Before he won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger was just a wide-eyed Australian boy trying to make it big in Hollywood. Throughout his career, the late actor not only impressed critics, but also won the hearts of millions across the globe.
Ledger was born in Perth, Australia, on April 4, 1979. His first acting gig came when he played an uncredited orphan clown in the 1992 indie drama Clowning Around. The Brothers Grimm star landed his first breakout role on Australian TV show Sweat, where he played Snowy Bowles for all 26 episodes of the first season.
Ledger became a household name, however, after he played Patrick Verona in the 1999 romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to act in films including The Patriot, Monster’s Ball and A Knight’s Tale. Ledger portrayed a queer cowboy in Brokeback Mountain in 2005, which landed him a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at the 2006 Academy Awards.
While filming the big-screen adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story, Ledger met actress Michelle Williams. The pair dated for several months before they welcomed daughter Matilda in October 2005. They split in September 2007.
Ledger tragically died on January 22, 2008, due to an accidental overdose. While Williams and Ledger were no longer together at the time of his death, she told Vanity Fair in January 2011 that his passing left her with “a hole in [her] life.”
The Greatest Showman actress has since married Phil Elverum, but she keeps Ledger’s spirit alive for the sake of their child. She explained, “I always say to Matilda, ‘Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes.’”
Keep scrolling to see highlights from Ledger’s early life, career, family and more.