Ledger was an avid chess player, playing some tournaments when he was young. As an adult, he often played with other chess enthusiasts at Washington Square Park, though the level of his play has sometimes been exaggerated. Ledger also had a keen interest in the West Coast Eagles, a professional Australian rules football team that competes in the Australian Football League and is based in his hometown of Perth.
In his penultimate film performance, Ledger played the Joker in Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight, which was released nearly six months after his death. While working on the film in London, Ledger told Sarah Lyall in their New York Times interview that he viewed The Dark Knight's Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy". For his work on The Dark Knight, Ledger posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which his family accepted on his behalf, as well as numerous other posthumous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, which Christopher Nolan accepted for him. At the time of his death on 22 January 2008, Ledger had completed about half of the work for his final film performance as Tony in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Gilliam chose to adapt the film after his death by having fellow actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell play "fantasy transformations" of his character so that Ledger's final performance could be seen in theatres.
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"Some people find their shtick," Ledger reflected on the categorisation of style. "I never figured out who 'Heath Ledger' is on film: 'This is what you expect when you hire me, and it will be recognisable'... People always feel compelled to sum you up, to presume that they have you and can describe you. That's fine. But there are so many stories inside of me and a lot I want to achieve outside of one flat note."