At just 28 years of age, actor Heath Ledger had conquered Hollywood after turning in stellar performances in well-received films. Ledger had the good looks, the talent, and the charisma to make a sizeable dent in the entertainment industry, and he quickly became a fan-favorite among moviegoers. While it took several years for Ledger to become a household name, his incredible performances were too hard to ignore, and his short time spent at the top of the Hollywood ladder was as impressive as they came. He was an actor who seemed to be well-liked by his peers, and he always came off as a genuinely nice guy in his interviews.
The Australian-born Ledger lived a short but successful life, and the legacy that he’s left behind is nearly unrivaled by anyone willing to step in front of the camera for a living. Upon his tragic death in 2008, Heath Ledger left behind a beautiful wife and a young daughter to pick up the pieces from one of Hollywood’s most infamous tragedies. When news broke of the actor’s death, it seemed as though the entire world was in shock, giving you a pretty good idea of the type of impact that he had on the lives of friends, family, and society alike. It’s been nearly a decade since his passing, and Hollywood just hasn’t been the same since.
While many people are aware of his career highlights, the 15 facts that we’ve gathered for you today are little-known bits of information about one of the best actors of his generation. Heath Ledger was one of the most interesting and talented individuals to ever make it in Hollywood, and these 15 incredible facts will no doubt give you a little more insight into the man who defined the iconic role of the Joker.
15. He Was Almost Spider-Man
Earlier in 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming hit theaters, and it quickly became a box-office blockbuster. This should come as no surprise considering the amount of success that the different iterations of Spider-Man have had at the box office. Everything kicked off back in 2002 with the release of the very first Spider-Man movie, and Tobey Maguire reaped the benefits of portraying Peter Parker perfectly. Tom Holland has gotten plenty of fanfare for his portrayal of the character, but it all started with Toby back in 2002.
While McGuire was perfect for the role, it’s interesting to think what would’ve happened had Heath Ledger accepted the position. Ledger was already making his way through Hollywood when he turned down the role, and a Heath Ledger version of Spider-Man is something that fans will always wonder about. Fortunately for Ledger, his role as the Joker cemented him as a bonafide legend.
14. He Had $150 To His Name Before Breaking Out
Everyone struggles while initially trying to make it in the industry, and there have been plenty of stories over the years about actors and actresses in dire financial straits before hitting it big. Back before he became a household name, Heath Ledger was just a young man with very little money trying to find his footing in the entertainment industry. Though many people struggle with money while trying to make it, you hardly hear about anyone only having $150 to their name before their big break.
Many individuals will mortgage their fate, and we’ve seen stories of perseverance in these situations. It took a lot of determination for Heath Ledger to continue to pursue his dreams with such little money, but his gamble paid off in a major way. For every Heath Ledger in this world, there are countless individuals who never get to see their dreams come to fruition.
13. He Beat Ashton Kutcher For His Role In 10 Things I Hate About You
Nearly a decade before giving the performance of a lifetime, Heath Ledger was still searching for his big break in the United States. In 1999, everything changed for the actor after he was cast as the character “Patrick” in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. The romantic comedy quickly became a favorite with young adults, and it wound up roping in $53 million at the box office. This became the role that helped launch Heath Ledger into the mainstream, and the sky was the limit for the actor after this breakout role.
Though many admire the portrayal of the character, few know that Heath Ledger beat out Ashton Kutcher for the role in the film. Kutcher was already starring in the series That ’70s Show, and getting the role in 10 Things I Hate About You would’ve been the icing on the cake. Instead, the role went to Heath Ledger, and the young actor’s career quickly exploded.
12. He Knocked Out A Director’s Teeth
After breaking out in the romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, Heath Ledger was looking to capitalize on his newfound success. As an actor, the last thing that you want to do is pump the brakes on a budding career, and Ledger chose to keep things moving ahead after breaking out. In 2001, Heath Ledger starred in the film A Knight’s Tale, and the movie has since developed quite the cult following since its release. A Knight’s Tale pulled down 117 million dollars during its theatrical run, and Leger had another hit under his belt.
With all the stunt work going on in a film that centers around jousting and medieval games, accidents are bound to happen. Unfortunately for the film’s director, he had several teeth knocked out by Heath Ledger while on the set of the film. The situation was completely accidental, but it’s since become an infamous moment for fans of the film.
