An Australian actor, Heath Ledger (1979-2008) was a phenomenal, humble talent who was taken from us far too soon.
At the outset of his career, Ledger was cast in several roles as a handsome young heartthrob. But eventually he broke out as a well-respected actor, particularly for his performances as Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain and The Joker in the Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight.
He was a method actor who really got into the heads of his characters; in an interview with Empire Magazine on his role as the Joker he revealed: "I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices ... it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath ... someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts." He also said that director Christopher Nolan gave him absolute freedom with his interpretation of the character. Despite his methods, Ledger was never really twisted by this role; during filming of the Dark Knight, he could be seen skateboarding, and having regular conversations with cast and crew in his Joker ensemble. Needless to say, Heath was considered very friendly, and Dark Knight co-stars such as Christian Bale had nothing but nice things to say about him.
Unfortunately, Ledger developed insomnia during and after the completion of his roles in I'm Not There and The Dark Knight. He used sleeping pills to try and curb the insomnia, but when that didn't work, he combined the pills with alcohol, which sadly resulted in his death on January 22, 2008. He was only 28 at the time of his death, and completed only half of his work as the character Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
To compensate for Ledger's death, Tony would also be portrayed by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrel, playing the character one at a time as he changes appearance in his bizaare, fantastical journey; all three donated their salaries to Ledger's daughter Matilda.
On July 18, 2008, The Dark Knight was released to rave reviews and became one of the highest grossing movies in the US box office, raking in half a billion dollars. Ledger's terrifying--and at times funny--portrayal of the Joker was widely praised, and Oscar buzz was abound.
This performance would win Ledger a lot of posthumous awards, including the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; prior to that, he was also nominated (although he didn't win) by the Academy Awards for Best Actor thanks to his performance in Brokeback. Ledger's family was presented with his Oscar for The Dark Knight, and it will be given to his daughter when she's no longer a baby.
He also dabbled in directing music videos, however his only major video, an animated one for the song "King Rat" by indie rock band Modest Mouse, was not released until a year and a half after his death.
Due the circumstances of his death and the films he had at various stages of development at the time, he is the first actor to be eligible for an Oscar in each three consecutive ceremonies after his death. (I'm Not There in 2008, The Dark Knight in 2009, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus in 2010)
- Connor, Roar (1997)
- Patrick Verona, 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
- Gabriel Martin, The Patriot (2000)
- Sonny Grotowski, Monster's Ball (2001)
- Sir William Thatcher, A Knight's Tale (2001)
- Harry Faversham The Four Feathers (2002)
- Skip Engblom, Lords Of Dogtown (2003)
- Father Alex The Order (2003)
- Jacob Grimm, The Brothers Grimm (2005)
- Ennis del Mar, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
- Dan, Candy (2006)
- Robbie Clark, I'm Not There (2007)
- The Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)
- Tony, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Tropes invoked by this actor:
- Academy Award: For his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. He is the only actor to ever win for a performance in a comic book movie.
- Actor Existence Failure: A unique subversion with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ledger died suddenly while filming it. Since the film is set in a multiverse and Ledger had filmed all of his scenes in the real world before his death, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law portray him in alternate universes (they gave their paychecks to Ledger's daughter).
- The Character Died with Him: After Ledger's death, the producers of The Dark Knight Saga confirmed that The Joker was given the death penalty.
- Dead Artists Are Better: At least some of the applause lavished on The Dark Knight is due to this trope, regardless of how good or bad his portrayal of Joker actually was.
- Doting Parent: During the filming of The Dark Knight, people reported that he went around talking about his daughter whenever he got the chance.
- Dyeing for Your Art: Unfortunately literally
- Estrogen Brigade Bait
- Even the Guys Want Him - 10 Things director Gil Junger, after Ledger finished the reading and left, declared that if he had to have sex with a man, that Ledger would be that man.
- Fake American
- Fake Brit - For A Knight's Tale.
- Identical Stranger - Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The creepiness of their similarity is exacerbated by the fact that they were both in Ten Things I Hate About You, and rumors that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will star in the next Batman film.
- Large Ham
- Likes Older Women: Was at different points linked with Lisa Zane (18 years his senior), Heather Graham (9 years his senior), and Naomi Watts (11 years his senior).
- Mean Character, Nice Actor - Who knew a sinister merrymaker could be portrayed so devilishly by such a nice guy?
- Playing Against Type: HA!
- Romance on the Set: Met Michelle Williams while filming Brokeback Mountain.
- Springtime for Hitler: Supposedly, Heath overacted in The Dark Knight because he wanted to get fired because he thought he could not do the role justice. The result was an Oscar-winning performance of the Joker.