Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
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Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Ledger is seen here on the set of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, not long before his untimely death from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
“People always feel compelled to sum you up, to presume that they have you and can describe you. That’s fine. But there are many stories inside of me and a lot I want to achieve outside of one flat note.” Easily among the most talented and dedicated actors in Hollywood in the 1990s and 2000s, the late Heath Ledger might be gone but he is certainly not forgotten. Inspired by his idol, Gene Kelly, Ledger made his acting debut in the early 1990s after graduating from high school a year early and leaving the small town of Perth for Sydney, Australia. Quickly building his reputation in the Land Down Under, Ledger knew even bigger opportunities were waiting for him in America.
Once in Hollywood, Ledger made a name for himself in 19 films including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight’s Tale (2001), Brokeback Mountain (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). Sadly, his career came to a tragic end at the height of his fame in January 2008 when he overdosed on prescription drugs, suffered a heart attack, and died at only 28 years old.
Life and Career
Heath Andrew Ledger came into this world on April 4, 1979, in Perth, Western Australia as the son of a French teacher and a racecar driver turned business owner of the Ledger Engineering Foundry. Ledger’s older sister, Kate, ventured into acting at an early age and inspired Ledger’s interest in performing as he landed the starring role in his school’s production of Peter Pan at the age of 13. Over the next few years, he discovered Gene Kelly and mimicked the actor’s moves with the hopes of one day becoming a star himself.
Knowing any real chance at a career in the spotlight was a long way from Perth, Ledger graduated from high school a year early and traveled to Sydney to launch his career. He honed his talents in Clowning Around (1992), Ship to Shore (1993), Sweat (1996), and Home and Away (1997). He made his film debut in the Australian flick Blackrock in 1997 and, while the film wasn’t a huge hit, it showcased his talents and landed him his second starring role in Two Hands (1999).
With his success growing in Australia, Ledger made his way to Hollywood in the late 1990s and saw his dreams come true when he was cast opposite Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). The teen comedy made him an instant star, but Ledger refused to be typecast and took on a more dramatic role opposite Mel Gibson in The Patriot (2000). “In a way, I was spoon-fed, if you will, a career,” Ledger said. “It was fully manufactured by a studio that believed they could put me on their posters and turn me into their bottle of Coca-Cola, their product.”
Refusing to be a product, Ledger continued shaking things up. He took on a variety of roles with credits in Monster’s Ball (2001), A Knight’s Tale (2001), The Four Feathers (2002), The Order (2003), Casanova (2005), The Brothers Grimm (2005), and Lords of Dogtown (2005). Then, in 2005, he turned heads with his award-winning performance opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.
Amid his growing success in the spotlight, Ledger’s life behind the scenes also blossomed after he met and fell in love with actress Michelle Williams on the set of Brokeback Mountain. The couple was inseparable and quickly started a family with the birth of Matilda Rose on October 28, 2005. With his wife and daughter happy and healthy, Ledger returned to the silver screen in the 2006 Australian romantic drama, Candy, and in I’m Not There (2007) starring Richard Gere and Christian Bale. He was then cast as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s newest Batman film, The Dark Knight.
As with any project, Ledger put his heart and soul into playing the “mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown” known as the Joker. In his spare time, he tried his hand at directing and worked on several music videos as well as his project, The Queen’s Gambit. However, he never saw the project or his work in The Dark Knight and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus come to life. On January 22, 2008, the 28-year-old Ledger died of a heart attack caused by an overdose of prescription painkillers. After years of suffering bouts of insomnia, Ledger took a handful of pills to get a good night’s sleep but never woke again.
The Dark Knight took the box office by storm and earned Ledger an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award posthumously. In the decade since his death, many questions about his final days have arisen as critics argue that Ledger was too dedicated to his role as the Joker and went mad himself. Fortunately, his family and friends set the record straight in the documentary, I Am Heath Ledger. “We’re going to go on a mission right now. Will you come with me?” Ledger himself says in the documentary’s opening scene.
“For us, it was a lot about showing the world what they didn’t know about him,” Ledger’s sisters said. “Obviously he was such a prominent actor, and everyone knew that side of him already… but we knew the photographer, the father. He was such a filmmaker. He was such a creator of everything. It was really important to us to be able to show more than just his celebrity because he was really not a celebrity. In his eyes, he really wasn’t. He wanted that to come through.”
Today, Ledger’s legacy lives on in the documentary, his diverse work portfolio, and in his family—especially his first love, Michelle Williams, and his forever love, his daughter Matilda.