We all remember that fateful day—January 22, 2008. We woke up that day with the expectations of a normal day, and it should've been. However, we hopped online and there it was. Heath Ledger had passed. The circumstances surrounding his death were still being investigated but speculations swarmed, everyone was wondering how it had happened.
Every gossip article offered a different theory. Only one thing remained constant. The world and fans had lost an acting legend. In the days that followed, we mourned and waited to find out more. We binge watched some of our favorite movies of his—A Knight’s Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You and even The Dark Knight. We laughed, we cried, we remembered an amazing career. We followed tabloids and made our guesses as to what happened. It was a sad day in Hollywood when Ledger lost his life—as it always is when a celebrity passes.
It’s been a decade since that day and we still find ourselves indulging in his movies and dredging up old memories. Even after a decade, we don't know everything about Heath Ledger, but what we do know only makes us love him more than we did before. There’s nothing more exciting than diving into more juicy gossip on our favorite celebrities—alive or deceased.
14 What’s In A Name—The Namesake
Born April 4, 1974, Heath Andrew Ledger was born to Kim Ledger and Sally Ledger-Bell. We imagine the two were overjoyed at the birth of their bouncing baby boy. As with any parent, picking out a name for their kid is both fun and frustrating. So where did Kim and Sally come up with the name for their son? Why, they found it in a book! The book was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
The book follows the lovely and stubborn Catherine Earnshaw and the romantic and brooding Heathcliff. His parents shortened the name Heathcliff to Heath! We absolutely love the choice. It suited him perfectly. As if that wasn't cute enough—Kim and Sally also named their daughter Kate after the character Catherine. How adorable is that? We can't get over it!
13 A Humble Beginning—Small Town
Unlike a lot of big-name Hollywood actors and actresses, Heath Ledger came from simple roots. He was born and raised in Perth, Australia with his father, mother and his older sister. His family members were simple people—his mom was a French teacher and his father was a racecar driver. His father was also a mining engineer.
The Ledger family—before Heath was ever a thought in his family’s mind—established the company Ledger Engineering Foundry. It was a simple start in a town that was far away from Hollywood and the like. Here, Ledger attended school and began to dip his feet into the acting waters. It wasn’t long before he recognized his talent. We have to say, there must’ve been something in the Perth waters, because they helped turn out quite the actor.
12 The Hobbyist—Filling Up Spare Time
We know him for his extraordinary acting skills, but Heath Ledger had many other skills as well. Growing up, Ledger excelled at playing chess from a very young age. When he was only 10 years old, he actually won a chess tournament—Western Australia’s Junior Chess Tournament. It’s quite the accomplishment for someone so young! Additionally, Ledger was phenomenal at football—Australian rules, of course—cricket and even hockey.
Despite how well he played these three, he wasn’t invested in the sports themselves. He was invested in the time they wasted. Apparently, he didn’t want to be a part of the Army Cadets. With sports on his plate, he was able to avoid learning to shoot an automatic rifle—a skill he deemed pointless. We don’t blame him. The only weapons he was planning on using were props on set.
11 Dance It Off—Breaking Boundaries
As if being a brilliant actor, a talented sportsman and a skilled tactician weren’t impressive enough, it turns out that Heath Ledger is gifted in dance and leadership. While in military school, Ledger helped pull together an all-male dance team. There were 60 of them all together.
In something that hadn’t been done, he was able to lead these 60 boys through a nationwide dance competition for high school students. Their routine centered around the different aspects of fashion—something unheard of for boys in that day and age.
We can’t imagine the adversity they faced as a team while they chased this dream. Defying all the odds, Ledger and the team won the dance competition—setting the record as the first all-male school team to do so, too! That’s quite the resume-builder right there!
10 Brains & Talent—Pursuing A Dream
When he was young, Heath Ledger knew that he was destined for something bigger and better than his hometown had to offer. He knew he was going to go all the way with acting—or at least going to do everything in his power to try.
Still, he respected the fact that education comes first. So—while planning big things for his life—Ledger was actively involved in his high school education to make sure he reached graduation.
Instead of letting his grades slide, Ledger excelled in his classes. He did so well, in fact, that he graduated high school early at 17 years old. Brains and talent—we love it! What an amazing example to set for those future actors in the making.
9 Full Circle—It’s All Clowns
The Dark KnightWe all remember Heath Ledger’s impressive portrayal as this character. It was his second to last performance, but the one we all seem to remember as his last big role. The role seemed to be a fitting one for him as he played a psychotic clown. Why? Because it wasn’t the first clown he ever played.
In fact, Ledger’s very first role was in a movie called Clowning Around. While the role was considered uncredited, his role was none other than an orphaned clown. Talk about coming full circle! His first big role was a clown and his last remembered role was as a clown. He couldn’t have planned that even if he wanted to.
8 Multi-Talented—Jack Of All Trades
We know Heath Ledger for his wide array of acting roles. Some of his more popular films included A Knight’s Tale, Brokeback Mountain and The Patriot. His acting skills wowed us—but we didn’t realize that he was so much more than just an actor. In fact, Ledger dabbled in quite a few different aspects of film.
