Newsday reports: “Heath Ledger’s sudden death at age 28 seems yet another improbable facet of what had become, in less than a decade, among the more improbable ascents in the mercurial history of motion-picture stardom.
When the actor born Heathcliff Andrew Ledger in Perth, Australia achieved his big Hollywood breakthrough in 2000’s “The Patriot” as Mel Gibson’s son, he appeared to most audiences as brawny, good-looking and destined for the kind of blandly heroic action roles he nailed down right away playing a Revolutionary War hero.
But by the time Ledger won a 2005 Academy Award nomination for his bold, detailed and heartbreaking performance as bisexual cowboy Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain”, there was hardly anyone who would think of Ledger as a one-note actor. Indeed, after his coup in “Brokeback,” Ledger was being compared to such first-tier actors as Marlon Brando, Sean Penn and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe.”
But even before “Brokeback” propelled him into the front ranks of male movie leads, Ledger showed his willingness to assume multi-dimensional roles, such as the tormented, suicidal son of a cold-blooded prison guard in 2003’s “Monster’s Ball.” In 2005’s “The Brothers Grimm,” he played Jacob, the more circumspect and thin-skinned of the fabled fairy-tale writers, as depicted by director Terry Gilliam. And in 2006’s “Candy,” filmed in his native country, Ledger played a poet as desperately addicted to heroin as he is to an ill-starred love affair.
More recently, Ledger had earned plaudits for playing a moody actor evoking an aspect of Bob Dylan’s multi-tiered legend in Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There.”
“I’m in complete shock right now. I can barely talk about it,” Haynes said by phone Tuesday. “I loved Heath. He was an amazing man, an incredible actor and I can’t believe this has happened.”
Ledger had recently finished work in the coveted role of the homicidal comic book villain, The Joker, in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”, which is slated for release this summer. This was the sequel to 2005’s “Batman Begins,” also directed by Nolan. At the time of Ledger’s death, he was working again with Gilliam on “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”
At various times in his life, Ledger was romantically linked with such actresses as Heather Graham and Naomi Watts. He became involved with actress Michelle Williams who played Ennis’ wife in “Brokeback” and they lived together in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill section until they broke off their engagement last fall. The couple had a two-year-old daughter, Matilda.