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Heath Ledger

heath-ledger.jpg

Taken from msn.com

Breaking news
MSNBC News Services
updated 21 minutes ago
NEW YORK - Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday in a Manhattan apartment in what police sources are calling an apparent suicide or accidental overdose. He was 28.

According to the New York Times, Ledger was found naked and unconscious with pills strewn all around him. Police sources told the Times that the death appeared to be a suicide or an accidental overdose.

A source told msnbc.com's Courtney Hazlett that Ledger had been turning down roles lately.

The Times initially reported that Ledger was found in an apartment owned by actress Mary-Kate Olsen, but a spokesperson for the actress, who is at the Sundance Film Festival, later told the Times the apartment was not Olsen's.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the apartment. The housekeeper, who went to let Ledger know the masseuse was there, found him unconscious at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET, according to the New York Times. After receiving no response from the actor after shaking him, they called authorities.

"We are investigating the possibility of an overdose," Browne said. "There were pills within the vicinity of the bed."

A large crowd of paparazzi and gawkers began gathering Tuesday evening outside the building on an upscale block, where several police officers guarded the door. The medical examiner's office planned an autopsy on Wednesday, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

While not a marquee movie star, Ledger was a respected, award-winning actor who took his craft seriously rather than cashing in on his heartthrob looks. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as a gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain," where he met Michelle Williams, who played his wife in the film. The two had a daughter, Matilda, and lived together in Brooklyn until they split up last year.

Ledger most recently appeared in "I'm Not There," in which he played one of the many incarnations of Bob Dylan -- as did Cate Blanchett, whose performance in that film earned an Oscar nomination Tuesday for best supporting actress.

Ledger had finished filming his role as the Joker this year in "The Dark Knight," a sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins."

He's had starring roles in "A Knight's Tale" and "The Patriot," and played the suicidal son of Billy Bob Thornton in "Monster's Ball." He also played a heroin addict in the 2006 Australian film "Candy."

Before settling down with Williams, Ledger had relationships with actresses Heather Graham and Naomi Watts. He met Watts while working on "The Lords of Dogtown," a fictionalized version of a cult classic skateboarding documentary, in 2004.

Ledger was born in 1979 in Perth, in western Australia, to a mining engineer and a French teacher, and got his first acting role playing Peter Pan at age 10 at a local theater company. He began acting in independent films as a 16-year-old in Sydney and played a cyclist hoping to land a spot on an Olympic team in a 1996 television show, "Seat."

After several independent films, Ledger moved to Los Angeles at age 19 and co-starred opposite Julia Stiles in "10 Things I Hate About You," a teen comedy reworking of "The Taming of the Shrew." His movie career caught on soon after that, culminating with his Academy Award nomination for "Brokeback Mountain."

"Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan said earlier this month that Ledger's performance as the Joker would be wildly different than Jack Nicholson's memorable turn in 1989's "Batman."

"It was a very great challenge for Heath," Nolan had said. "He's extremely original, extremely frightening, tremendously edgy. A very young character, a very anarchic presence that taps into a lot of our basic fears and panic."

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