11. He Met His Wife On The Set Of Brokeback Mountain
In 2005, Heath Ledger delivered an Academy Award-nominated performance in the film Brokeback Mountain. The film centered around two star-crossed lovers, and the film was well received by critics. With positive reviews all around, Brokeback Mountain went on to make 178 million dollars at the box office. Ledger’s performance in the film was praised by critics everywhere, and it was instrumental in him becoming a major player in Hollywood. Despite playing a gay cowboy in the film, it was his time on set that Ledger met his future wife.
Michelle Williams played Heath Ledger’s wife in the film, and the two eventually fell in love while working together. Hollywood romances are nothing new, but their stories seem to be much different than others. The pair was a perfect match for each other, and they ended up having a daughter together before Ledger’s untimely passing.
10. He Designed The Joker’s Makeup
Whether it’s in comics, film, or television, the Joker is a character who always sports a unique look that’s fitting of its specific iteration. When images first surfaced of Heath Ledger in his now iconic Joker makeup, there was a polarizing reaction from comic book fans and moviegoers. Regardless of which side of the fence you fell on, most people seemed to agree that Ledger’s Joker makeup was truly haunting. While it’s commonplace for costume and makeup designers to take charge of situations, Ledger was allowed to construct the look himself, giving a more personal feel to the character.
Despite the over-the-top Hot Topic look used by the most recent Joker before him, Heath Ledger went for a darker, more deranged look that fans still proclaim is the best in the character’s history. Having this type of knowledge about Ledger’s commitment to the role makes fans appreciate it that much more.
9. Ledger Was A Chess Champion
Typically, when you think of someone who’s proficient at playing the game of chess, a person who looks like Heath Ledger wouldn’t come to mind. Chess has a stereotype of attracting social outcasts who are too intelligent for their own good. Even in the world of film, people who play chess on a regular basis are usually depicted as being outcasts, and their characters are often on the wrong end of jokes. Because he was never a person to fall in line with the norm, it shouldn’t surprise most that Heath Ledger was once a chess champion growing up.
Ledger was just ten years old when he won Western Australia’s Junior Chess Championship, and we’re sure that few could’ve predicted that the kid who dominated the world of Chess in Australia would grow up to be one of the best actors in Hollywood. Maybe the next time we see a chess champion in a film, he won’t be paraded around as a walking punchline.
8. He Co-Founded A Record Label
One of the most popular scenes in the film 10 Things I Hate About You involves Heath Ledger dancing and singing in an attempt to serenade a young woman. Ledger displayed real charisma and a passion for music during the scene, and this turned out to be a reflection of who he really was. Heath Ledger was passionate about song and dance, and few people know that he actually helped establish a record label with musician Ben Harper. Celebrities are known for dabbling in different endeavors, and learning that Heath Ledger helped co-found a record label is one of the cooler stories to come out of Hollywood.
Ledger was known to be passionate for working behind the camera as well, and he even directed a music video for his partner Ben Harper. In total, Heath Ledger directed a total of three music videos in his lifetime, and had he lived longer, we suspect that he would’ve cranked out a few more projects.
7. He Nearly Broke Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nose
As we mentioned earlier, Brokeback Mountain was the story of two gay cowboys dealing with their frowned-upon relationship. The film was a massive critical and commercial success and is considered among the best films in Heath Ledger’s filmography. The passion that you saw on screen unfold between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal is a result of incredible acting, and the duo was incredibly convincing during their steamy scenes together. For those of you who’ve seen the film, you no doubt remember the intensity with which these two men kissed. It was a huge reason why their romance was so convincing on the big screen.
What most people don’t know, however, is that Heath Ledger almost broke Jake Gyllenhaal’s nose during one such scene. While coming in to plant a kiss on Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger came in a little too hot, and he almost broke his co-stars nose. Talk about being committed to a film role.
6. He Won 32 Awards For His Joker Performance
Over the years, a lot has been said about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in the film The Dark Knight. It remains one of the most chilling performances in the history of film, and Heath Ledger received an immense amount of praise after the film premiered. Outside of Mark Hamill‘s voice acting work on Batman: The Animated Series, Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight is considered the quintessential portrayal of the Joker.
