23 JANUARY 2008

Heath's cinematic legacy

Acclaimed Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger has passed away at the age of 28. The Australian actor and devoted dad-of-one was found in his New York apartment on Tuesday afternoon. Police are reportedly investigating whether he died of an overdose from the prescription pills which were found next to him.

Speaking in his Perth home town, Heath's father, Kim Ledger, spoke of the family's tragic loss. "Heath's family confirms the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda," he said.

"Heath was found peacefully asleep in his New York apartment by his housekeeper at 3.30pm US time. We would like to thank our friends and everyone around the world for their well wishes and kind thoughts at this time. Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life but few had the pleasure of truly knowing him."

He added that his son was "a down to earth, generous, kind-hearted, life-loving and selfless individual who was extremely inspirational to many".

Other tributes to the talented star poured in from shocked showbiz names. "I had such great hope for him," said Mel Gibson who played Heath's dad in The Patriot. "He was just taking off, and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss."

Australian actress Nicole Kidman spoke, too, of the "terrible tragedy" and said her heart went out to his family. John Travolta who was in Australia when the news broke, said the young actor had been one of his favourite performers. "His abilities are rare... it's a tremendous loss."

In September Heath split from his partner of three years Michelle Williams, with whom he has a two-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose. The couple met on the set of 2005 cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain, which brought him an Oscar nomination.

Heath was one of Hollywood's brightest young stars, and his career had been going from strength to strength. He recently starred alongside Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There as one of several actors representing singer Bob Dylan. He also portrays The Joker in the yet-to-be-released Batman film, The Dark Knight.

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The Perth-born actor, who passed away on Tuesday, has been described by his dad as "generous, kind-hearted, life-loving and selfless"Photo: © Getty Images Click on photos for gallery
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He leaves behind a two-year-old daughter from his relationship with actress Michelle WilliamsPhoto: © Getty Images
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The star won universal acclaim and an Oscar nomination for his role as ranch hand Ennis who became romantically involved with Jake Gyllenhaal's rodeo cowboy in 2005's Brokeback MountainPhoto: © Getty Images
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