Released in July 2008, The Dark Knight broke several box office records and received both popular and critical accolades, especially with regard to Ledger's performance as the Joker. Even film critic David Denby, who does not praise the film overall in his pre-release review in The New Yorker, evaluates Ledger's work highly, describing his performance as both "sinister and frightening" and Ledger as "mesmerising in every scene", concluding: "His performance is a heroic, unsettling final act: this young actor looked into the abyss." Attempting to dispel widespread speculations that Ledger's performance as the Joker had in any way led to his death (as Denby and others suggest), Ledger's co-star and friend Christian Bale, who played opposite him as Batman, has stressed that, as an actor, Ledger greatly enjoyed meeting the challenges of creating that role, an experience that Ledger himself described as "the most fun I've ever had, or probably ever will have, playing a character". Terry Gilliam also refuted the claims that playing the Joker made him crazy, calling it "absolute nonsense" and going on to say, "Heath was so solid. His feet were on the ground and he was the least neurotic person I've ever met."
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Travers, Peter."Sundance: Shock". The Travers Take: News and Reviews from Rolling Stone's Movie Critic, Rolling Stone (Blog), rollingstone.com, 22 January 2008. Includes hyperlinked feature: Video Review: A Look at Heath Ledger's Best Performances (video by Jennifer Hsu, with audio commentary provided by Travers), 1 February 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2008.
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After Ledger's death, in response to some press reports about his will, filed in New York City on 28 February 2008, and his daughter's access to his financial legacy, his father, Kim Ledger, said that he considered the financial well-being of Heath's daughter Matilda Rose an "absolute priority", whilst also stating that her mother, Michelle Williams, was "an integral part of our family". He added, "They will be taken care of and that's how Heath would want it to be". Some of Ledger's relatives may be challenging the legal status of his will signed in 2003, prior to his involvement with Williams and the birth of their daughter and not updated to include them, which divides half of his estate between his parents and half among his siblings; they claim that there is a second, unsigned will, which leaves most of that estate to Matilda Rose. Williams' father, Larry Williams, has also joined the controversy about Ledger's will as it was filed in New York City soon after his death.
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For his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, Ledger won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and the Best International Actor Award from the Australian Film Institute; he was the first actor to win the latter award posthumously. He was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and 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.
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On 15 July 2008, Fife-Yeomans reported further, via Australian News Limited, that "While Ledger left everything to his parents and three sisters, it is understood they have legal advice that under Western Australia law, Matilda Rose is entitled to the lion's share" of his estate; its executors, Kim Ledger's former business colleague Robert John Collins and Geraldton accountant William Mark Dyson, "have applied for probate in the West Australian Supreme Court in Perth, advertising for 'creditors and other persons' having claims on the estate to lodge them by 11 August 2008 ... to ensure all debts are paid before the estate is distributed...." According to this report by Fife-Yeomans, earlier reports citing Ledger's uncles, and subsequent reports citing Ledger's father, which do not include his actual posthumous earnings, "his entire fortune, mostly held in Australian trusts, is likely to be worth up to $20 million."
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Ledger went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the second person to win a posthumous Academy Award for acting (after fellow Australian actor Peter Finch, who won for 1976's Network), as well as the first comic-book movie actor to win an Oscar for their acting. Ledger's family attended the ceremony on 22 February 2009, with his parents and sister accepting the award on stage on his behalf. Following talks with the Ledger family in Australia, the Academy determined that Ledger's daughter, Matilda Rose, would own the award. However, due to Matilda's age, she will not gain full ownership of the statuette until her eighteenth birthday in 2023. Her mother, Michelle Williams, will hold the statuette in trust for Matilda until that time.
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^ Jump up to: a b Janet Fife-Yeomans (15 July 2008). "Entertainment: Heath Ledger's Daughter Matilda's Estate Claim Decision". news.com.au. News Limited. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2008. [Matilda Rose's] mother, actor Michelle Williams, will have to officially lodge a claim with the court supported by an affidavit which could end up in the public domain, legal experts said.
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On 31 March 2008, stimulating another controversy pertaining to Ledger's estate, Gemma Jones and Janet Fife-Yeomans published an "Exclusive" report, in The Daily Telegraph, citing Ledger's uncle Haydn Ledger and other family members, who "believe the late actor may have fathered a secret love child" when he was 17, and stating that "If it is confirmed that Ledger is the girl's biological father, it could split his multi-million dollar estate between ... Matilda Rose ... and his secret love child." A few days later, reports citing telephone interviews with Ledger's uncles Haydn and Mike Ledger and the family of the other little girl, published in OK! and Us Weekly, "denied" those "claims", with Ledger's uncles and the little girl's mother and stepfather describing them as unfounded "rumors" distorted and exaggerated by the media.
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Ledger was born in Perth, Western Australia, the son of Sally Ledger (née Ramshaw), a French teacher, and Kim Ledger, a racing car driver and mining engineer whose family established and owned the Ledger Engineering Foundry. The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust is named after his great-grandfather. He had English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Ledger attended Mary's Mount Primary School in Gooseberry Hill, and later Guildford Grammar School, where he had his first acting experiences, starring in a school production as Peter Pan at the age of 13. His parents separated when he was 10 and divorced when he was 11. Ledger's older sister Kate, an actress and later a publicist, to whom he was very close, inspired his acting on stage, and his love of Gene Kelly inspired his successful choreography, leading to Guildford Grammar's 60-member team's "first all-boy victory" at the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge. Ledger's two half-sisters are Ashleigh Bell (b. 1990), his mother's daughter with her second husband and his stepfather Roger Bell, and Olivia Ledger (b. 1996), his father's daughter with second wife and his stepmother Emma Brown.
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^ Michelle Nichols (29 October 2008). "Elvis Ranked Top-earning Dead Celebrity". Thomson Reuters. Reuters.com. Retrieved 10 December 2008. Forbes.com said it spoke to experts and sources inside the dead celebrities' estates and researched gross earnings, before taxes, management fees and other costs, from the period of October 2007 to October 2008 to come up with the rankings. Based on its estimates, Nichols reports, Forbes.com ranks Ledger as third among the world's highest-earning deceased celebrities for that year, following Elvis Presley (1) and Charles M. Schulz (2).
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