Impressively, Heath Ledger found himself nominated for a grand total of 32 awards for his performance in the film. Among his most notable wins during the 2008 awards season was an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award. Ledger’s portrayal will forever be considered one of the greatest performances given in a film, and he set the benchmark at a nearly impossible height for future actors. With rumors swirling that a Joker film is being developed, fans cannot wait to see if there’s an actor alive who can top Ledger’s performance.
5. He Once Played Peter Pan
In the entertainment industry, you have to start somewhere, and this could mean taking on roles that you really don’t want. A lot of people get their first forays into acting during childhood, harnessing their love for the craft at an early age. I’m sure that most of us out of there have taken part in a play at either school or church at some point, and Heath Ledger, the man who became one of the greatest actors of his generation, is no exception to this. Long before he was breaking out in 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale, Heath Ledger was just child acting in a school play.
His first-ever performance came in the iconic role of Peter Pan when he was just 10 years old. How fitting that Heath Ledger began and ended his career by playing an iconic character? No one in that room knew it at the time, but they were watching the beginning of what ended up becoming an incredibly successful acting career.
4. A Theatre Has Been Opened In His Name
Typically, after the passing of someone who’s made a huge impact in the world, memorials and tributes can often be found erected throughout the planet. Heath Ledger left a lasting impression in the world of film, and the news of his passing completely rocked the world. He’s easily one of the biggest and most popular actors to come out of Australia, and several years after his death, his native country decided to pay him the ultimate honor.
In 2011, Ledger’s hometown of Perth dedicated a theater in his honor. Given that Ledger got his start in a theatrical performance at the age of 10, this was a touching and fitting tribute to the actor. When the theater opened, Ledger’s Academy Award and his iconic Joker costume were both on display, allowing fans a chance to see a physical representation of the legacy that he left behind. Oh, to have been able to witness this grand opening.
3. First Actor To Win An Oscar For A Superhero Film
Though it may have taken a number of years for them to become a major player in Hollywood, comic book adaptations have completely taken over the industry. Each year, Marvel and DC continue to outdo themselves, and superhero movies are now among the highest-grossing movies in the history of film. But for all of the financial success that Marvel and DC have found on the big screen, there has only been one actor who’s ever pulled down an Academy Award for a performance given in a superhero film.
For as much praise that Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Affleck have gotten for their porch rails of Iron Man and Batman respectively, neither man has even been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. Heath Ledger remains the only person to hold this incredible distinction, which is a true testament to how incredible his performance in The Dark Knight truly was. He set the benchmark for what a person could achieve in a superhero film, and it’s going to take one heck of a performance to pull down another Academy Award.
2. The Joker’s Nametag
Adding a bit of personal flair to an actor’s role is something that’s always refreshing to see, and Ledger brought a lot of his own personal touches to the Joker. Not only was he responsible for coming up with the now-iconic makeup, but he also decided to pay a little tribute to his daughter in the film as well. In one of the film’s most crucial moments, The Joker tries to convince Harvey Dent to become a full-time bad guy. During this scene, the Joker can be seen dressed as a nurse, though given his absurd makeup and unique markings, the character mainly did this as a gag.
If you look closely enough, you’ll notice that the Joker’s name tag in the scene has the name “Matilda.” “Matilda” is the name of Heath Ledger’s daughter, and he did this as a sweet little token of affection. Information like this just makes his performance seem all-the-more special when you go back and watch it.
1. Field Hockey Player
Most people on the planet grow up playing some type of sport, and each country boasts popular sports that differ from the next. In the United States, young men are more inclined to play football and baseball, while in Canada, hockey is all the rage. Some sports are even considered preferred for certain genders, and you’re more inclined to see a young girl in the United States playing soccer as opposed to playing water polo. Though it’s hardly popular in North America, field hockey is a sport that’s popular in certain countries around the world. Field hockey is a sport that’s predominantly played by women, but that didn’t stop Heath Ledger from indulging while growing up.
Given the types of characters that he’s played in his films, most would’ve expected that Ledger would’ve played a more masculine sport, but this wasn’t the case. Regardless of how you feel about field hockey as a sport, knowing that Heath Ledger played while growing up makes it exponentially cooler than it was.
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