Heathcliff Andrew “Heath” Ledger (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008) was an Australian actor and director. After performing roles in several Australian television and film productions during the 1990s, Ledger left for the United States in 1998 to develop his film career. His work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight’s Tale (2001), Monster’s Ball (2001), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), the latter two being posthumous releases.
He also produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.
For his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, Ledger won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and Best International Actor from the Australian Film Institute, and was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Posthumously he shared the 2007 Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award with the rest of the ensemble cast, the director, and the casting director for the film I’m Not There, which was inspired by the life and songs of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. In the film, Ledger portrayed a fictional actor named Robbie Clark, one of six characters embodying aspects of Dylan’s life and persona.
Ledger died on 22 January 2008 from an accidental intoxication from prescription drugs. A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. His death occurred during editing of The Dark Knight and in the midst of filming his last role as Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. His untimely death cast a somber shadow over the subsequent promotion of the $185 million Batman production.
Ledger received numerous posthumous accolades for his critically acclaimed performance in the film, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards (for which he became the first actor to win an award posthumously), the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.