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Heath Andrew Ledger[a] (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008) was an Australian actor and music video director. After performing roles in several Australian television and film productions during the 1990s, Ledger left for the United States in 1998 to further develop his film career. His work comprised nineteen films, including 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight's Tale (2001), Monster's Ball (2001), Lords of Dogtown (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2005), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Casanova (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), the latter two being posthumous releases. He also produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.
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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On 11 December 2008, it was announced that Ledger had been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight; he subsequently won the award at the 66th Golden Globe Awards ceremony telecast on NBC on 11 January 2009 with Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan accepting on his behalf.
^ 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).