Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Joker" Heath Ledger found dead in NYC at age 28

Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday at a downtown Manhattan apartment, and police said drugs may have been a factor. The Australian-born actor was 28. Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the residence in the tony SoHo neighborhood, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. A housekeeper who went to let him know the massage therapist had arrived found him dead at 3:26 p.m.

A large crowd of paparazzi and gawkers began gathering Tuesday evening outside the building on an upscale block, where several police officers guarded the door.

Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain," where he met Michelle Williams in 2005. The two lived together in Brooklyn and had a daughter, Matilda, until they split up last year.

Ledger most recently appeared in "I'm Not There," in which he played one of the many incarnations of Bob Dylan — as did Cate Blanchett, whose performance in that film earned an Oscar nomination Tuesday for best supporting actress.

Ledger was to appear as the Joker this year in "The Dark Knight," a sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins." He's had starring roles in "A Knight's Tale" and "The Patriot," and played the suicidal son of Billy Bob Thornton in "Monster's Ball."

Ledger grew up in Perth, and began doing amateur theater at age 10. At 16, he moved to Sydney to pursue an acting career, quickly landing TV movie roles and guest spots on Australian television.

After several independent films and a starring role in the short-lived Fox TV series "Roar," Ledger moved to Los Angeles and costarred in "10 Things I Hate About You," a teen comedy reworking of "The Taming of the Shrew."

Offers for other teen flicks came his way, but Ledger turned them down, preferring to remain idle than sign on for projects he didn't like.

"It wasn't a hard decision for me," Ledger told the Associated Press in 2001. "It was hard for everyone else around me to understand. Agents were like, `You're crazy,' my parents were like, `Come on, you have to eat.'"

UPDATE: Regarding Heath's work as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT

There's a lot of rumors swirling around right now in regards to Heath and where his involvement with THE DARK KNIGHT was. I got it confirmed from a source involved in Post-Production on THE DARK KNIGHT. Heath's post work was complete. He had indeed finished it, as to not interfere with the production of the film he was doing with Terry Gilliam. But there will be no-dubbing on Heath in THE DARK KNIGHT - his performance was finished.

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