Heath Ledger was battling drug addiction, depression and paparazzi before his death
Posted Oct 22 2008 4:32pm
Once again, the media vultures are swooping overhead over a fallen Hollywood figure. Unlike Britney Spears, however, this time they've captured their prey: Heath Ledger.
Much like Britney, his every moved was captured by a snapping camera or a shouting tabloid journalist who wanted to know about his romances, his break-ups as well as his reported drug abuse and mental illness.
Their pursuit came to an end Tuesday, just as the media and paparazzi attention was picking up. Is it any wonder that the intense media pressure could have been the tip of the iceberg that broke this promising young actor?
The acclaimed actor was found naked and unconscious in his $26,000-a-month Manhattan apartment, surrounded by prescription anti-anxiety and sleeping pills.
Ledger's parents, Kim and Sally, and his sister, Kate, said his death was a terrible accident.
"He was a down-to-earth, generous, kind-hearted, life-loving and unselfish individual who was an inspiration to many," his father said outside the family home in Perth, Australia.
New York police sources said the signs pointed to either an accidental overdose or suicide.
Ledger, 28, reportedly spent several days at a drug rehabilitation clinic, battling an addiction to heroin, after his split from fiancee Michelle Williams in September.
The couple met on the set of " Brokeback Mountain," the film that netted Ledger an Oscar nomination for his role as a gay cowboy.
Last night, Williams was on a flight from Sweden to New York with the couple's two-year-old daughter, Matilda. "It has just broken everybody's heart," said her father, Larry Williams.
After the split, Ledger moved into a luxury Soho loft boasting a private lift. But neighbours said the apartment was only partly furnished and his bed was just a mattress on the floor.
Police said they found prescription anti-anxiety and sleeping pills in the bedroom, including generic forms of Valium and Xanax.
They could not confirm reports Ledger had pneumonia.
In November, the reclusive actor said he suffered from insomnia and was regularly taking Ambien sleeping pills. Ambien, marketed in Australia as Stilnox, is not recommended for people with respiratory disease.
Ledger had just finished playing The Joker in the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight" -- a role that looked certain to set him up financially for the rest of his life.
Hollywood was in mourning for the intense, brooding star, who was named after Heathcliffe in " Wuthering Heights." Cate Blanchett, who has been nominated for two Oscars next month, said she was very saddened.
"I deeply respect Heath's work and always admired his continuing development as an artist," she said.