PERTH, Australia (AP) — Heath Ledger’s family joined celebrities and hundreds of other mourners Saturday to bid farewell to the actor at a memorial service in his Australian hometown that began with a haunting Aboriginal dirge.

The star’s former fiancee, actress Michelle Williams, arrived with a police escort in a six-car cavalcade with his parents, Kim Ledger and Sally Ledger-Bell, and sister Kate Ledger at Penrhos College, a Uniting Church girls’ school, after several hundred mourners arrived for the service in his hometown of Perth.

An emotional Williams, wearing dark glasses and a white dress with black trim, was not accompanied by Matilda, her 2-year-old daughter fathered by Ledger. She was ushered in clutching the arm of Ledger’s older sister.

Australian actress Cate Blanchett, who starred with Ledger in the Bob Dylan bio-flick “I’m Not There” – a role that earned her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress – was among the celebrities, who included actors, directors and sports stars.

Blanchett spoke about the times she shared with Ledger in New York and Los Angeles, Barbara Scott, a state lawmaker, told reporters after the 75-minute service.

A video tribute compiled by family and friends included footage from Ledger’s films and of his daughter.

Among the first to arrive at the high-security ceremony was Australian model Gemma Ward, a former girlfriend of Ledger, the 28-year-old “Brokeback Mountain” star who died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment last month.

Mourners filed through a screened side gate where two women dressed in black checked their identification.

The music reflected Ledger’s eclectic tastes: Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Neil Young’s “Old Man.”

“It was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful West Australian, an outstanding guy with great talent,” said Scott, a state lawmaker.

Local musician Levi Islam told reporters outside that he opened the service in a theater by playing an ancient Aboriginal dirge on a didgeridoo, a traditional wind instrument.

Kim Ledger said the service would be followed by a private funeral in Perth. He appealed for privacy and did not disclose the time or location.

“The funeral will be very, very private and there will only be 10 people there, immediate family and nobody else,” Kim Ledger said at a news conference outside the house of his former wife, Ledger-Bell.

“It’s a pretty sad time. We’re finding it difficult to cope by ourselves, let alone cope with everybody around the world,” he said.

“Having said that, we do really appreciate the outpouring and the emotional support from all over the globe,” he added.

Ledger’s death on Jan. 22 spawned outpourings of grief from New York to Hollywood to Perth, a small, remote city on the edge of the Outback in Australia’s southwest.

The New York city medical examiner announced Wednesday that Ledger died from the effects of taking six types of painkillers and sedatives.

Family members returned home from the United States this week to lay Ledger to rest following a memorial service in Los Angeles last weekend.

Mourners gathered after the service for a wake at a colonial-style waterfront restaurant at Cottesloe Beach, a resort on Perth’s coast that was a favorite spot of the actor’s.

Williams, 27, and Ledger became a couple during filming of “Brokeback Mountain,” in which the two costarred as husband and wife. Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the film.

They later moved to New York, where Matilda was born in October 2005.

 

Source:  http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_AE_CEL_AUSTRALIA_LEDGER_ASOL-?SITE=YOMIURI&SECTION=HOSTED_ASIA&TEMPLATE=ap_features_culture.html

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