Heath Andrew Ledger (April 4, 1979 – January 22, 2008) was an Australian actor, and photographer. After playing roles in several Australian television and film productions during the 1990s, making his uncredited film debut in Clowning Around (1992). He starred in the short lived fantasy adventure series Roar (1997), with Vera Farmiga, Lisa Zane, John Saint Ryan, and Sebastian Roché. He moved to the United States in 1998 to further develop his film career. He also produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.
The first half of his career included the films 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), with Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Larry Miller, Andrew Keegan, David Krumholtz, and Susan May Pratt; Two Hands (1999), with Rose Byrne, David Field, and Susie Porter; The Patriot (2000), with Mel Gibson, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tchéky Karyo, René Auberjonois, and Tom Wilkinson; Brian Helgeland’s A Knight’s Tale (2001), with Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Laura Fraser, Paul Bettany, and James Purefoy; Marc Forster’s Monster’s Ball (2001), with Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, and Peter Boyle; The Four Feather’s (2002), with Wes Bentley, Kate Hudson, Djimon Hounsou, and Michael Sheen; Ned Kelly (2003), with Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts, and Geoffrey Rush; and The Order (2003), with Sossamon, Addy, Benno Fürmann, and Peter Weller.
The second half of his career included the films Lords of Dogtown (2005), with Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, John Robinson, Michael Angarano, Nikki Reed, Rebecca De Mornay, and Johnny Knoxville; Terry Gilliam‘s The Brother’s Grimm (2005), with Matt Damon, Lena Headey, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, and Monica Bellucci; Lasse Hallström’s Casanova (2005), with Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Oliver Platt; Candy (2006), with Abbie Cornish and Rush; and Todd Fields’s I’m Not There (2007), with Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Gainsbourg, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Julianne Moore, and Michelle Williams (with whom he had a daughter).
For his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee‘s Brokeback Mountain (2005), with Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Williams, Linda Cardellini, and Anna Farris; Ledger won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and the Best International Actor Award from the Australian Film Institute; he was the first actor to win the latter award posthumously. He was nominated for the BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Actor, becoming the eighth-youngest nominee in the category at that time.
Ledger died on January 22, 2008 as a result of an accidental overdose of medications. He had finished filming his role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight (2008), with Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman; which was in post-production at the time of his death. His performance earned him universal acclaim and popularity from fans and critics alike. He received numerous posthumous awards for his work on the film, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), with Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, and Tom Waits; Ledger played the character Tony. He died during production, and his role was recast with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell portraying transformations of Ledger’s character as he travels through a dream world. All three actors would donate their earnings to Ledger’s daughter. 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.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Clowning Around (1992) – directed by George Whaley – uncredited
- Blackrock (1997) – directed by Steven Vidler
- Paws (1997) – directed by Karl Zwicky
- 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – directed by Gil Junger
- Two Hands (1999) – directed by Gregor Jordan
- The Patriot (2000) – directed by Roland Emmerich
- A Knight’s Tale (2001) – directed by Brian Helgeland
- Monster’s Ball (2001) – directed by Marc Forster
- The Four Feathers (2002) – directed by Shekhar Kapur
- Ned Kelly (2003) – directed by Gregor Jordan
- The Order (2003) – directed by Brian Helgeland
- Lords of Dogtown (2005) – directed by Catherine Hardwicke
- The Brothers Grimm (2005)* – directed by Terry Gilliam
- Brokeback Mountain (2005) – directed by Ang Lee
- Casanova (2005) – directed by Lasse Hallström
- Candy (2006) – directed by Neil Armfield
- I’m Not There (2007) – directed by Todd Haynes
- The Dark Knight (2008)* – directed by Christopher Nolan – posthumous release
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) – directed by Terry Gilliam – posthumous release
- I Am Heath Ledger (2017) – directed by Adrian Buitenhuis & Derik Murray – documentary – archive footage – posthumous release