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Actor Heath Ledger Found Dead in Manhattan Apartment


Actor Heath Ledger was found dead in a Soho Manhattan apartment this afternoon by his housekeeper.

BroomeThe NY Times reports: "At 3:31 p.m., according to the police, a masseuse arrived at the fourth-floor apartment of the building, at 421 Broome Street, between Crosby and Lafayette Streets in SoHo, for an appointment with Mr. Ledger. The masseuse was let in to the home by a housekeeper, who then knocked on the door of the bedroom Mr. Ledger was in. When no one answered, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found Mr. Ledger naked and unconscious on a bed, with sleeping pills — both prescription medication and nonprescription — on a night table. They attempted to revive him, but he did not respond. They immediately called the authorities. As the news reports spread quickly, throngs of people gathered in the neighborhood."

TMZ clears up the initial report that Ledger had been found in the apartment of Mary-Kate Olsen: "A cleaning lady for Heath arrived at the apartment first, followed soon thereafter by a masseuse. They both entered the room at around the same time and discovered Heath's lifeless body. The cleaning lady called police. The masseuse, we're told, called the bodyguard for the Olsens. She called him because they're friends and he's an EMT. The bodyguard was around the block at Ashley's and he immediately went over. By the time he arrived, the cops were already there. We're also told it appeared Heath 'had been dead for a while' and there were no visible signs of trauma. There was a pill bottle on the nightstand."

UPDATE - Ledger had pneumonia? TMZ is saying they were contacted by a rep from Heath's family with this information: The cops told the family Heath's death was accidental and there is no evidence to support the buzz that he may have committed suicide. They are particularly distraught over media reports that he may have taken his own life. The family says he was not that kind of person. As we just reported, Heath was ill with pneumonia when he died."

Michelle Williams "devastated"...

ParnassusThis is the last known photograph of Ledger while he was alive, taken on Saturday night on the London set of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Ledger will be remembered for his sensitive, Oscar-nominated work as Ennis del Mar in the groundbreaking film Brokeback Mountain. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Brokeback and won Best Actor awards from the New York and San Francisco Critics Circle.

Focus Features, producers of Brokeback, released the following statement: "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."

Ledger most recently appeared as one version of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes experimental biopic I'm Not There (pictured). He had completed work on the next Batman film as The Joker opposite Christian Bale.

I'm Not There's director Todd Haynes issued a statement as well: "This is an unimaginable tragedy. Heath was a true artist, a deeply sensitive man, an explorer, gifted and wise beyond his years. There is no finer person on this earth."

Ledger was just 28 years old.

More on this tragic story as it develops...


A November 2007 NYT profile: "He is here in London filming the latest episode of the 'Batman' franchise,'The Dark Knight.' (Mr. Bale, as it happens, plays Batman; Mr. Ledger plays the Joker.) It is a physically and mentally draining role — his Joker is a 'psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy' he said cheerfully — and, as often happens when he throws himself into a part, he is not sleeping much. 'Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,” he said. “I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.' One night he took an Ambien, which failed to work. He took a second one and fell into a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing."

HlvanityfairAnd here's a 2000 cover story Vanity Fair has just posted to their site, by our own Kevin Sessums, published just as Ledger's career was hitting its stride: "'When I act, I look at it as if I’m a mixing board in a sound studio. The pattern on the board is me. When I play a character, I go, 'I’ll turn these knobs down and these ones up.' But in order to do that I have to know myself. I have to know myself like an instrument. I’m just a saxophone,” he says, shrugging. 'I’ve always been very big on self-exploration and answering my own questions. For so many, it’s hell growing up. But I guess I’m blessed. I’ve really enjoyed it. I don’t let a lot get to me. I really don’t. As I keep saying, I break everything down. Everything. I look up at those stars,' he says, pointing at the sky above the Vltava River, 'and go, 'There’s no explanation for us to be here.' When anything is blocking my head or there’s worry in my life, I just—whoosh—go sit on Mars or something and look back here at Earth. All you can see is this tiny speck. You don’t see the fear. You don’t see the pain. You don’t see the movie industry. You don’t see this interview. You don’t see thought. It’s just one solid speck. Then nothing really matters. It just doesn’t.'"

Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28 [nyt]

The Towleroad Guide to Brokeback Mountain [tr]

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  1. Oh man, that is just so sad! So f*cking sad!

    Posted by: CK | Jan 22, 2008 5:32:33 PM

  2. J, you can find the LA lifestyle in any county in any state.

    Posted by: Marco | Jan 22, 2008 5:33:41 PM

  3. So much fame, resources at his disposal, the influence to change and affect people and yet the mirror seems to only reflect one way. His actions were selfish and hurtful to those who loved and cared about him.

    Posted by: Charles | Jan 22, 2008 5:35:41 PM

  4. DRUGS. Why do people feel the need to fuck their brain up with this shit? Can't they have fun any other way? What a waste, he was so talented...

