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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Heath Ledger dies at 28

January 24, 2008

NEW YORK (CNN) — Actor Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday of a possible drug overdose in a Lower Manhattan apartment, the New York Police Department said.

The Academy Award-nominated actor was 28.

Ledger was found naked and unresponsive, facedown on the floor at the foot of his bed by a housekeeper trying to wake him for an appointment with a masseuse, said police spokesman Paul Browne.

“Pills were found in the vicinity of the bed,” he told CNN.

“This is being looked at as a possible overdose, but that is not confirmed yet.”

Browne later told reporters some prescription medications were found in the room, including sleeping pills.

But he stressed police have made no determination of the cause of Ledger’s death — that would be done by the medical examiner.

He said the pills were not “scattered about.”

No note was found and there was no indication of foul play, Browne said. Ledger was found at about 3 p.m., and was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency personnel about 3:30 p.m.

A crowd of onlookers, photographers and reporters gathered outside the apartment building after news of Ledger’s death was reported. Police officers were guarding the doors.

Browne said he did not know how long Ledger had been renting the apartment, which he said took up the entire fourth floor.

An autopsy would be conducted on Wednesday, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office.

Ledger’s family called his death “very tragic, untimely and accidental.”

“Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life, but few had the pleasure of truly knowing him,” his father said.

“He was a down-to-earth, generous, kindhearted, life-loving, unselfish individual extremely inspirational to many.”

Hollywood reacts

Condolences began pouring in from Ledger’s friends and co-stars.

“I had such great hope for him,” said Mel Gibson, who played Ledger’s father in “The Patriot,” in a statement.

“He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Actress Nicole Kidman, a fellow Australian and close friend of Ledger’s, said in a statement, “What a tragedy. My heart goes out to his family.”

At the time of his death, Ledger had just finished playing the villain The Joker in “The Dark Knight,” the latest installment in the Batman series. The film is to open in July.

Ledger was born in Perth, Australia, and named Heathcliff Andrew after the main characters of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” He began acting at a local theater as a child.

Ledger’s first American film was the teen comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” in 1999, and he immediately attracted attention from Hollywood. He passed up several scripts before taking a role in the Revolutionary War drama “The Patriot” in 2000 and “A Knight’s Tale” in 2001. He also played a supporting role in “Monster’s Ball,” among other films.

Controversial role

But Ledger was perhaps best known for his 2005 portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain,” about two cowboys who had a secret romantic relationship. The role earned him an Oscar nomination.

“I felt that choices were being made for me, so I feel this has been my time now to find the good stories and test myself,” Ledger told the Glasgow Herald in the 2005 interview. “It has been an interesting year, where I finally have a sense of accomplishment.”

Asked how he felt about filming love scenes with another man, Ledger said he and his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal simply focused on their roles.

“We can’t say that we weren’t nervous about it,” Ledger told Oprah Winfrey in 2006. “But once the first take was over, it’s like, ‘OK. So what? It’s kissing another human being. How are we going to finish this scene? Let’s get on with it and let’s get out of here.’ ”

In a written statement, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said it mourns Ledger’s death, adding that his portrayal of Del Mar “changed hearts and minds in immeasurable ways.”

Ledger has a daughter, Matilda Rose, born in 2005 to his then-girlfriend, Michelle Williams, who played his on-screen wife, Alma, in “Brokeback Mountain.” The couple have since separated.

“He was just so respected in the industry,” said Kim Serafin, senior editor of In Touch Weekly.

“It’s just horribly tragic. He was just a fine actor and a good person, so this is horribly sad and very unexpected.”

taken from:http://edition.cnn.com/