Name: Heath Andrew Ledger
Birthdate: 4 April 1979
Height: 6′ 1″
Natural hair colour: Light brown
Eye colour: Brown
Parents: Kim Ledger (remarried, Emma Brown) and Sally Bell (remarried, Roger Bell)
Siblings: Kate, Ashleigh Bell (half-sister) and Olivia Ledger (half-sister)
Grandparents: Colin and Es Ledger, and great-grandfather Sir Frank Ledger; John and Jackie Ramshaw
Heritage: 1/2 Irish and 1/2 Scottish
Birthplace: Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Current residences: Brooklyn, New York; Los Angeles; Sydney
Education: Guildford Grammer School
Secret passion: Photography
Favourite hobbies: Art, reading, writing, surfing, skateboarding
Piercings: One in each ear
Marital status: Engaged to actress Michelle Williams (”Dawson’s Creek”)
Children: Matilda Rose Ledger, born Friday 5pm, 28 October 2005 in New York
Pets: Yorkshire Terrier named Bob (as in Dylan), Cocker Spaniel named Ned (as in Kelly)
When in early 2006 Heath Ledger was feted worldwide for his performance in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, most reviewers expressed surprise that the young Australian was capable of such stirring efforts. After all, wasn’t he just the pretty boy who’d sung, dance and smirked his way through the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You? Hadn’t he stared smugly down from the posters of hip mediaeval comedy A Knight’s Tale, posters which loudly boasted “He will rock you”? Wasn’t he, for God’s sake, in Home And Away?
Perhaps the reviewers should not have been so taken aback. Ledger had already shown great promise with his brief but telling appearance in the Oscar-winning Monster’s Ball. Moreover, hugely adventurous and artistically ambitious, he’d proved from an early age to be a fledgling Renaissance Man, a cultural sponge, sucking up the wisdom of those older and more experienced than himself, and he’d continued this practice in his film career, drawing on the likes of Bryan Brown, Mel Gibson, Roland Emmerich, Billy Bob Thornton, Terry Gilliam and Geoffrey Rush, to say nothing of a string of girlfriends considerably his senior in age. Like Johnny Depp before him, he’d made a conscious decision to escape the heart-throb image and worked hard to become more a substantial actor. If there was anything surprising to his story, it was simply that he’d succeeded so quickly.
He was born Heath Andrew Ledger on the 4th of April, 1979, at the Subiaco Hospital in Perth, Western Australia. The Ledger name was well-known in Perth, the family having run a foundry that provided much of the raw material for the famous Perth to Kalgoorlie Pipeline, which ran 557 kilometres east out into the desert and, beginning to pump back in 1903, first supplied the Western Australian goldfields and now served over 100,000 people and 6 million sheep in 44,000 square miles. The Sir Frank Ledger Charitable Trust, named after Heath’s great-grandfather, was renowned for granting funds to the area’s universities, paying for visiting lecturers and scholarships for gifted students.
In keeping with the family tradition, Heath’s father Kim, a racing enthusiast, ran several engineering firms in the city, while Heath’s mother, Sally, hailing from the Scottish Campbell clan, was a French teacher. High romantics, they named their son after Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff having some four years earlier called their first-born daughter Catherine (she’d be known as Kate). There would be two more half-sisters, Olivia and Ashleigh, born to Kim and Sally respectively once they had separated. This would happen when Heath was 10. By then he’d already enrolled at the Guildford Grammar School, an all-boy academy set on 100 glorious hectares of undulating land beside the Swan river, some 15 kilometres to the north-east of the city. For 10 years this would be the seat of Heath’s education. Dedicated to “the growth and freedom of young minds and bodies”, it had vast playing fields, horse riding facilities and even its own farm. Students could go rowing on the river or test themselves in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The choir sang in the Chapel of St Mary and St George, one of the finest and most imposing examples of gothic architecture in Australia.