Australian actor Heath Ledger was playing the role of Joker — one of the most significant roles in his career when he was found unconscious in his home. Let's take a look into the life of the actor and what killed him.
Heath Ledger was well known by many as the actor behind Christopher Nolan's Joker. His recognition in the movie industry was befitting of his talent, elegance, and impact. Before he passed away, the young actor starred in a number of memorable movies with equally memorable roles.
Born on April 4, 1979, Ledger realized his love for acting at an early age after he performed the lead role "Peter Pan" — a Guildford Grammar School Production. After taking part in the movie, the actor sought more positions.
A picture of actor Heath Ledger | Photo: Getty Images
HEATH LEDGER'S EARLY CAREER
His efforts paid off, and he landed some minor roles in television series such as "Ship To Shore." Ledger's big break finally came in 1997 when he bagged a significant role in the emotional drama "Blackrock."
The actor's appearance in the drama was a stepping stone to greatness. Soon after his role on "Blackrock," Ledger featured alongside Keri Russell in the fantasy series "Roar," and he was eventually nominated for several awards and it exposed Ledger to bigger audiences and opportunities.
Within a few years, Ledger had already landed several remarkable roles. Fans of the actor got to witness his raw talent in productions like "10 Things I hate About You," "The Patriot," "Monster's Ball," and "A Knight's Tale."
Heath Ledger from the film "Candy" poses for portraits in the Chanel Celebrity Suite at the Four Season hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2006 | Photo: Getty Images
The Hollywood star was also a recipient of many awards and nominations. He received an award for the Best Actor of 2005, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Drama, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Although Ledger left many in awe with his performances, it is indeed a pity that the star could not reap the praise from his role as "The Joker."
LEDGER'S ROLE AS THE JOKER
The Joker, a character the actor described as a "psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy," is a character Ledger played in the Batman movie "The Dark Knight." Before his untimely demise, Ledger gave a vivid explanation about the rigors in playing the joker.
Heath Ledger at the Venice Film Festival, September 2007 | Photo: Getty Images
In a 2007 interview with Empire, the "10 Things I Hate About You star" revealed that to prepare for the role, he had to read all comic books that were relevant for the script, close his eyes tightly and meditate on what he had read.
In addition to reading, Ledger locked himself in a hotel room in London for a month, got a little diary, and tried out his role with different voices. The Joker was known for a unique voice and laugh, and the star needed to get it right.
THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS
Although Ledger's efforts in getting his part right were commendable, they began to have a negative impact on him. He said playing Joker was physically and mentally draining, and he often slept for only two hours a day.
Heath Ledger as the Joker in "The Dark Knight" | Photo: Getty Images
Ledger said he couldn't stop thinking — his mind was still going, and his body was exhausted. One night, the actor struggled to sleep, and he took an Ambien, which didn't work. Ledger then took another dose and became nearly unconscious.
Ledger woke up one hour later, but nothing really changed. Overall, he said it was distressing to over-intellectualize oneself, and it was not an easy task. Sadly, the young star died before "The Dark Knight" premiered.
HEATH LEDGER DIES AT 28
On January 22, 2008, Ledger was found lifeless in his Manhattan apartment by his masseuse, Diana Wolozin, and his housekeeper, Teresa Solomon.
Heath Ledger posing for portraits in the Chanel Celebrity Suite at the Four Season hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada | Photo: Getty Images
Emergency medical technicians arrived shortly after they were called; however, it was already too late. According to the coroner's report, Ledger was believed to have died from an accidental drug overdose of Ambien combined with other prescription drugs.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE ACTOR'S COMMITMENT
Shortly after his death, reports had it that his role as the villain had had a negative impact on the actor's mental health. However, those claims were debunked by his family members in a documentary.
Ledger's sister cleared the air, noting that her brother was never depressed about playing the joker; instead, he was having fun. In the documentary, the actor's father also gave his thoughts on his son's character.
The man said Ledger galvanized the character, which was typical of him. According to the icon's dad, his son liked to dive deep into his characters, but he took playing Joker to a whole new level.
The actor's family members were not the only ones to talk about Ledger and his role. Christian Bale, who played the role of Batman, opened up about Ledger's portrayal of the Joker.
Bale recalled when he and Ledger were acting on set in a critical scene, and the former requested to be hit for real. The actor said Ledger slammed himself around, leaving dents and cracks on the tiled walls.
Actor Aaron Eckhart, producers, Director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale accept multiple awards (Favorite On-Screen Match-Up, Action Movie, Cast and Superhero) for The Dark Knight during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images
He said the Australian native's commitment was real. The director of "The Dark Knights," Christopher Nolan, also shared his thoughts on Ledger's character. He made it known during an interview that Ledger studied ventriloquist's dummies for the role, which was terrifying.
In addition, Nolan said Ledger also workshopped various versions of the Joker's laugh and voice. Overall, losing the young man was a very bitter pill to swallow. Following his death, the director said he felt a significant amount of responsibility to Ledger.
So, to fulfill that responsibility, Nolan worked tirelessly to finish the film, which eventually helped him cope with the sudden death of his friend and colleague.
Australian actor Heath Ledger arriving for the 78th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood in 2006 | Photo: Getty Images
He felt really lucky to have done something to get his mind away from the tragedy, unlike his family and very close friends. Nolan had to keep his mind focused on preserving the excellent performance Ledger had given.
The movie finally premiered on December 25, 2009, and it bagged over a billion dollars at the box office. For his outstanding performance, Ledger received a posthumous Oscar award for the Best Supporting Actor.
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