Portraying a variety of roles, from romantic heroes to the reluctantly oppressed, Ledger created a hodgepodge of characters that are deliberately unlike one another, stating "I feel like I am wasting my time if I repeat myself". He also reflected on his inability to be happy with his work, "I feel the same thing about everything I do. The day I say, 'It's good' is the day I should start doing something else." Ledger liked to wait between jobs so that he would start creatively hungry on new projects. In his own words, acting was about harnessing "the infinite power of belief," thus using belief as a tool for creating.
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^ "Egyptian Theatre Programming" (PDF). American Cinematheque Film Calendar. americacinematheque.com. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2008. This very special evening celebrating [Drake's] life and music includes films, guests and a unique art and photographic exhibit. It includes the World Theatrical Premiere of 'Their Place: Reflections On Nick Drake', 2007, Bryter Music, 30 min. Various Directors – a series of short filmed homages to Nick Drake – created by admirers including Heath Ledger, Jonas Mekas and Tim Pope. (NOT ON DVD!) ...
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^ Sean Cowan (15 March 2008). "Ledger Feud Grows Over 'second' Will". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 15 March 2008. Some of Heath Ledger's relatives may be planning a legal challenge against his will after it emerged the actor may have written a second will after his daughter was born, leaving most of his multimillion-dollar fortune to her. ... Ledger's second will, which is understood to be unsigned, was reportedly drawn up after Matilda's birth. ... The looming battle over which of Ledger's wills should be used to divide his estate ... has caused waves on this side of the Pacific, with his uncles Mike and Haydn Ledger accusing their brother – and Heath's father – Kim of mismanaging their late grandfather's [A] $2 million estate. ... Kim Ledger hit back this week, issuing a statement claiming his estranged brothers did not know what they were talking about. ... Under the terms of the first will, the division of the estate will be managed by Kim Ledger's former business colleague Robert John Collins and Geraldton accountant William Mark Dyson.
Bon Iver's "Perth" was inspired by Heath Ledger. Justin Vernon, the lead singer and songwriter of the American indie folk band, revealed back in 2011 that he had begun working on the song in 2008 and was scheduled to meet with a music video director who was good friends with Ledger, Matt Amato. "The first thing I worked on, the riff and the beginning melodies, was the first song on the record, 'Perth,'" Vernon told Exclaim!. Amato was directing the band's "The Wolves (Act I & II)" music video the day that Ledger died. "It was no longer about just making a Bon Iver music video anymore," Vernon says. "This was now our chance to be there with Matt as he grieved. It was a three-day wake." Amato told Vernon stories about Ledger that eventually became the inspiration for "Perth," the opening track to the band's second studio album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (2011).
After a flurry of further media speculation, on 6 August 2008, the US Attorney's Office in Manhattan closed its investigation into Ledger's death without filing any charges and rendering moot its subpoena of Olsen. With the clearing of the two doctors and Olsen, and the closing of the investigation because the prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney's Office "don't believe there's a viable target," it is still not known how Ledger obtained the oxycodone and hydrocodone in the lethal drug combination that killed him.
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Speaking of editing The Dark Knight, on which Ledger had completed his work in October 2007, Nolan recalled, "It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day. ... But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish." All of Ledger's scenes appear as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously. Nolan dedicated the film in part to Ledger's memory, as well as to the memory of technician Conway Wickliffe, who was killed during a car accident while preparing one of the film's stunts.
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Ledger had aspirations to become a film director and had made some music videos with his production company The Masses, which director Todd Haynes praised highly in his tribute to Ledger upon accepting the ISP Robert Altman Award, which Ledger posthumously shared, on 23 February 2008. In 2006, Ledger directed music videos for the title track on Australian hip hop artist N'fa's CD debut solo album Cause An Effect and for the single "Seduction Is Evil (She's Hot)". Later that year, Ledger inaugurated a new record label, The Masses Music, with singer Ben Harper and also directed a music video for Harper's song "Morning Yearning".
Ledger had relationships with actresses Lisa Zane, Heather Graham and Naomi Watts. 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. Matilda's godparents are Brokeback co-star Jake Gyllenhaal and Williams' Dawson's Creek co-star Busy Philipps. In January 2006, Ledger put his residence in Bronte, New South Wales, up for sale, and returned to the United States, where he shared a house with Williams, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, from 2005 to 2007. In September 2007, Williams' father confirmed to Sydney's The Daily Telegraph that Ledger and Williams had ended their relationship. 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.
Ledger's relationship with the press in Australia was sometimes turbulent, and it led to his abandonment of plans for his family to reside part-time in Sydney. In 2004, he strongly denied press reports alleging that "he spat at journalists on the Sydney set of the film Candy", or that one of his relatives had done so later, outside Ledger's Sydney home. On 13 January 2006, "Several members of the paparazzi retaliated ... squirting Ledger and Williams with water pistols on the red carpet at the Sydney premiere of Brokeback Mountain".
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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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After Brokeback Mountain, Ledger costarred with fellow Australian Abbie Cornish in the 2006 Australian film Candy, an adaptation of the 1998 novel Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction, as young heroin addicts in love attempting to break free of their addiction, whose mentor is played by Geoffrey Rush; for his performance as sometime poet Dan, Ledger was nominated for three "Best Actor" awards, including one of the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, which both Cornish and Rush won in their categories. Shortly after the release of Candy, Ledger was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As one of six actors embodying different aspects of the life of Bob Dylan in the 2007 film I'm Not There, directed by Todd Haynes, Ledger "won praise for his portrayal of 'Robbie [Clark],' a moody, counter-culture actor who represents the romanticist side of Dylan, but says accolades are never his motivation". Posthumously, on 23 February 2008, he shared the 2007 Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award with the rest of the film's ensemble cast, its director, and its casting director.
^ 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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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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Several actors made statements expressing their sorrow at Ledger's death, including Daniel Day-Lewis, who dedicated his Screen Actors Guild Award to him, saying that he was inspired by Ledger's acting; Day-Lewis praised Ledger's performances in Monster's Ball and Brokeback Mountain, describing the latter as "unique, perfect". Verne Troyer, who was working with Ledger on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at the time of his death, had a heart shape, an exact duplicate of a symbol that Ledger scrawled on a piece of paper with his email address, tattooed on his hand in remembrance of Ledger because Ledger "had made such an impression on [him]". British indie band Kasabian paid tribute to Ledger in their song 'Vlad the Impaler', with the line "Joker, meet you on the other side". Singer Tom Meighan often changes the word "Joker" to either "Ledger", or the names of recently deceased celebrities.
Film critics, co-stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Caine and many of Ledger's colleagues in the film community joined Bale in calling for and predicting a nomination for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in recognition of Ledger's achievement in The Dark Knight. Ledger's subsequent nomination was announced on 22 January 2009, the anniversary of his death.
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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.'"
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."
After sitting for early graduation exams at age 17, Ledger left school to pursue an acting career. With Trevor DiCarlo, his best friend since he was three years old, Ledger drove across Australia from Perth to Sydney, returning to Perth to take a small role in Clowning Around (1992), the first part of a two-part television series, and to work on the TV series Sweat (1996), in which he played a gay cyclist. From 1993 to 1997, Ledger also had parts in the Perth television series Ship to Shore (1993); in the short-lived Fox Broadcasting Company fantasy-drama Roar (1997); in Home and Away (1997), one of Australia's most successful television shows; and in the Australian film Blackrock (1997), his feature film debut. In 1999, he starred in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and in the acclaimed Australian crime film Two Hands, directed by Gregor Jordan.