Just as Los Angeles was settling in with the Oscar nominations, news broke that 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger had died from an apparent overdose. It wiped clean any residual interest in the Oscars and put the focus on a reclusive actor who was showing so much promise and poised to be the next big thing.
The Australia- born Ledger was best known for playing the soft-spoken Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Ledger was so good, in fact, that the one role might have defined his entire career. He played one of the Bob Dylans in Todd Haynes’ brilliant biopic, I’m Not There, and will be seen as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight this summer. Ledger was still filming Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Ledger had battled depression and drug addiction in recent years and has never seemed all that comfortable with the fame he garnered in his short but varied career. He fidgeted during interviews, never looking directly at the interviewer, as if he didn’t think he was really supposed to be there.
Ledger’s life seemed to change significantly when he met Michelle Williams on the set of Brokeback Mountain. The two fell madly in love and in October of the following year, their daughter Matilda was born.
Three years later, though, the couple called it quits. Ledger was photographed with his daughter and he said in interviews she was the light of his life and a little person he couldn’t bear to leave.
Ledger was born in Perth, Australia and began acting in theater before moving to Hollywood where he starred in The Patriot, directed by Mel Gibson, followed by A Knight’s Tale. Ledger was set to become a popular leading man but he chose to take his career in a different, darker direction by playing a supporting role in Marc Forster’s Monster’s Ball. He also starred in Ned Kelly, Lords of Dogtown, and The Brothers Grimm for Terry Gilliam before his role in Brokeback Mountain, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. There is no doubt that, in his short career and life, Ledger was fast on the way to becoming one of the better actors of his generation.