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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. Nic,

    Why are you quoting people if you don't even know what they are famous for? Then you call me ignorant. God, you are so good for a laugh.

    Posted by: RP | Jan 23, 2008 7:02:08 AM

  2. Note from TOWLEROAD: Please take the flame wars private or you will be banned from commenting. Thanks.

    Posted by: andy | Jan 23, 2008 8:23:47 AM

  3. ANDY,

    i'm sorry. RP, forgive me. we got a little bit crazy there.

    Posted by: nic | Jan 23, 2008 9:03:22 AM

  4. A great and bold actor,a true professional who did not shy away from doing the most controversial role of his lifetime.

    Posted by: Ronnie Vakil | Jan 23, 2008 10:10:13 AM

  5. The fighting-children-in-a-sandbox mentality of some of the responses here (to a person's death!) is truly depressing.

    As sickening as the current celebrity worship culture can be, I think people were genuinely shocked and moved by the death of a young talent who starred in a movie that was deeply meaningful to a lot of Towleroad readers. Being moved by a death (yes, even the death of someone you don't personally know) hardly excludes concern about the economy or Darfur or lies told by the Bush administration. And it doesn't mean we're salivating over Britney's latest shenanigans. Today, life and the economy go on, but it's still sad that we won't see a talented actor practicing his art 10 years from now.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jan 23, 2008 11:16:00 AM

  6. I respectfully submit I respectfully the lyrics of Mimi Farina spun from a 1911 poem by James Oppenheim:

    As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
    A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
    Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
    For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses! Bread and Roses!
    As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
    For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
    Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
    Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.
    As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
    Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.
    Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
    Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.
    As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,
    The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
    No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
    But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.
    Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
    Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Jan 23, 2008 11:29:36 AM

  7. Wow. I sure missed a lot since I last posted on this thread. Reminds me why I only occasionally indulge in this sort of thing. Although I think that the internet has a great capacity and potential to educate and enlighten, and can bring people of all hue and stripe together, it too often becomes a way to talk "at" rather than "with" others, and ends up dividing rather than joining us. I wonder how much of this sort of bickering would happen face to face? I wonder if we saw an actual person opposite us, would we so quickly and easily become so insulting?

    People who become defensive are more interested in defending than in learning. If one precipitates defensiveness through one's discourse, one gets more of what one doesn't want - a person unwilling to listen. How useful is that? Sure, we all have strong emotional responses at times, and lead with our hearts rather than our heads, but what is the result?

    Could it be okay to be affected by the death of someone whose work has meant something to us, or who we simply became aware of through the media and because of this perhaps false yet still subjectively relevant relationship? And could it also be okay to not be affected and find other issues more important? Does espousing one position necessarily make a person superior to another?

    Live and let live.

    Posted by: JT | Jan 23, 2008 12:18:14 PM

  8. JT,

    "Could it be okay to be affected by the death of someone whose work has meant something to us, or who we simply became aware of through the media and because of this perhaps false yet still subjectively relevant relationship? And could it also be okay to not be affected and find other issues more important? Does espousing one position necessarily make a person superior to another?"

    answers: yes and yes and maybe.

    Posted by: nic | Jan 23, 2008 1:22:16 PM

  9. Bravo, NIC.

    Because "maybe" leaves room for "maybe not", and less heated discourse as well.

    Have a great day.

    Posted by: JT | Jan 23, 2008 3:54:04 PM

  10. JT,

    you, too, my friend.

    Posted by: nic | Jan 23, 2008 4:22:18 PM

  11. The first time Heath Ledger brought tears to my eyes was his amazing sequence in Jack's bedroom at the end of Brokeback. Few actors have his ability to pull off convincingly so long a scene, so powerful a scene, with no other actor, with no dialog, with just facial expression and body language to convey emotion. It is one of the great film performances of our time, one that should have given him the Academy Award. Ennis, Jack, and the film as a whole have become symbols, or should become symbols for all of us, of the difficulties and dangers of being gay in a heterosexual world. The second time Heath brought tears to my eyes was Tuesday. His death took away a great talent and a great guy. The Charlie Rose Show ran excerpts from an interview Heath Ledger did to promote Brokeback. You can see either the excerpts or the entire program with Heath and Ang Lee here:

    After hearing Heath explain how he prepared for the film, you will know why Annie Proulx said he got deeper into the character of Ennis than she was able to do.

    Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 24, 2008 1:06:27 AM

  12. thanks tantalus for the link to charlie rose, i too believe he was robbed and should have won best actor, it is an incredible performance. thank god the movie was made and made so perfectly. it is a legend.

    Posted by: the queen | Jan 27, 2008 11:31:08 AM

  13. I respectfuffy agree... Heath's performance in BBM in unparallelled. A masterpiece in mood and character. I will miss him as if he was a friend.

    Posted by: RickT | Jan 28, 2008 4:16:11 PM

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