest of my youth doing this in this industry. There's so much I want to discover." - Vanity Fair (August 2000)
- I prefer to date older women because they don't try to act older like younger girls but because they try to act younger.
- "It's a little uncomfortable doing love scenes in armor, but, you know, when the heat's on, the heat's on." - Access Hollywood, August 2000.
- [about the paparazzi] "Most of the time you don't even know they're there. Now, that's the scary thing. It's really strange and invading, but I'm still working it all out. I try to not let it bother me. I really try and find the humour in all of it. And if I want to swim naked in my pool, I'm still going to do it. I certainly don't want to feel that I have to change everything in my life that I do to cater to them. I just won't let it happen." - National Post, May 2001
- "I don't have a technique. I've never been a believer in having one set technique on how to act. There are no rules and there is no rulebook. At the end of the day, it all comes down to my instincts. That's the one thing that guides me through every decision professionally. Socially, also. That's my technique. Yeah, you read through the script 100 times. I guess I have little characteristics about myself. Sometimes, most often than not, once we start shooting I won't look at the script at all until we finished shooting. It's kind of like it's been imprinted in my head during rehearsals. You just let it go." - Reel.com, May 2001
- "I'm the worst auditioner, really, really bad. I mean, you're being judged and I'm just so aware of it that it consumes me. I can't relax, I'm tied in knots, so the voice is very taut and tense. You're so aware that you're acting 'cause you're sitting across from this lady with a piece of paper who's going, ''I'm. Going. To. Shoot. You. If. You. Don't. Blah, blah, blah,'' in this emotionless voice. It's foul. I hate it." - EW.com, May 2001
- People just love to bash LA. People say it's so pretentious, so arrogant, so this and that. But it's truly a wonderful place. You don't have to go to the places where that stuff goes on. You don't have to go to Beverly Hills, you don't have to go to the parties. You can live up in the Lower Canyon and live such a perfectly healthy, beautiful, fun life with all your friends. You can drive two hours one way and be at the Joshua Tree desert, two hours one way you're skiing at Big Bear. Sure, it can get full-on and that's why it's good to get out. But it's too easy just to say, "Nup, I hate it. I'm not living there anymore. - NW Magazine, March 2000
- [about growing up with his mom and his sisters] I learned respect for women, and patience. You grow up with all those women around you...you learn to wait your turn. - Cosmopolitan, June 1998
- I never studied acting in Australia. I never had an empty stage and black pajamas to run around and express myself.
- "The challenge was to capture the stillness of him. I have kind of semi-frantic, nervous energy. Harnassing that was something I thought I'd have to work out. Shooting in the wilderness, the stillness became like this innate quality." -on his character "Ennis" in Brokeback Mountain.
- Brooklyn seems to me the closest thing in America to Europe. The neighbors and locals are beautiful people. It's like a village.
- She's my soul mate and we couldn't love each other any more than we do already. We're like two peas in a pod. [On his girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, Michelle Williams (I)].
- "Matilda is adorable, and beautifully observant and wise. Michelle an I love her so much. Becoming a father exceeds all my expectations. It's the most remarkable experience I've ever had - it's marvelous." [On daughter Matilda and being a father]
- My life right now is, I wouldn't say reduced to food, but my duties in life are that I wake up, cook breakfast, clean the dishes, prepare lunch, clean those dishes, go to the market, get fresh produce, cook dinner, clean those dishes and then sleep if I can. And I love it. I actually adore it.
- I'm not good at future planning. I don't plan at all. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. I don't have a day planner and I don't have a diary. I completely live in the now, not in the past, not in the future.
- [On playing "The Joker" in The Dark Knight] The Joker, so far, is definitely the most fun I've had with any character. He's just out of control -- no empathy, he's a sociopath, uh, a psychotic, mass-murdering clown. And, uh, I'm just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it. It's just exceeded any expectations I had of what the experience would be like.
- [On his choice of film projects] I feel like I'm wasting time if I repeat myself. I can't say I'm proud of my work. It's the same with everything I do: the day I say 'It's good' is the day I should start doing something else.
- [On walking down the red carpet] Like diving into an Olympic pool, swimming the length underwater, then emerging gasping for breath. It's so noisy that it's quiet, you can't hear; the flashlights are so blinding that it's dark, you can't see.
- I start to get bored, not with the choices I was making, because I didn't really have a choice. The choices were being made for me -- I was being thrown into projects. So I kind of put the brakes on that. In a sense, I destroyed my career to rebuild it again.
- I like to do something I fear. I like to set up obstacles and defeat them. I like to be afraid of the project. I always am. When I get cast in something, I always believe I shouldn't have been cast. I fooled them again. I can't do it. I don't know how to do it. There's a huge amount of anxiety that drowns out any excitement I have toward the project.
- I never had money, and I was very happy without it. When I die, my money's not gonna come with me. My movies will live on - for people to judge what I was as a person. I just want to stay curious.