28-year-old Australian actor Heath Ledger was found dead in a New York City Soho apartment at around 3:30pm this afternoon local time.
Details are still forthcoming as to the cause of death though police are investigating a potential drug overdose as two bottles of sleeping pills (one prescription) were found in the vicinity of the bed next to which his body was discovered naked and face down on the floor.
Police do not suspect foul play, though according to a spokesman there was no obvious indication of suicide. Rumors of the apartment belonging to actress Mary-Kate Olsen have since been discounted.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne tells USA Today that Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the Manhattan apartment believed to be his home. The housekeeper who went to let him know the masseuse had arrived found him dead at 3:26pm.
The very sad and unexpected news has shocked everyone. Ledger leaves behind one child, a two-year-old daughter named Matilda Rose, with his estranged wife actress Michelle Williams.
The young actor made a name for himself on Australian soaps and films like “Sweat,” “Home and Away” and “Two Hands”. He quickly landed the lead in the short-lived US fantasy series “Roar” before hitting movie stardom with such projects as “A Knight’s Tale,” “The Patriot,” and “10 Things I Hate About You”.
After a few years of misfires like “The Order,” “The Four Feathers” and “Ned Kelly”, the actor had a resurrgence with his Oscar-nominated performance in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain” which drew him great acclaim. He followed that up with the light comic fantasy “Casanova” and the Australian addict drama “Candy”.
His most recent on-screen appearance was the Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There”, and his final full role will be as The Joker in one of this year’s biggest films – the “Batman Begins” sequel “The Dark Knight”. Ledger had finished all his shooting and post-production work on ‘Knight’ so its content will not be affected by this tragedy and his already acclaimed performance should serve as a fitting tribute to his talent.
Not faring so well however is his next project. Ledger had been shooting “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” in the UK for Terry Gilliam as recently as the weekend. No word on how it will be affected.
Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.