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, 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. 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, making him, at age 26, the ninth-youngest nominee for a Best Actor Oscar. 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." 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."
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The next day, at 10:50 am Australian time, Ledger's parents and sister appeared outside his mother's house in Applecross, a riverside suburb of Perth, and read a short statement to the media expressing their grief and desire for privacy. Within the next few days, memorial tributes were communicated by family members; the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd; the Deputy Premier of Western Australia, Eric Ripper; Warner Bros. (distributor of The Dark Knight) and thousands of Ledger's fans around the world.
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Ledger's death affected the marketing campaign for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) and also both the production and marketing of Terry Gilliam's film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, with both directors intending to celebrate and pay tribute to his work in these films. Although Gilliam temporarily suspended production on the latter film, he expressed determination to "salvage" it, perhaps using computer-generated imagery (CGI), and dedicated it to Ledger. In February 2008, as a "memorial tribute to the man many have called one of the best actors of his generation," Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell signed on to take over Ledger's role, becoming multiple incarnations of his character, Tony, transformed in this "magical re-telling of the Faust story". The three actors donated their fees for the film to Ledger's and Williams's daughter.
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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.
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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].