    Posted by: ReasonBased | Jan 22, 2008 5:37:04 PM

  5. Who Heath Ledger was as a man, as an actor, and as a couragous artist in film, made a difference in countless lives that we live as gay men. No doubt. Whatever the memorial services will be for Mr. Ledger (either private or public), we as gay men must represent. We can show the world how much we honor artists and their profound contribution they give us. May God bless the soul of Heath Ledger.

    Posted by: Mark | Jan 22, 2008 5:37:17 PM

  6. DRUGS. Why do people feel the need to fuck their brain up with this shit? Can't they have fun any other way? What a waste, he was so talented...

    Posted by: ReasonBased | Jan 22, 2008 5:38:56 PM

  7. i am sick to my stomach and my heart aches. so sad. so sad. you will be greatly missed.

    Posted by: Scott | Jan 22, 2008 5:41:16 PM

  8. Of course it's too early to really make the call, but the story now up at says the death is being treated as a suicide, not an accidental overdose.

    Posted by: thin mint | Jan 22, 2008 5:43:33 PM

  9. J,

    He was in NYC, not LA

    Posted by: Timothy | Jan 22, 2008 5:46:13 PM

  10. This is really shocking....
    and so sad...

    Posted by: onolennon8 | Jan 22, 2008 5:46:35 PM

  11. Good grief! A friend called and told me and I genuinely couldn't believe it. 28 years old!!!

    Pills. And I'll bet they were legal and proscribed. The new legal stuff is DEADLY. Everybody knows Vicotin is worse that heorin. At least I hope they do. No way of knowing what he took until the autopsy is performed.

    Maybe we'll found out what killed him, and maybe we won't. Terribly, terribly sad.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 22, 2008 5:55:44 PM

  12. The NYT also said the drugs were over-the-counter sleeping pills, so his death seems more likely to be a suicide or an accident than a result of some debauched LA lifestyle.

    I'm still shocked. God, Ennis is dead. RIP, Heath, and thanks for Brokeback.

    Posted by: Ben | Jan 22, 2008 5:57:16 PM

  13. It's hard to know what to say. His performance in Brokeback was so retrained, dignified and emotionally powerful; who knows what he would have been capable of as an actor. He is a great loss to acting and, of course, to his daughter, who will now never know him.


    Posted by: Peter Rivendell | Jan 22, 2008 6:01:26 PM

  14. to suggest that there even is an "LA lifestyle" is ricockulous. and as others have noted, he was in NY. but i can relate to the feelings of shock and disbelief when i heard it. makes me very grateful to have today and i'll be grateful again if i get tomorrow.

    Posted by: buzz | Jan 22, 2008 6:22:32 PM

  15. Heath Ledger just passed, and already the memorabilia has hit ebay:

    Posted by: Hoyt | Jan 22, 2008 6:23:10 PM

  16. Oh come on, David, Vicodin is nowhere near as bad as heroin. (I've unfortunately done enough of both to comment here.) Maybe you're thinking of Oxycontin, which is basically legal heroin if you don't take it as prescribed (that is, snort it rather than swallow it).

    In any event, we don't have any idea what his drug use history was. If he killed himself or died accidentally using over the counter medication, then obviously he wasn't abusing much heavier stuff---his tolerance would have made it much harder. In any case, depression and addiction often become linked, and both are extremely difficult to overcome. I'm glad I have, and don't understand how Heath couldn't, given his enormous resources. Yes, his actions have hurt his "friends" and family, but they should have intervened much sooner, and not taken no for an answer. Like everyone else, celebrities need to be called on their bad behavior.

    Posted by: Robert | Jan 22, 2008 6:26:10 PM

  17. Friend this letter....

    "Heath Ledger is just almost really beyond description as far as I'm concerned. He got inside the story more deeply than I did. All that thinking about the character of Ennis that was so hard for me to get, Ledger just was there. He did indeed move inside the skin of the character, not just in the shirt but inside the person. It was remarkable. – Annie Proulx

    Heath Ledger’s wrenching performance is the stuff of Hollywood history.” – Manohla Dargis, NY Times

    Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character. It is a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn. – Stephen Holden, NY Times

    But maybe anyone would look thin next to Ledger's Ennis Del Mar. The actor hunches over and pulls his emotions under his canvas coat; he doesn't age so much as slowly cave in. That's fitting: Ennis is both ennobled and shamed by feelings he doesn't possess words to describe. ''This thing we have" is the closest he comes, and yet it's the only real part of his life, despite the damage left in its wake. Ledger turns the classic iconography of the Western male -- a cowboy hat pulled low, a measured drawl that says no more than it absolutely has to -- into protective coloring. The genius of the performance is in how little he shows and how much he suggests. – Ty Burr, Boston Globe

