Heath Ledger, already compared to James Dean

[Heath Ledger - ]
[National News, surftofind.com]

'Hollywood shocked by Heath Ledger's death'

National News

...another James Dean?

"I had such great hope for him," says Mel Gibson, a fellow Australian. "He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

Ledger, nominated for an Academy Award for Brokeback Mountain, appears in the upcoming Batman feature The Dark Knight as the Joker, and was shooting The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at the time of his death.

"Heath Ledger was a courageous actor, and a great soul. He gave us the gift of sharing his fearless and beautiful love – of his craft, and of all who worked with him – for which all of us will be eternally grateful," says James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features and the the producer of Brokeback Mountain.

In a statement issued by Warner Bros., which is producing The Dark Night, Alan Horn, president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros., and Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said: "The studio is stunned and devastated by this tragic news. The entertainment community has lost an enormous talent. Heath was a brilliant actor and an exceptional person. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."

Heath Ledger began acting on stage with a theater company at the age of 10. After landing roles on Australian TV shows, he took on a starring role in Roar, an American TV series. That job prompted his move to America. After catapulting into heartthrob territory with the teen romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You in 1999, Ledger turned down subsequent 'teen' roles and instead opted for heartier fare. Ledger's film credits include The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, Monster's Ball, Four Feathers, The Brothers Grimm, Brokeback Mountain, Casanova, Candy, I'm Not There, and The Dark Knight. Ledger earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in the dramatic film Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee and co-starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain is the touching story of a forbidden romance between two cowboys.

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Son of Kim Ledger and Sally Bell, Heath Andrew Ledger, named after the brooding hero of Wuthering Heights, was born on April 4, 1979 in Perth, Western Australia. When he was ten, his father left the family to live with Emma Brown (then marrying Inis Rosa in 2006) and his mum married Roger Bell. Commenting about the divorce, Heath shared, "The point I got to very quickly after my parents' divorce was to realise they were just human". During his time in the all-boys Guilford Grammar School, Heath Ledger, whose nickname was Heathy, was a talented student. He was a brilliant sportsman who played on the school hockey team and won several awards. Heath also led his schoolmates to become the winner of the national dance competition. Heath got his first taste of acting when he went on an audition with his older sister Kate, and ended up cast. Shortly after, he sharpened his acting talent by performing on stage with the Globe Shakespeare Company and the Guildford Theatre Company in his native Australia. At age 16, Heath decided he wanted to go out on his own and pursue his acting career. As soon as he passed his early graduation exams, he moved to Sydney with his best friend Trevor DiCarlo.

During his early years in Sydney, he was cast as gay bicyclist Snowy Bowles in the TV series Sweat (1996). Though he thought it was a unique character, Heath did not receive much attention. When the show was quickly cancelled, he had a chance to seek another role in the low budget film Blackrock (1997, as Toby Ackland). He had a very brief role as Oberon in Paws (1997) and portrayed surfer Scott Irwin, who was romantically linked to a summer bay girl, in Home and Away (1997, TV). Heath then went on to star in the drama series Roar (1997, playing the role of medieval Celtic Prince Conor). Like his first series, the show was quickly axed. However, the young actor gained his first fans from the show. Heath comments "I did Roar, was dating a girl in the show (Lisa Zane), she went back to LA and I had to go with her. I lived with her for two years and stayed there with her". Then he landed his first major film role - back in Australia - Two Hands.

After his successful performance in 10 Things I Hate About You, ledger did not want to be typecast, refused all teen movie offers and ended up not working for almost a year. In that time he lived in Laurel Canyon with some Aussie friends and dated Christina Cauchi. He received a role in the serious revolutionary war drama The Patriot (2000), playing Mel Gibson's son Gabriel Martin. His spectacular performance sealed Ledger's fate and brought him a ShoWest Award for Male Star of Tomorrow in 2001.

Heath met and feel in love with Heather Graham [October 2000 - June 2001] while filming A Knights Tale in Prague. When he split from Heather he went back to Christina, and was living in New York's West Village with her. He split from Christina before going back to Australia to film Ned Kelly, where he met and started dating Naomi Watts (August 2002 - April 2004), and after deciding to end their relationship, Heath generously allowed Naomi to continue living in his Los Angeles home, even helping her house-hunt, until she found a place of her own. " By the time their split made the tabloid press, several weeks later, Heath was already in Canada for his next film. Once, when asked if there was anything positive he could say about older women. He smiled, and his face transformed from gangly boy to matinee idol. He murmured a one-word answer, "Tons".

True to his character, Heath stayed focused on his aims and launched into a rapid succession of deliberately varied roles. Lords of Dogtown, Brothers Grimm, Brokeback Mountain and Candy. It was while making Brokeback he met his true love - Michelle Williams. On the first day of filming, Michelle hurt her knee - and the pair have been inseparable since. Heath says about falling in love with Michelle, "What happened between us was out of our control. It was just something very beautiful and deep". They now live in Brooklyn and have a daughter - Matilda Rose.

In 2005, he joined that elite group of Oscar nominees for his sensitive and much acclaimed performance in Brokeback Mountain. Looking back, Heath is genuinely surprised that the film took off like it did. "I was definitely surprised and my expectation for the film were really down here," he says laughingly, moving his hands towards the floor. "I was really pleasantly surprised and so grateful to have been given that opportunity and really proud of it but I'm really happy it's all over too, because it was really exhausting," he says, recalling the awards season and the lead up to the Oscars. But he also admits almost shyly, that his nomination has opened up even more doors.

On life - "Matilda is just awesome and being a father has also helped me become even more selective now with work because for me, to go away from home for a day, let alone five, is tough." Now Heath says he's at his happiest, both professionally and personally. "When you're this happy everything seems to fall into place."

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