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.
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At a news conference at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Ledger spoke of his desire to make a documentary film about the British singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who died in 1974, at the age of 26, from an overdose of an antidepressant. Ledger created and acted in a music video set to Drake's recording of the singer's 1974 song about depression "Black Eyed Dog" – a title "inspired by Winston Churchill's descriptive term for depression" (black dog); it was shown publicly only twice, first at the Bumbershoot Festival, in Seattle, held from 1 to 3 September 2007; and secondly as part of "A Place To Be: A Celebration of Nick Drake", with its screening of Their Place: Reflections On Nick Drake, "a series of short filmed homages to Nick Drake" (including Ledger's), sponsored by American Cinematheque, at the Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, in Hollywood, on 5 October 2007. After Ledger's death, his music video for "Black Eyed Dog" was shown on the Internet and excerpted in news clips distributed via YouTube.
^ Jump up to: a b "Ledger's Uncles: Michelle Williams May Have to Fight for Matilda's Inheritance". Fox News. 10 March 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2008. Kim Ledger moved quickly to deny his granddaughter and Michelle Williams would be left without an inheritance and said Matilda was his family's absolute priority. 'Matilda is our absolute priority and Michelle is an integral part of our family ... They will be taken care of and that's how Heath would want it to be,' Kim Ledger says in the statement. ... The uncles estimated their nephew's estate would be worth Australian $20 million after his earnings from the latest 'Batman' movie were calculated.
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^ Boucher, Geoff; Gold, Matea; Lieberman, Paul (23 January 2008). "Ledger's death is a shock to Hollywood, fans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 April 2009. Minutes after the news of Ledger's death broke, several hundred people gathered outside the Broome Street apartment building where Ledger had been living ... television crews and area residents were joined by fans, including some Brooklyn acting students.
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"You know when you see the preachers down South? And they grab a believer and they go, 'Bwoom! I touch you with the hand of God!' And they believe so strongly, they're on the ground shaking and spitting. And fuck's sake, that's the power of belief... Now, I don't believe in Jesus, but I believe in my performance. And if you can understand that the power of belief is one of the great tools of our time and that a lot of acting comes from it, you can do anything."
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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.
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."
After his performance on stage at the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards, when he had giggled in presenting Brokeback Mountain as a nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, the Los Angeles Times referred to his presentation as an "apparent gay spoof". Ledger called the Times later and explained that his levity resulted from stage fright, saying that he had been told that he would be presenting the award only minutes earlier; he stated: "I am so sorry and I apologise for my nervousness. I would be absolutely horrified if my stage fright was misinterpreted as a lack of respect for the film, the topic and for the amazing filmmakers."
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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. 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. 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."
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On 27 September 2008, Ledger's father Kim stated that "the family has agreed to leave the US$16.3 million fortune to Matilda," adding: "There is no claim. Our family has gifted everything to Matilda." In October 2008, Forbes estimated Ledger's annual earnings from October 2007 through October 2008 – including his posthumous share of The Dark Knight's gross income of "US$1 billion in box office revenue worldwide" – as "US$20 million".
From 2000 to 2005, he starred in supporting roles as Gabriel Martin, the eldest son of Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), in The Patriot (2000), and as Sonny Grotowski, the son of Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), in Monster's Ball (2001); and in leading or title roles in A Knight's Tale (2001), The Four Feathers (2002), The Order (2003), Ned Kelly (2003), Casanova (2005), The Brothers Grimm (2005), and Lords of Dogtown (2005). In 2001, he won a ShoWest Award as "Male Star of Tomorrow".
^ 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].