    Both actors do memorable work, but Ledger has the better role, and he makes the strongest choices. He gives Ennis a voice and mannerisms that are utterly idiosyncratic, and then inhabits those choices psychologically, making sense of the locked-down speech, the haunted look and the strong but diffident manner. He completely transforms himself. It's a performance that was thought through in detail and then lived in the moment, and it's one of the most beautiful things in movies this year. – Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle

    Jack, a shade more comfortable with his nature, talks of getting a ranch together, but Ennis will have none of it: Stung by childhood memories of a rancher who lived with a man and got bashed for it, he fears — he knows — that exposure could kill them. In the classic Westerns, the cowboys were often men of few words, but Heath Ledger speaks in tones so low and gruff and raspy his words just about scrape ground, and he doesn't string a whole lot of those words together. Ennis' inexpressiveness is truly ...inexpressive, yet ironically eloquent for that very reason, as tiny glimmers of soul escape his rigid facade. Ennis says nothing he doesn't mean; he's incapable of guile, yet he erupts in tantrums — the anger of a man who can't be what he is and doesn't realize the quandary is eating him alive. Ledger, with beady eyes and pursed lips, gives a performance of extraordinary, gnarled tenderness. Revolutionary. A film in which love feels almost as if it were being invented. - Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

    More than any of the others, Ledger brings this film alive by going so deeply into his character you wonder if he'll be able to come back. Aside from his small but strong part in "Monster's Ball," nothing in the Australian-born Ledger's previous credits prepares us for the power and authenticity of his work here as a laconic, interior man of the West, a performance so persuasive that "Brokeback Mountain" could not have succeeded without it. Ennis' pain, his rage, his sense of longing and loss are real for the actor, and that makes them unforgettable for everyone else. – Kenneth Turan, LA Times

    Ledger's magnificent performance is an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides. Ledger doesn't just know how Ennis moves, speaks and listens; he knows how he breathes. To see him inhale the scent of a shirt hanging in Jack's closet is to take measure of the pain of love lost. As Jack told him once, "That ol' Brokeback got us good." It hits you like a shot in the heart. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

    What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger. They had stood that way for a long time in front of the fire, its burning tossing ruddy chunks of light, the shadow of their bodies a single column against the rock. The minutes ticked by from the round watch in Ennis's pocket, from the sticks in the fire settling into coals. Stars bit through the wavy heat layers above the fire. Ennis's breath came slow and quiet, he hummed, rocked a little in the sparklight and Jack leaned against the steady heartbeat, the vibrations of the humming like faint electricity and, standing, he fell into sleep that was not sleep but something else drowsy and tranced until Ennis, dredging up a rusty but still useable phrase from the childhood time before his mother died, said, "Time to hit the hay, cowboy. I got a go. Come on, you're sleepin on your feet like a horse," and gave Jack a shake, a push, and went off in the darkness. – Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx

    GO TO:

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Jan 22, 2008 6:27:55 PM

  18. As usual, I'm left asking why? Loneliness? Depression? It's not like he wasn't getting work...

    Terribly, utterly sad.

    Posted by: Rob (lrdarystar) | Jan 22, 2008 6:35:16 PM

  19. This isn't going to sink in for a while.
    An absolutely overwhelming loss.

    Posted by: clayton | Jan 22, 2008 6:40:39 PM

  20. I can't even process this right now... i've tried 3 times, now, to type something... just can't do it.................. and i have been thinking a LOT about Brokeback Mtn. the last few days as i do this time of year as it was two years ago (?) that most of us boys were in the throws of that film, reacting good and bad, taking into account our own lives and experiences and how similar they might have been to Jack and Ennis... i feel sick.

    Posted by: virgoboy | Jan 22, 2008 6:40:58 PM

  21. Truly terrible. Whether accidental or intentional, we've lost one of the great young actors of our generation.

    Posted by: Josh | Jan 22, 2008 6:42:33 PM

  22. Let's all try not to pass judgment until we know what happened. Anyone, ANYONE, can be touched by depression--doesn't matter whether you're young or old, rich or poor--and if that was the cause, maybe it will make people finally begin to look at depression as the very real illness it is and help people to overcome it. There are around 80 suicides a day in America--most of them caused by depression.

    But, whatever caused his death, it's heartbreaking for sure. His was a genuine talent and it will be missed.

    Posted by: Webster | Jan 22, 2008 6:45:52 PM

  23. GO TO:

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Jan 22, 2008 6:49:38 PM

  24. That is so sad! guess it goes to show you never really know what is going on inside a person. HE WAS ONE OF THE BEST ACTORS AND TO ADD ONE OF THE PEOPLE WITH THE BEST INTENT. wonder why he did it?!

    Posted by: opicview | Jan 22, 2008 6:50:19 PM

  25. My partner and I are deeply shocked to hear this news, I'm so sorry for little Mathilda but I hope she will grow up to know how great an actor her father was. RIP.

    Posted by: SeanR | Jan 22, 2008 6:50:59 PM

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