Heath Andrew Ledger (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008) was an Australian television and film actor. After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger left his homeland for the United States in 1998 to 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), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and The Dark Knight (2008). In addition to acting, he produced and directed music videos and aspired to be a film director.
For his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, Ledger won the 2005 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and the 2006 “Best Actor” award from the Australian Film Institute. He was also nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor along with the 2006 BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. 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. Ledger received numerous accolades for his critically acclaimed portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and a Best Actor International Award at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards, for which he became the first actor to win an award posthumously. He also received the 2008 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the 2009 BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for this film.
Ledger died on 22 January 2008, from an accidental “toxic combination of prescription drugs”. A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his penultimate performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. His death came during the editing of the film and subsequently cast a shadow over the promotion of the $180 million production. At the time of his death, he had completed about half of his work performing the role of Tony in Terry Gilliam’s film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.