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.[13] The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust is named after his great-grandfather.[13] He had English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.[14] Ledger attended Mary's Mount Primary School in Gooseberry Hill,[15] 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.[6][13] His parents separated when he was 10 and divorced when he was 11.[16] 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.[13][17] 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.[18]

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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."[109][110][111] 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.[112][113]

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On 4 August 2008, citing unnamed sources, Murray Weiss, of the New York Post, first reported that Mary-Kate Olsen had "refused [through her attorney, Michael C. Miller] to be interviewed by federal investigators probing the accidental drug death of her close friend Heath Ledger ... [without] ... immunity from prosecution" and that, when asked about the matter, Miller at first declined further comment.[94][95] Later that day, after the police confirmed the gist of Weiss's account to the Associated Press, Miller issued a statement denying that Olsen supplied Ledger with the drugs causing his death and asserting that she did not know their source.[96][97] In his statement, Miller said specifically, "Despite tabloid speculation, Mary-Kate Olsen had nothing whatsoever to do with the drugs found in Heath Ledger's home or his body, and she does not know where he obtained them," emphasizing that media "descriptions [attributed to an unidentified source] are incomplete and inaccurate."[98]
Ledger received "Best Actor of 2005" awards from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for his performance in Brokeback Mountain,[21][22] in which he plays Wyoming ranch hand Ennis Del Mar, who has a love affair with aspiring rodeo rider Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.[23] He also received a nomination for Golden Globe Best Actor in a Drama and a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance,[24] making him, at age 26, the ninth-youngest nominee for a Best Actor Oscar.[25] In The New York Times review of the film, critic Stephen Holden writes: "Both Mr. Ledger and Mr. Gyllenhaal make this anguished love story physically palpable. Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character. It is a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn."[26] In a review in Rolling Stone, Peter Travers states: "Ledger's magnificent performance is an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides. Ledger doesn't just know how Ennis moves, speaks and listens; he knows how he breathes. To see him inhale the scent of a shirt hanging in Jack's closet is to take measure of the pain of love lost."[27]

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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."[109][110][111] 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.[112][113]

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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".[31] 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.[32][33] 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.[34][35] 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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He had a thick ledger lying open before him, and with the fingers of his right hand inserted between the leaves, and his eyes fixed on a very fat old lady in a mob-cap--evidently the proprietress of the establishment--who was airing herself at the fire, seemed to be only waiting her directions to refer to some entries contained within its rusty clasps.
^ 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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Ledger had relationships with actresses Lisa Zane, Heather Graham and Naomi Watts.[57][58] In 2004, he met and began dating actress Michelle Williams on the set of Brokeback Mountain. Their daughter, Matilda Rose, was born on 28 October 2005 in New York City.[59] Matilda's godparents are Brokeback co-star Jake Gyllenhaal and Williams' Dawson's Creek co-star Busy Philipps.[60] In January 2006, Ledger put his residence in Bronte, New South Wales, up for sale,[61] and returned to the United States, where he shared a house with Williams, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, from 2005 to 2007.[62] In September 2007, Williams' father confirmed to Sydney's The Daily Telegraph that Ledger and Williams had ended their relationship.[63] After Ledger's death, news outlets reported that his drug abuse had prompted Williams to request that he move out of the apartment they shared in Brooklyn.[64]

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