Movie star HEATH LEDGER has been found dead in his Manhattan, New York apartment.
The actor was declared dead by medics at his Broome Street, Soho home at 3.30pm on Tuesday (22Jan08), according to the New York Police Department.
A police spokesperson reveals Ledger was discovered by his housekeeper, after he failed to answer the door to a masseuse he had booked to give him a massage.
Pills were found strewn around his apartment.
The Australian Brokeback Mountain star, 28, was just about to start promoting the Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight, in which he plays movie villain The Joker.
Born in Perth in 1979, Ledger made a name for himself in a series of brooding roles on the big screen; he was nominated for a 2006 Oscar for his portrayal of a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain.
Fiercely private, Ledger has openly spoken about his public shyness, but he hit the headlines for romances with Heather Graham, Naomi Watts and his Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams, the mother of his two-year-old daughter Matilda Rose.
A star field hockey player and athlete, Ledger turned his attentions to drama in his teens and, when a friend headed to Sydney, Australia to chase an acting dream, the star-to-be went along for the ride.
He landed a break as a gay cyclist in 1996’s Sweat – a TV drama about a group of Olympic hopefuls – and then he portrayed the best friend of a rapist in low-budget 1997 movie Blackrock.
Hedger left Australia to find acting work in America in 1999 and landed the lead in Aussie director Gregor Jordan’s crime thriller Two Hands.
That film helped him land the lead hunk role in teen movie hit 10 Things I Hate About You.
He went on to play Mel Gibson’s son in The Patriot and Billy Bob Thornton’s troubled offspring in Monster’s Ball. Both roles earned Ledger high praise from critics.
But then came a string of critical flops – A Knight’s Tale, Ned Kelly, Four Feathers, The Order, Lords Of Dogtown and The Brothers Grimm, which left Ledger desperate for another hit.
But then followed Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain in 2005, which Ledger has often described as a major turning point in his professional and personal life.
As awkward cowboy Ennis Del Mar, Ledger regained his position as one of Hollywood’s top stars. The role led to a Best Actor Oscar nod and the coveted role of The Joker in the upcoming The Dark Knight, for which he’s already receiving great acclaim.
Ledger has also won acclaim for his role as Robbie Clark in quirky Bob Dylan-inspired movie I’m Not There.
The tragic star was last seen publicly on the London set of director Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus on Saturday (20Jan08).