FACTS ABOUT HEATH LEDGER
* His parents are Kim Ledger, a race-car driver and mining engineer and Sally Ramshaw, a French language teacher. The Ledger family established and owned the Ledger Engineering Foundry. Heath’s great-grandfather has a trust named after him called the Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust.
* Has an older sister named Kate, an actress and later a publicist. Kate and Heath were named after the main characters from “Wuthering Heights”, a favorite book of their mother.
* Kate and Heath have younger half-siblings including Ashleigh Bell, born 1990, and Olivia Ledger, born 1996. Kim and Sally separated when Heath was ten and divorced when he was eleven.
* Acted on stage in school programs, inspired by his sister Kate. He developed choreography based on his love of Gene Kelly.
* Graduated from school when he was sixteen.
* With his best friend since age three, Trevor DiCarlo, he drove across Australia from Perth to Sydney to pursue an acting career.
* His first role was an uncredited role as an Orphan Clown in the 1992 movie “Clowning Around”.
* Played a gay cyclist on the TV series “Sweat” in 1996.
* At age twenty-six he was the ninth youngest nominee for a Best Actor Oscar, for “Brokeback Mountain”.
* Wanted to eventually become a film director and directed some music videos.
* Was an avid chess player, and even won Western Australia’s junior chess championship at age ten. As an adult, and during frequent bouts of insomnia, would play chess at Washington Square Park. At the time of his death he was planning on performing in and directing an adaptation of the 1983 chess-related novel “The Queen’s Gambit” by Walter Trevis. It would have been his first feature film as a director.
* Dated such actresses as Lisa Zane, Heather Graham, and Naomi Watts.
* Met Michelle Williams on the set of Brokeback Mountain and started dating in the summer of 2004.
* His and Williams’ daughter, Matilda Rose Ledger, was born on October 28, 2005 in New York City. Matilda’s godparents are Jake Gyllenhaal and Busy Phillips, Williams’ co-star from “Dawson’s Creek”.
* Ledger and Williams shared a house in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn from 2005 to 2007. In the fall of 2007 Williams’ father confirmed that the pair had separated.
* Had a turbulent relationship with the press, especially in Australia. It was because of the press that he decided to reside in the United States. At the Sydney premiere of “Brokeback Mountain”, Ledger and Williams were squirted by water guns from the press.
* For his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” he spent a month in a hotel room in London attempting to develop the character. At first he based on the Joker on Alex DeLarge from “A Clockwork Orange” but the role developed further. He kept a notebook diary throughout the filming of “The Dark Knight”.
* Improvised the hand-clapping the Joker does in his jail cell when Gordon is made Commissioner. He also directed the videos that the Joker makes with Anthony Michael Hall.
* After his roles in “I’m Not There” and “The Dark Knight” he developed insomnia. He told an interviewer that he slept an average of two hours a night. He talked about taking two Ambien but woke up an hour later, with his mind still racing. According to Michelle Williams, “For as long as I’d known him, he had bouts with insomnia. He had too much energy. His mind was turning, turning, turning–always turning.”
* Had health problems, along with insomnia, on the set of his last film, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”. His co-star, Christopher Plummer, explained Heath’s problems on “walking pneumonia” and insomnia. To combat this, Heath took pills.
* He was also starting to be involved in custody battles with Michelle Williams over their two-year-old daughter Matilda. On the set of “…Doctor Parnassus” Ledger could be found curled up asleep with one of Matilda’s stuffed animals.
* His habit of combining sleeping pills, with pain killers and cold medicine took its toll at around 2:45 PM (EST) on January 22, 2008 when he was found unconscious by his housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, and his masseuse, Diana Wolozin.
* Instead of calling 9-1-1 right away, Wolozin called Ledger’s friend Mary-Kate Olsen in California. She had a private security guard directed to guard the scene. Only then did Wolozin call 911 “to say that Mr. Ledger was not breathing”. She administered CPR, which was unsuccessful.
* Heath Ledger was pronounced dead at 3:36 PM and his body was removed from his apartment by 6:30.
* Ledger’s autopsy revealed that he died of an acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine. So what do these names mean? Xanax, Valium, Unisom, Restoril, Vicodin, OxyContin-two downers, two sleeping pills (Ambien being one), and two painkillers. His lungs shut down under the weight of the combination of drugs.
* A Federal investigation was done on Mary-Kate Olsen, who was accused of supplying the drugs that killed Ledger. The investigation was dropped in August of 2008.
* The financial security of Matilda Ledger and her mother, Michelle Williams, is the Ledger family’s top priority. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrell donated their total pay from “…Doctor Parnassus” to Matilda. She is estimated to inherit over $20 million.
* According to Williams, she keeps her hair short as a tribute to Heath. “I cut it for the one straight man who has ever liked short hair and I wear it in memorial of somebody who really loved it.”
* Ledger won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award as the Joker in “The Dark Knight”. The Oscar was accepted by Kim, Sally, and Kate. His was only the second posthumous Oscar for acting, after fellow Australian actor Peter Finch, who won for 1976’s “Network”.
* His body was cremated, his ashes interred in a family plot at Karrakatta Cemetery next to his grandparents. He had private memorial ceremonies in Los Angeles. A memorial service was done at Penrhos College, with an even smaller service (attended by just ten closest family members) at Fremantle Cemetery. A wake was done at Cottesloe Beach.