Posted on January 13, 2015
From his 1979 birth as Heathcliff Andrew Ledger in Perth, Australia to his tragic death of an overdose at the young age of 28, Heath Ledger had a full life for someone so young.
April 4, 1979
Born Heathcliff Andrew Ledger in Perth, Australia to Sally and Kim Ledger. He is named after the character in Wuthering Heights.
He enrolls in Guildford Grammar School.
His parents divorce.
He is part of the Kalamunda Field Hockey team of which his father is president.
April 13, 1992
His aunt dies of lung cancer, an event he says changed his outlook on life.
At 16, he graduates high school early in order to become an actor and moves to Sydney with his friend Trevor DiCarlo.
He joins the Globe Shakespeare Company in Perth, Australia.
Portrays a gay cyclist in the Australian TV series, Sweat.
He stars in the Fox drama, Roar, and begins dating co-star Lisa Zane. The series lasts for one season.
May 1, 1997
Makes his film debut in Blackrock, an Australian film.
March 31, 1999
Stars in 10 Things I Hate About You alongside Julia Stiles.
July 29, 1999
Stars in an Australian film, Two Hands.
In a NW Magazine interview he says of Los Angeles: “People just love to bash LA. People say it’s so pretentious, so arrogant, so this and that. But it’s truly a wonderful place. You don’t have to go to the places where that stuff goes on. You don’t have to go to Beverly Hills, you don’t have to go to the parties. You can live up in the Lower Canyon and live such a perfectly healthy, beautiful, fun life with all your friends. You can drive two hours one way and be at the Joshua Tree desert, two hours one way you’re skiing at Big Bear. Sure, it can get full-on and that’s why it’s good to get out. But it’s too easy just to say, “Nup, I hate it. I’m not living there anymore.”
June 21, 2000
Stars in The Patriot with Mel Gibson and does his own stunts. He was chosen for the part because the producers and director said that he possessed “exuberant youth.”
In a Vanity Fair interview he says of acting: “I only do this because I’m having fun. The day I stop having fun, I’ll just walk away. I wasn’t going to have fun doing a teen movie again … I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life … I don’t want to spend the rest of my youth doing this in this industry. There’s so much I want to discover.”
He begins dating actress Heather Graham.
Portrays peasant squire William Thatcher in A Knight’s Tale. The film, directed by Brian Helgeland, also stars Shannyn Sossamon and Mark Addy. During filming, one of director Brian Helgeland’s front teeth is poked out by a broomstick that Heath is holding while demonstrating a jousting move.
In a National Post interview he says of the paparazzi: “Most of the time you don’t even know they’re there. Now, that’s the scary thing. It’s really strange and invading, but I’m still working it all out. I try to not let it bother me. I really try and find the humour in all of it. And if I want to swim naked in my pool, I’m still going to do it. I certainly don’t want to feel that I have to change everything in my life that I do to cater to them. I just won’t let it happen.”
His relationship with Heather Graham ends.
Stars in Monster’s Ball with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton. He plays Sonny Grotowsky, the son of Thornton’s character.
Meets Naomi Watts on the set of Australian film Ned Kelly and the two begin dating.
Stars in The Four Feathers alongside Kate Hudson.
Ned Kelly is released, starring Ledger, Orlando Bloom and Naomi Watts. The film is based on the book Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe.
Sept. 5, 2003
Stars in The Order alongside Shannyn Sossamon and Mark Addy. The film is written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who also directed the trio in A Knight’s Tale.
Ledger’s sister and publicist says in a statement that Ledger and Watts have broken up: “Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts have made the decision to go their separate ways. At this time in their lives both are busy pursuing careers which are taking them in different directions. They remain close friends.”
Australian GQ names him one of their Men of the Year for acting.
Meets actress Michelle Williams on the set of Brokeback Mountain and the two become an item. He says, “She’s my soul mate and we couldn’t love each other any more than we do already. We’re like two peas in a pod.”
June 3, 2005
Stars in Lords of Dogtown.
July 29, 2005
Stars in The Brothers Grimm directed by Terry Gilliam and co-starring Matt Damon.
Aug. 24, 2005
He throws eggs at some paparazzi.
Sept. 2, 2005
Brokeback Mountain is released, directed by Ang Lee and based on the short story by E. Annie Proulx. The movie also stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams.
