January 22, 2008: Batman actor Heath Ledger found dead in Manhattan aged 28

Hollywood mourned the star of Brokeback Mountain who died of an accidental overdose shortly after playing the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Hollywood fell into mourning on this day in 2008 at the news that Heath Ledger had been found dead at his home in Manhattan, New York, aged just 28.

The Australian actor had recently completed filming the Batman movie The Dark Knight in the role of the Joker, and was working on a new film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, with director Terry Gilliam.

Heath Ledger starring as The Joker in Batman, The Dark Knight

Ledger was found unconscious by his housekeeper, who had come to announce the arrival of his masseuse, at 2.45pm local time. The masseuse performed CPR on the actor, but could not revive him, and emergency services pronounced him dead on their arrival.

Two weeks later, his death was announced as being caused by accidental overdose of drugs prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, pain and the common cold.

The Perth-born actor had made his Hollywood debut in 1999’s teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, before being selected to play Mel Gibson’s son in The Patriot the following year by Gibson himself.

He had gained critical acclaim for his portrayal of a cowboy coming to terms with his homosexuality in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain in 2005, garnering Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta nominations for his performance.

Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

Ledger had split with his girlfriend Michelle Williams, who played his wife in Lee’s film, the previous September. The couple had a two-year old daughter named Matilda.

[July 23, 2011: Grammy Award-winning singer Amy Winehouse found dead at 27]


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