Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger, Dead at 28

Academy Award Nominated Actor
Found Dead In New York City

Heath Ledger, former partner of Academy Award nominated actress Michelle Williams (both nominations occurring from Brokeback Mountain) with whom he has a daughter, Matilda, age 2, was found dead in an apartment today in New York City.

Even though the gossip media are melting down over this and speculating in the crudest fashion, especially about a bottle of sleeping pills by the bedside -- which I heard a reporter for TMZ turn into "pills scattered all over the floor" -- please be clear this is pure bullshit. It is not known if the pills in a bottle by the bed played any role in Mr. Ledger's death, or what caused the death. It could have been anything from a congenital heart condition, to an overdose, to a homicide, to zombies. Some of these may be more likely than others. My point is, we don't know and the gossip magazines are making up crap. An autopsy is scheduled.

The New York Times

The police said Mr. Ledger, 28, was discovered facedown in bed in an apartment at 421 Broome Street in SoHo. Police officials said that a bottle of prescription sleeping pills were found on a nearby night table, but that they did not know whether they played a role in Mr. Ledger’s death.

Mr. Ledger, the star of “Brokeback Mountain” and other films, was discovered by a housekeeper and a masseuse, the police said. The housekeeper had been in the apartment for some time before Mr. Ledger’s body was discovered, and she let the masseuse in when she at the apartment for a 3:31 p.m. appointment with Mr. Ledger, the police said. They said they did not know when Mr. Ledger scheduled the appointment.

When Mr. Ledger did not respond to a knock on the bedroom door, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found Mr. Ledger unconscious. They shook him, but he did not respond. They immediately called the authorities and moved Mr. Ledger to the floor, the police said.

“There was no indication of a disturbance,” Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said. He said officers who checked the apartment found other prescription medications it in the bathroom. He said that there was no sign that Mr. Ledger had been drinking and that no illegal drugs were found in the apartment.

A native of Perth, Australia, Mr. Ledger, known for his wry grin and uncontrolled blondish hair, defied typecasting throughout his career. Mr. Ledger, who was born on April 4, 1979, gained roles in children’s television after he first appeared in a play for a local theater company. He decided to pursue acting as a career, appearing in Australian soap operas before moving to Hollywood in pursuit of a girlfriend.

The relationship did not last, but the move led to his first major role, opposite Julia Stiles in the teenage romance “10 Things I Hate About You,” and Mr. Ledger seemed poised for a future as a heartthrob. But Mr. Ledger defied that expectation and, although he still appeared in light romantic roles in such films as “A Knight’s Tale,” he sought out darker, more substantive work, appearing as a prison guard in “Monster’s Ball,” and a heroin addict spiraling out of control in “Candy.”

“People always feel compelled to sum you up, to presume that they have you and describe you,” Mr. Ledger told The New York Times in an interview last year. “But there are many stories inside of me and a lot I want to achieve outside of one flat note.”

Heath Ledger & Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain (2005). photo Kimberly French.
Click for LARGE image.

Mr. Ledger’s more recent films were also his most notable. His appearances as a reluctantly gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain” and as Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” were both received with critical acclaim. The films were also important personally. Mr. Ledger met the actress Michelle Williams during the filming of “Brokeback Mountain.” The couple have a daughter, Matilda. Although they have since separated, they appeared together in “I’m Not There” and Mr. Ledger praised Ms. Williams’s performance in the film.

Elliott Puckett, an artist who lives near Ms. Williams’s apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, said she saw the couple walking in the neighborhood.

“I used to see them with their dry cleaning and their baby,” she said.

Mr. Ledger told The Times last November that his favorite thing to do was hang out at home with his daughter. Leaving her for work, he said, was “kind of like your body has a lump in his throat.”
I will miss Heath Ledger. He was a fine actor, with an increasingly solid body of work, including his forthcoming role as "The Joker" in The Dark Knight.

My condolences to Michelle Williams and their child.