Ledger poised for Oscar win

HOLLYWOOD - Heath Ledger is poised to become only the second actor in Oscars history to win a posthumous Academy Award on Sunday, a poignant final epitaph to a career tragically cut short just over a year ago.

By (AFP)

Published: Thu 19 Feb 2009, 8:13 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:51 AM

Ledger, who died in New York in January last year aged 28, is the favorite to emulate fellow Australian Peter Finch -- a winner for 1976 classic "Network" -- for his performance as the Joker in Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight."

One US bookmaker is quoting odds of 1/80 for a Ledger victory, meaning anyone wishing to bet on Ledger will have to place 80 dollars to win one.

If the Oscar is confirmed, it will be the crowning accolade for Ledger, who has already been honored at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards and British Academy Film Awards amongst others.

Buzz about Ledger's performance in "The Dark Knight" had been building even before his death, with interest reaching fever pitch in the months leading up to movie's worldwide release last July.

Gary Oldman, who plays Gotham City police officer Lieutenant Jim Gordon in the film, was among several who predicted an Oscar, saying he was captivated by his co-star as soon as he saw him on set.

"I got a sense of it the first morning I worked with him. And I thought "... this kid's a bit good'," Oldman said. "It's like he's found a radio station that the rest of us can't hear. And that happens to actors sometimes.

"Over the years when I've seen great performances -- (Jack) Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon' -- you go "wow, there's something really special at work here'. And I think Heath's done that here. It's like he's gone through the sound barrier."

Director Christopher Nolan said Ledger, renowned for taking on difficult, edgy roles during his career, was chosen for precisely for that reason.

"For the role of The Joker I was looking for fearlessness," Nolan said. "I needed a phenomenal actor, but he (Ledger) also had to be someone unafraid of taking on such an iconic role ... Heath created something entirely original."

Oldman meanwhile has discounted suggestions that the disturbing nature of Ledger's last role was somehow a contributory factor in his death.

"People want a dark story," Oldman said. "I thought he was just a beautiful kid, wonderful. Charismatic doesn't even begin to describe it. You need a whole new word for charismatic."

Ledger first appeared on Australian screens in soap operas such as "Home and Away," and while still a teenager left his home in Perth in Western Australia to further his career in Sydney.

Within years he had moved to Hollywood, where he was snapped up for US films on the strength of what Mel Gibson described as "the unknown factor" that "sort of lights up the screen."

Although he had no formal training, Ledger won critical acclaim for his performances, which stretched from the lead in 2002's period piece "The Four Feathers" to a love-addled drug addict in the 2006 Australian film "Candy".

Heath Ledger was born to Sally Ledger Bell, a French teacher, and race car driver and mining engineer Kim Ledger in the Western Australian capital of Perth on April 4, 1979.

Although a talented sportsman, playing hockey at state level while a teenager, he found an early love for drama at high school.

After roles in several Australian films, Ledger broke into the industry in 1999 in a bigger way with "Two Hands" with Australian actor Bryan Brown and the Hollywood teen flick "10 Things I Hate About You".

In 2000, Oscar-winning actor and director Mel Gibson hand-picked Ledger from 500 others to play his son in the US war of independence epic "The Patriot", and he followed this with "Monster's Ball" and "A Knight's Tale".

In 2004, he began dating his co-star in "Brokeback Mountain" Michelle Williams, and in October the following year their daughter Matilda Rose was born. Ledger and Williams moved to the US but separated in September 2007.

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