Heath Ledger

Actor

1979-2008. Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Although the short-lived series Roar introduced this hunky actor to American audiences (as well as his ex-girlfriend, costar Lisa Zane), this Aussie player was already well-known in his homeland. His winning turn as a witty rebel with a full head of sexy locks in 1999 romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You made him a teen heartthrob, and Hollywood earmarked him as the next big thing. Yet after a couple of blockbusters---the Revolutionary War drama The Patriot and the medieval action-fest A Knight's Tale---his star receded in a string of pricey, high-profile flops, including The Four Feathers, The Order and Ned Kelly (which introduced him to ex-girlfriend Naomi Watts). By the mid-2000s, Ledger's career was on the rocks, although his on-again, off-again relationship with Watts kept him in the tabloids. But in 2005, he seemed to be getting back on track, both personally and professionally: Not only did he win rave reviews as well as Golden Globe and Oscar nods for his compelling performance as a gay cowboy in the critically and commercially successful Brokeback Mountain, he also fathered a baby girl with his costar-cum-fiancée, Michelle Williams. Although that relationship ended in 2007, fans assumed he was riding high and looking forward to the 2008 release of The Dark Knight, in which he played The Joker opposite Christian Bale's Batman. Ledger's promising career was cut short, though, when in January 2008, the 28-year-old was found dead in his Manhattan bedroom of what was ruled an accidental drug overdose. However, Ledger did appear on the big screen once more the following year. At the time of his death, he had been filming director Terry Gilliam's fantasy The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and with some tweaks to the story, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law were able to step into Ledger's role, enabling the film to be completed.

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