From a time when all he had was 69 cents to his name and enough supplies to last him a trip across his home country to quickly becoming one of Hollywood's fastest rising stars, Heath Ledger has a lot to be thankful for. One could successfully argue that a combination of innate intelligence, unmatchable talent, and extreme stubborness has brought Heath where he is today. He has gained the respect and admiration of "Patriot" costar and mentor Mel Gibson who states, "Heath possesses an unlikely combination: he has incredible presence, yet he has no fucking pretensions."
Heath first got his start in the Globe Shakespeare Company in Perth, Australia. Catching the acting bug from his older sister Kate, Heath went on to star in the title role of "Peter Pan." He was smitten. "I just loved it," he says, "and kept doing it. I blinked my eyes and I was getting paid. Doors kept opening and I kept walking through them."
During his time at Guildford Grammar school, Heath maintained his interest in both drama and sports, obtaining numerous hockey awards as well as receiving honors in drama and being appointed the captain of the drama team in 1996. Heath also coordinated a team to take part in a nationwide high-school dance competition known as Rock Eisteddfod. "We were the first all-guys school to ever do it," states Heath. "I choreographed the whole thing. These kids had never danced and didn't think they could do it. By the end, when they won the competition, they were so blown away by it."
Heath's parents divorced when he was at age 10, yet he maintains that he was not devastated by the event. "The point I got to very quickly, after my parents' divorce, was to realize that they were just humans," he says. Heath still remains close with his father, saying that "our relationship went from being hin each other's face to being best friends. I guess that comes from understanding him as an adult now that I'm an adult." His immediate family has extended with half sisters Olivia and Ashleigh, whom he wishes he could spend more quality time with. "I feel like Im a stranger to them," Heath admits. "Thats why I try to get back as much as possible."
Finishing high school a year early at 16, he urged his friend Trevor DiCarlo (his best friend since he was 3 years old) to drive 2600 miles to Sydney in search of fame and fortune. "It was really about exploring life," says Heath. "I just wanted to get on that train that was flying past at 90 miles an hour. And my job was an excuse to get out and just do that." Heath's movie debut was in a 1997 Australian teen drama "Blackrock" which led him to a breakthrough part as the first Australian television gay role on "Sweat," a show about young Olympic hopefuls. "He had the choice of two roles," recalls his father. "One was the swimmer and the other was the gay bicyclist. I was thinking to myself, Yeah, he'll choose the swimmer! I used to be a swimmer when I was younger. This'll be great! But then he told me he chose the gay role. I went, 'Oh, God . . . well, O.K.' But his rseponse to that was 'Look, Dad, this is more of an acting role. So if I want to get some sort of recognition, that's the one I should be doing.' He wasn't fazed by any of the other stuff."
Soon he was starring in Fox's medieval drama "Roar," where Heath played a Celtic warrior prince. "Ironically, it was a 'Braveheart' rip-off," he says. "It was shot beautifully, and the script was half decent." Costarring as Heath's young wife was neophyte Keri Russell whom writers mistakenly killed off in the early episodes. "They shouldn't have let her die," Heath notes. "We worked together really well. And after they killed her, they were going through all the possibilities of how they could get her back. Couldn't come up with anything." Although the show was cancelled, it won the loincloth-clad Ledger legions of female fans and eventually an agent in the States.
While auditioning for roles in the States, Heath was hired for "Two Hands," a new black comedy which, ironically, brought him back to Australia. "You've apparently got to leave the country to get work," he laughs. "It cleaned up in Australia and it won all the awards." Unfortunately, the film didn't fare so well when played for audiences at Sundance. "I don't think I've met one American who fully understands exactly what's going on in that movie," jokes Heath. After "Two Hands," Heath had two days to get to Seattle from Sydney to begin shooting "Ten Things I Hate About You," with Julia Stiles. "I had no rehearsals, nothing. I just basically turned up and went, Uh, what am I doing?"
After "Ten Things," Heath refused succumb to the big-money lure of the youth-movie genre and waited over a year before accepting any work. "There's little depth in those scripts," he says about the numerous teen based movie scripts he was sent. "You can only take the psyche of a teenager to a certain level. "I was literally living off Ramen noodles and water just because I was sticking to my guns. It was very hard because they offer you so much money," says Heath. "I guess I had thrown myself into a higher league of actors on a list that I probably shouldn't have been on at that point, but saying no turned out to be a lot more valuable than saying yes."
After holding out for a year, Heath beat out nearly 200 actors for his role "The Patriot," in which he stars as a zealous Revolutionary War rebel at odds with his battle-weary father, played Mel Gibson. Heath revealed that after auditioning, he had to await a while, saying, "It was terrible. It was awful. For every day for three weeks they said: Tomorrow you're going to know, I promise you." He had also heard that Ryan Phillippe had been up for the role, saying, "Ryan did a really amazing screen test as well. The executives and everyone said: Fine, we'll leave it up to the director. If you pick this guy the movie's going to go this way and if you pick that guy the movie's going to go that way two different movies."
Name: Heath Andrew Ledger (not Heathcliffe, says he)
Birthday: April 4, 1979
Star Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Subiaco Hospital in Perth, Western Aus., Austraila
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: (Naturally) light brown/medium blonde
Parents: Sally (mother) and Kim (father)
Siblings: Cate, and half sisters Ashleigh and Olivia
Marital Status: Single
Current Residence: Los Angeles, California
Hobbies: Surfing, snowboarding, poetry, photography, painting, reading
Five Things That Make Heath Happy: family, friends, warmth, humour and love