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Real Name: Heathcliff Andrew Ledger
Birthday: 04/04/1979 - Died January 2008

 

Biography:

The nice-looking Australian Heath Ledger was introduced to American audiences as the young teen poster boy of the FOX adventure series "Roar" (1997) and rapidly rose through the ranks to become one of the most energetic leading men of his generation, gaining special honor for his dramatic role as a confused, closeted gay ranch attendant in the love-hate movie "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) alongside his gay cowboy friend played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Already a television screen veteran in his native land, the tall actor had been featured as the gay cyclist Snowy Bowles in the Australian television drama "Sweat", set at an wealthy teaching academy for young teen athletes. he also did extensive guest appearance work on Australian television, with small roles in the series "Ship to Shore", "Bush Patrol" and "Corrigan". 

Despite his position as an unknown in the United States, he was asked to make his American television introduction as the star of "Roar" (1997), a medieval journey in which he played Conor, a young Celtic prince who becomes the leader of his people when the Romans kill his father and family. 

With a job description that included yelling a mighty howl before pounding the enemy, in addition to dealing with his inner turmoil, he proved a stimulating actor, and was well loved by the series cult audience. Film appearances in  "Two Hands" (1998) and the young teen comedy "10 Things I Hate About You" (1999) followed. 

He next starred as Patrick Verona, a cranky student with a suspected criminal past who is enlisted to court Julia Stiles' Kat in the modern retooling of "The Taming of the Shrew."

He reached his biggest audience to date as Mel Gibson's son in the "The Patriot" (2000), a revolutionary war story about a peacekeeper forced to choose sides after his soldier son is captured by the adversary. Following the whirlwind of magazine covers and articles, the actor starred as medieval buccaneer in "A Knight's Tale" (2001), and held his own next to Billy Bob Thorton as the tortured son of a heartless prison guard in "Monster's Ball" (2001).

He signed on opposite Kate Hudson to star in  "Four Feathers" (2002), directed by Shekhar Kapur, but the film bombed at the box office. Starting a high-profile relation with slightly older actress Naomi Watts, he swiftly became a much loved topic of the paparazzi and entertainment media, and as his public profile sky rocketed. He wanted to keep his professional status with his role of rebel priest Father Alex Bernier who gets into trouble with an ancient, underground and evil cult operating within the church in "The Order" (2003).

In “Ned Kelly” (2004), he played a man driven to revenge at a corrupt British colonial system in 19th century Australia after serving a prison term on made up charges for horse theft, and the threat of more jail time for attempted murder. Reviews were mild for the western, in spite of a cast that included Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush, “Ned Kelly” was released by Universal Studios into fewer than 20 theaters. His next appearance was in “Lords of Dogtown” (2005), the fictional of surfer rats Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, Southern California beach bums who modernize skateboarding and shoot themselves into reckless celebrity. He was nearly unrecognizable as Skip Engblom, the pot smoking surfer dude who owns a surf shop and turns the skaters into the popular Zephyr Skateboard Team. 

He then teamed with Matt Damon to play totally nutty versions of the famous Bavarian fairy tale writers "The Brothers Grimm" (2005), reworked by director Terry Gilliam as a pair of con men who are tasked with solving a genuine magical mystery that ultimately inspires many of their celebrated stories. He showed skill as the shrewd, tormented Jacob, but the story finally left him too little to do, and the film missed some of the shine and fancy expected of a Gilliam project.

His next project more than made up for "Grimm's" failings: director Ang Lee's receptive film "Brokeback Mountain", cast Ledger as Ennis Del Mar, a manly, rough neck gay ranch worker who explores his homosexuality while on a 1960s cattle drive through a mountain range with another homosexual cowboy (Jake Gyllenhaal), but is happy to live a closeted life with a wife (Michelle Williams) and children even as he continues his gay homosexual bond over the coming decades. His remarkable, realistically suffering performance was a break out role, his best work to date as he seemed to easily occupy a character entirely different from his own on screen likeness and sparked a wave of award nominations. After all, this was not the first homosexual role the actor had played.

The Hollywood darling, who by the time of filming had also ended his relationship with Watts, became caught up with his co-star Williams, and the two had a child together by the time of the film's release. He was then honored by a number of award nominations, including the Oscar for Best Actor, but did not win much of anything besides a New York Film Critics Circle award thanks to the super star known as Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Just weeks after his dominant performance in "Brokeback Mountain" hit theaters, his final 2005 film debuted: "Casanova," director Lasse Hallstrom's fictional account of the story of falling in love, was easily one of the worst films of the year, even with generous production budgets and outstanding performances by Heath and the rest of the all-star cast.

With the success of "Brokeback Mountain" it was announced that he would appear as the celebrated comic book villain The Joker opposite Christian Bale's Batman in "The Dark Knight" (2008), in the second film in director Christopher Nolan's popular rebirth of the Caped Crusader's film franchise. Even though he died before the film was completed, all his scenes will be kept in the final production. 

His next complete film was "Candy" (2006) about a poet who falls in love with an art student who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle, and his love of heroin. Hooked as much on one another as they are on the heroin, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, self destruction, and despair. The irony is the his death in January of 2008 was caused by a heroin overdose.

His last movie of 2007 was the music drama "I'm Not There" (2007) with Christian Bale, about the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work. Another film project he was working on when he died was the adventure fantasy "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (2009) with an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, about a traveling theater company that gives its audience much more than they were expecting.

 

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