Before he died, Ledger was breaking out into directing after having begun producing. His list of projects he directed is short—having included a few short videos titled Ben Harper: Morning Yearning, Modest Mouse: King Rat, and N’Fa Jones: Cause and Effect. That's a budding start to a directing career. We wish we could have seen where he was going to go with the endeavor. Additionally, Ledger found a love for photography in his everyday life.
7 Unafraid Of Anything—Conquering The Roles
The beautiful thing about acting is the ability to pick and choose which roles are the right roles to portray on stage and on screen. It lets actors tailor their roles to what they're comfortable with—or even what their moral compass is okay with. That wasn't the case, however, with Heath Ledger. In true dedicated determination, he didn't shy away from any role that came his way just because he might be uncomfortable.
In fact, one of his very first roles involved him playing a gay man—despite him being very much straight. We know it can be very hard to take on that kind of drastically different role. Still, Ledger gave it everything he had. Whether it was drama, action or even romance, he didn't discriminate against role types. He took the ones he wanted head on.
6 Family Man—Finding What Matters
They say the first few years of a child’s life are the most important—they’re the ones that make the most impact on a child. Heath Ledger saw the importance of such a concept after the birth of his daughter—Matilda—whom he had with his wife, Michelle Williams. To make sure he was able to bond with his daughter, Ledger took time off from acting. He took this time to help his wife recover from birth as well.
We commend him for doing so. That’s a huge step to being a family man—and something we’re sure his wife greatly appreciated. Even after he returned to his acting career, he made sure that his wife and daughter knew they were his priority. Being a family man truly suited him.
5 Honoring His Daughter—Forever Matilda
As we watch movies, we look closely for small details that are fun to know. One of our favorites is how actors will find a way to honor their children or loved ones in their roles. Heath Ledger joined the ranks of actors to do so after his daughter was born.
In the film The Dark Knight, there is a well-known scene where the Joker is dressed up as a nurse and blows up a hospital. The scene is intense and thrilling. It gets our hearts racing when we watch it for all that’s going on—which is why it may go right past us how he honors his daughter in the scene. The nurse’s outfit that Ledger dons in the scene—check the name tag. It says Matilda. It’s sweet albeit a little bit of an odd choice.
4 The Superhero’s Villain—Trading Parts
The Joker was the role that made Heath Ledger a legend. It’s the role that earned him an Oscar after he passed away and the role we instantly recall when we think of him. The crazy part of that role? Ledger didn’t audition for it! That’s right. In fact, he actually auditioned for the role of Batman before Christian Bale did so for the Batman Begins movie.
Apparently, Christopher Nolan was impressed by Ledger’s audition but saw so much more in him than being just the epic Batman. He saw him in the great potential to be the Joker—something we’re entirely grateful for. He was so impressed that Nolan kept the part of the Joker in the Batman sequel reserved for Ledger. We can’t even begin to imagine what the Batman movies would’ve been like with Ledger as Batman.
3 A World Away—Hiding To Create The Joker
There’s dedicated to a role and then there’s remaking oneself to become the role. Heath Ledger was notoriously the latter as he dedicated 100% to the roles he took on. The perfect example?— the day he took on the role of the Joker. To really design the part and gain a true understanding of the Joker’s chaotic and psychotic personality, Ledger went away.
For six weeks, he locked himself away from the rest of the world in a motel room. He didn’t talk to anyone, he didn’t go out. He remained utterly secluded. We can’t imagine that kind of dedication. We’d probably go borderline insane. The choice was extreme but effective. Ledger’s deep psychological exploration into the psyche of the Joker led us to one of our favorite renditions of the villain ever.
2 Improvising—Making It Up As He Went Along
Movies come with scripts and cues on how everything should go. It helps to make sure that everything runs smoothly. As he took on the role of the Joker, Heath Ledger stepped into the psyche of a madman. His choice really challenged those around him as he went off script—he made up things as he went. One such little extra was the moment the Joker decided to start clapping at Commissioner Gordon’s promotion—mockingly, we might add.
It was a small moment, but he scattered dozens of moments like that throughout the entire filming of The Dark Knight. He believed the Joker needed to be unpredictable. We definitely agree that it was an unpredictable choice—and we really give props to the rest of the cast for being able to keep up with him.
1 Imagination—Continuing After His Death
Heath Ledger’s very last film was The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The complicated tale made him the star of the film—and he was in the middle of filming when he passed away unexpectedly. Afterward, the film almost tanked—except Ledger’s friends and family convinced the director—Terry Gilliam—to continue with the film.
Helping to change the film’s story just slightly was Ledger’s three friends: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. The goal was to bring his very last project to life, so he could be immortalized one more time on the big screen. A lofty goal and one they managed to pull off fantastically. The film came to fruition and made its release on time. Adding to the greatness of it—Depp, Law, and Farrell apparently donated their salary to Ledger’s family.