Oct. 28, 2005
Michelle Williams gives birth in New York City to their daughter, Matilda Rose. He says, “Matilda is adorable, and beautifully observant and wise. Michelle and I love her so much. Becoming a father exceeds all my expectations. It’s the most remarkable experience I’ve ever had – it’s marvelous.”
Stars in Casanova alongside Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons. The film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and is based on the life of Giacomo Casanova.
Two theaters in Utah and Washington ban the showing of Brokeback Mountain. Heath informs them that any controversy will only help the movie.
Jan. 29, 2006
Ledger giggles nervously and holds his hand in a “teacup” position while presenting onstage with Jake Gyllenhaal at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG). The Los Angeles Times refers to his odd performance as “some kind of gay spoof.” Ledger tells the Times: “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.” He also explains the “teacup hand” position: “I’ve stood like that since I was a kid. You can ask me mum. It’s nerves I guess.”
He asks Jake Gyllenhaal to be daughter Matilda’s godfather.
March 5, 2006
He and Michelle are both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in Brokeback Mountain but neither of them takes home the statue.
Production begins on I’m Not There, inspired by the life of Bob Dylan. Ledger is one of six actors (the others are Marcus Carl Franklin, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Ben Wishaw, and Cate Blanchett) who portray different stages of Dylan’s life. According to director Todd Haynes, Ledger’s Dylan was inspired by “photographs of Dylan taken in the mid-’60s when he was hanging out in New York locations with dark-rimmed eyeglasses and shooting pool or reading the newspapers in the classic Godardian striped crew-necked shirt.”
Shooting begins on The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins, in which he plays The Joker to Christian Bale’s Batman.
US Weekly reports that Ledger and Williams’ relationship has come to an end, though the couple does not confirm it.
Aug. 31, 2007
I’m Not There premieres at the 34th Telluride Film Festival.
Sept. 4, 2007
Michelle Williams’ father Larry tells the Sydney Daily Telegraph that his daughter and Ledger have split, confirming the US Weekly report. He says: “We’ve known about their troubles for a while but it’s always a very difficult thing in life when these things happen. I know Heath and Michelle still care about each other deeply and are very committed to being great parents to their daughter. They are both very talented artists and they live with their hearts. I feel tremendously for her and for him and hope they will find what they want in life. I have a great respect for Heath and I know he cares tremendously for Michelle.”
Sept. 3, 2007
At a news conference at the Venice Film Festival promoting I’m Not There, Ledger speaks about his “obsession” with English singer/songwriter Nick Drake, whom he calls “a very mysterious figure.” Drake committed suicide in 1974 at the age of 26 by overdosing on antidepressants. Ledger says: “I was obsessed with his story and his music and I pursued it for a while and still have hopes to kind of tell his story one day.”
Unbeknownst to many, Ledger had recently shot and edited a music video for Nick Drake’s song, “Black Dog.” The song took its name from Winston Churchill’s name for his own depression. It was the last song Drake recorded before committing suicide. At the end of the video, Ledger portrays himself committing suicide by drowning in a bathtub.
Sept. 12, 2007
I’m Not There is shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Nov. 21, 2007
I’m Not There opens in limited release in the United States.
Nov. 4, 2007
Ledger tells the New York Times that his version of the Joker is a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy”. He says he lived alone in a hotel room for a month in order to prepare for the role and that his Joker is inspired in part by Sid Vicious and A Clockwork Orange.
The New York Post reports that Ledger has been following Australian supermodel Gemma Ward around New York, with an insider saying: “He somehow finds out where she is going to be and then miraculously shows up to the parties or bars where she is.”
Jan. 3, 2008
The Daily Telegraph reports that Ledger is dating Gemma Ward. The pair are both from Perth, Australia and the report states that they spent the New Year’s holidays there together while visiting their respective families.
Jan. 22, 2008
Ledger is found dead in his Manhattan apartment. A bottle of sleeping pills is found on the nightstand and he is reported to have been suffering from pneumonia. The media swirls with rumors of previous drug abuse problems. Officials declare the death a probable accidental overdose rather than foul play or suicide.
Ledger’s parents and sister learn of his death while listening to the radio. His father reads the following statement: “We, Heath’s family, confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda, who was found in a peaceful sleep in his New York apartment by his housekeeper at 3:30pm. We would like to thank our friends and everyone around the world for their kind wishes at this time. Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life, but few had the pleasure to truly know him. He was a down-to-earth, generous, kind-hearted, life-loving and unselfish individual who was an extreme inspiration to many. Please now respect our family’s need to grieve and come to terms with our loss privately.”