• 06:28
  • 05.07.2020
Ledger lives on, a decade after his death
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Ledger lives on, a decade after his death

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On January 22, 2008, a masseuse and housekeeper quietly entered a bedroom in Heath Ledger's Manhattan apartment hoping to wake up the Australian actor.

It was the early afternoon and Ledger, who had been battling chronic insomnia, pneumonia and exhaustion, was in bed and could not be roused.

They realised he was not breathing.
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NYPD and paramedics were called, but Ledger, the father of then two-year-old daughter Matilda, could not be saved.

At the age of 28 the effervescent, bright light that was Ledger died from what the New York Medical Examiner concluded was an accidental overdose from a powerful mix of prescription drugs, including narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety pills and sleep medication.

On the 10th anniversary of Ledger's death the Perth-born actor's legacy continues.
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His heartbroken family has helped set up Scriptwise, a non-profit foundation in Australia designed to educate the public about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

Each year a young Australian actor is also awarded the Heath Ledger Scholarship.

The scholarship, organised by Los Angeles-based organisation Australians in Film and supported by Australia's biggest stars, is designed to give young talent a helping hand to make it in Hollywood.
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"I think Heath's legacy is his spirit of generosity and enormous heart for helping others," Kate Marks, president of AiF, told AAP.

"We hope, that through the Heath Ledger Scholarship, we are playing a small part in honouring his legacy."

In June at a poolside event at West Hollywood's Sunset Marquis Hotel Ledger's father Kim, mother Sally and sisters Kate and Ashleigh presented 24-year-old Sydney actor Mojean Aria the $US16,000 scholarship for 2017.
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An all-star panel of judges, including Ledger's one-time girlfriend Naomi Watts and The Dark Knight co-star Gary Oldman, selected Aria as the winner.

Each year Hollywood's A-List volunteer their time to be a judge or financially support the scholarship, with Watts, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Deborra-Lee Furness, Phil Noyce, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin and Ledger's former partner and mother of Matilda, Michelle Williams, founding patrons.

The scholarship was set up to reflect Ledger's love of helping out fellow Aussies.
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Kate Ledger fondly recalls how her brother had 30 keys to his house in the Hollywood Hills and would hand them out to mates or strangers needing a bed or couch to sleep on while they found their feet in LA.

On January 27 in downtown LA Ledger will be honoured again alongside potential Oscar nominee Margot Robbie and Adelaide's Big Little Lies producer Bruna Papandrea at the G'Day USA gala.

Irish actor Colin Farrell will present the honour to Ledger's family members.
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Ledger's generous spirit was only matched by his acting talent.

He famously despised Hollywood's manufactured roles, designed to exploit his good looks, and instead took established characters like Batman villain The Joker and made them his own.

He played a drug addict in the Australian film Candy, Bob Dylan in I'm Not There and the New York Times compared him to a young Marlon Brando for his tortured performance as a gay ranch hand in Brokeback Mountain.
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A year after his death Ledger won the best supporting actor Oscar for his scene-stealing performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, an achievement that made him just the second actor to claim an Academy Award posthumously.

The other was also an Australian, Peter Finch, who was awarded Best Actor for Network in 1977.

Ledger proved during his too-short career he was one of Hollywood's best, but when his family has had the opportunity to speak publicly or in interviews they focus on his love for his daughter, generous soul, energy and larrikin Aussie nature.
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Just four days after Ledger's death 1000 guests at a G'Day USA gala sat inside the Waldorf-Astoria's grand ballroom in Manhattan, not too far away from the SoHo apartment where he drew his last breath.

Australia's then Consul-General in New York, John Olsen, took a piece of paper out of his tuxedo pocket and read to thiose gathered a letter penned by Ledger's dad, who had just landed in the US to escort his son's body back to Perth.

"Heath is, and always will be, an Australian," Kim wrote.
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"He adored his home. His last two weeks with us over Christmas in Perth were just bliss.

"Heath did not become an actor for the fame or fortune. He loved his craft and he loved helping his friends.

"He loved chess and skateboarding too. My image of Heath in New York is him with his skateboard, a canvas bag and his beanie.
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"That was Heath to me."
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