Heath Ledger: Snapshot

Heath Ledger
Date of Birth
April 04, 1979
Date of Death
January 22, 2008
Birth Place
Perth, Australia
Heath Ledger's untimely death at 28 took everyone by surprise. The Oscar-nominated actor, who died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, is survived by daughter, Matilda, whose mother is his Brokeback Mountain costar Michelle Williams.

The Australian-born actor first gained wide recognition in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. Instead of resting on his hunky looks, Ledger turned down a series of heartthrob roles before delivering a complicated, career-defining performance as a gay man in Brokeback Mountain, the Ang Lee-directed film about a tragic love affair between two cowboys. The film also introduced Ledger to Williams, whom he dated for three years.

In 2009, Ledger became an Oscar winner, when his family accepted his posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Heath Ledger: Five Fun Facts

  1. In one of his first acting roles, Heath Ledger wore green tights as the lead in a Perth community theater production of Peter Pan. "It took a lot of guts," he told the Washington Post. "For a 12-year-old kid, that can be damaging amongst your peers."
  2. Brokeback Mountain wasn't the first time Heath Ledger played a gay man. In 1996, he landed the role of a gay cyclist in the Aussie TV show Sweat.
  3. Heath Ledger had "KAOS" tattooed across one wrist. It stood for Kate, Ashleigh, Olivia and Sally, the names of his mom and three sisters.
  4. Jake Gyllenhaal is the godfather of Heath Ledger's daughter, Matilda. "Heath and I made love, and they got a baby out of it!" Gyllenhaal joked to Entertainment Weekly.
  5. Heath Ledger's secret ambition was to star in a Hollywood musical. "They're what made me want to do movies in the first place," he told Movieline. "I guess in some people's eyes, guys dancing around can look queeny, but I think it's very, very cool."

Heath Ledger: Biography


April 04

Heath's Early Years

Ledger is born in the beachfront town of Perth, Australia. His dad, Kim, an engineer who designed race cars, and mom, Sally, a French teacher, divorce when Ledger is 11. The budding actor – who's already working regularly in community theater – adapts easily to shuttling between his parents' homes. "It set me up for this bohemian life I've been leading," he tells Rolling Stone in 2006. "I feel like I've been traveling with the same bag since I was 11."


Heath Ledger

Roaring Away

At 16, Ledger, who says he "hates school," leaves home for Sydney, where he appears in the Aussie TV show Sweat. He also makes his feature film debut in Blackrock and takes the lead in Roar (left), Fox's new warrior drama – costarring Keri Russell. "It started off quite dignified and Braveheart-esque," Ledger tells Rolling Stone of the short-lived series. "But as they got desperate for ratings, slowly no one's wearing clothes." On the upside, he dates costar Lisa Zane (the sister of Titanic's Billy Zane), who's 18 years his senior.


Heath Ledger

10 Things Heartthrob

Ledger hops a flight to Hollywood and lands the lead in 10 Things I Hate About You, opposite Julia Stiles (right). The teen comedy rakes in more than $50 million, but Ledger admits he's unhappy being labeled a heartthrob. "I was a young kid from Australia, and that was the only movie someone was willing to put me in, so what do you do?" he tells the Houston Chronicle. "You've got to start somewhere. I just didn't want to stay there." He adamantly turns down teen flicks for the next year.

Read More on Heath Ledger's Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: Tim Bauer/Retna

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Kobal Collection/Wireimage; Everett Collection

Edited by Julia Wang

Heath Ledger

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