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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Prior to his return to New York from his last film assignment, in London, in January 2008, while he was apparently suffering from some kind of respiratory illness, he reportedly complained to his co-star from The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Christopher Plummer, that he was continuing to have difficulty sleeping and taking pills to help with that problem: "Confirming earlier reports that Ledger hadn't been feeling well on set, Plummer says, 'we all caught colds because we were shooting outside on horrible, damp nights. But Heath's went on and I don't think he dealt with it immediately with the antibiotics.... I think what he did have was the walking pneumonia.' [...] On top of that, 'He was saying all the time, 'dammit, I can't sleep'... and he was taking all these pills to help him.'"
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Ledger died on the afternoon of 22 January 2008 due to a drug overdose. A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. At the time of his death, The Dark Knight was in its editing-phase and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was in the midst of filming, in which he was playing his last role as Tony. His untimely death also affected the subsequent promotion of The Dark Knight. His role as the Joker in The Dark Knight earned him widespread acclaim and popularity from both fans and critics alike, and is often regarded as one of the greatest performances in film history. Ledger also received numerous posthumous accolades for his performance in The Dark Knight, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, 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.
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^ Nick Squires (1 April 2008). "Heath Ledger 'fathered a secret love child' ". The Daily Telegraph. UK. Retrieved 6 August 2008. If the claims are proved to be true, Ledger's multi-million pound estate would have to be divided between the child he fathered in his teens and his two-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose, whose mother is Hollywood actress Michelle Williams. ... The actor's parents, Kim and Sally Ledger, have declined to comment on the reports [based on comments by other family members, including his uncle Haydn Ledger].
^ "Home deaths from Drug Errors Soar". CNN. Associated Press. 28 July 2008. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2008. Deaths from medication mistakes at home, such as actor Heath Ledger's accidental overdose, rose dramatically during the past two decades, an analysis of U.S. death certificates finds. ... The findings, based on nearly 50 million U.S. death certificates, are published in Monday [4 August 2008]'s Archives of Internal Medicine. Of those, more than 224,000 involved fatal medication errors, including overdoses and mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or street drugs. ... Deaths from medication mistakes at home increased from 1,132 deaths in 1983 to 12,426 in 2004. Adjusted for population growth, that amounts to an increase of more than 700 percent during that time.
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^ "A Place To Be: Reflections Of Nick Drake". A Place To Be. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2008. A Place To Be: a collection, a celebration, in film, photography, painting, drawing and prose, of the impact the music of Nick Drake has had on other artists ("Introductory film" includes excerpts of the music video, Black Eyed Dog, by Heath Ledger, among others.)