Never forgotten. The late Heath Ledger would have turned 36 on Saturday, April 4. The Australian-born actor has been gone for seven years, but his spirit, sense of humor, and his sweet grin still live on in his movie roles.
Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in his NYC apartment in January 2008. He welcomed daughter Matilda, now 9, with actress Michelle Williams in October 2005.
In honor of his birthday, see Ledger’s top 5 most memorable film characters below:
1. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
The romantic comedy turned out to be Ledger’s breakout role on the big screen. Playing tough as nails Patrick Verona (but oh, what a softy!) the hunk starred in the fan favorite alongside Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larisa Oleynik. “He was so nice. He was such a force,” Styles told Us of her late costar in November 2014. “Even at that age a very powerful, lovely human being.”
2. The Patriot (2000)
What a tearjerker. With the success of 10 Things I Hate About You under his belt, Ledger played Mel Gibson’s on-screen son a year later. The actor, who played Gabriel Martin, proved that he could also become a scene stealer in an action drama. “Maybe I could have called him,” Gibson told The Guardian in February in 2009, following Ledger’s death. “When you see sort of an impending tragedy or something that might go wrong, it just felt like I should do something about it.”
3. A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Still a dreamboat! Ledger laced up to portray peasant squire William Thatcher (horse-riding and jousting extraordinaire!) in the adventure flick. Following its release, he also became one of the hottest sought after actors in Hollywood. “To tell you the truth I don’t think about it and I don’t dwell on it,” he told Cinema.com at the time. “I just show up for work and live my normal life.”
4. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ledger starred in the powerful romance drama opposite his good friend Jake Gyllenhaal, who later was named Matilda’s godfather. The Ang Lee-directed movie, which also starred Williams, centered on a forbidden relationship between two cowboys.
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
The Christopher Nolan-directed film was the last movie Ledger would complete in its entirety. (He was still filming 2009’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus when he passed; Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law later stepped in for him.) Ledger’s petrifying portrayal of The Joker won him an Oscar in the Best Supporting category. As most fans will know, it was fun to see Ledger and Levitt go from high school students in 10 Things I Hate About You, to DC Comics characters. Levitt later played Robin in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.
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