What Actually Killed Heath Ledger? A New Documentary On Him Reveals His Unknown Facets

Ledger's death exposed.

What Actually Killed Heath Ledger? A New Documentary On Him Reveals His Unknown Facets

The world was shocked when the 28-year old Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment in the US on January 22, 2008. 

Ledger had just finished shooting The Dark Knight and no one could believe it when the news of his death surfaced. The autopsy reports revealed that death was caused by drug overdose. Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for riveting portrayal of the joker in the film. 

Ledger was an Australian actor who moved to Hollywood to promote his film career.

Nine years after his death, Ledger's old buddy and filmmaker Matt Amato's revelations about the mercurial actor have become a part of Spike TV's latest documentary titled, 'I Am Heath Ledger'. 

It will be premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on April 23 before its theatrical release on May 3. The film will be aired on Spike TV on May 17. 

Amato revealed the reason behind his initial reluctance to make a film on his buddy. "Heath was very private. He didn't even like any of that behind-the-scenes stuff, like DVD extras. He really loved being a magician. I can just hear him - he'd be like, 'Matt, don't! That takes the fun out of what we do! Let's just put on the show!"



Directed by Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray, 'I Am Heath Ledger' reveals the Ledger's private life through home videos, right from his early years in Perth, Australia, to his final days, and interviews of people who shared a personal and professional bond with Ledger. 

Amato, who co-founded a music video production company with the late Australian actor, was one of the first few people to meet Ledger on his first night in Hollywood and it was an instant bonding. Ledger was only 17 then and Amato who probably saw something in the young actor handed him the script of '10 Things I Hate About You'. 

"The day after he moved in I gave him the script of 10 Things I Hate About You, written by a friend. Which was kind of a lucky thing," Amato said. And the rest is history!


The documentary features interviews of his former girlfriend Naomi Watts, filmmakers Ang Lee and Catherine Hardwicke, and actors Emile Hirsh and Ben Mendelsohn, musician Ben Harper among others.  

It reveals how despite being a very private person Ledger had a fixation for making home movies. Some of the home videos in the documentary are contributed by family, friends, and well-wishers who are determined to show his creative and optimistic side that often goes unnoticed owing to the controversy surrounding his tragic death.


'I Am Heath Ledger' throws spotlight on how Ledger used his stardom to help his fellow Australian actors during their days of struggle. According to a report by USA Today, Ledger would host actors Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Bryne, Joel Edgerton at his Los Feliz estate, even allowing them to live with him and Naomi Watts, his then-girlfriend, for weeks and months. 

The USA Today report also talks about the increasing pressures of stardom that Ledger had to grapple with the grand success of A Knight's Tale. This led Ledger to say 'no' to Spiderman as he took up less rewarding roles in films like The Four Feathers and Monster's Ball. The report also reveals that Ledger had asked musician Ben Harper to write a lullaby for his soon-to-be-born daughter.


The documentary also examines the relationship that Ledger shared with Ang Lee during the filming of Brokeback Mountain for which Ledger got his first Academy Award nomination. In the trailer of 'I Am Heath Ledger' we hear Ang Lee complimenting Ledger. "Even as a supporting actor, he will steal the whole show. That's the power of Heath Ledger," he said.

In the trailer, we hear actor Ben Mendelsohn praising Ledger's acting versatility: "Before Brokeback Mountain came out it would have been impossible to think of a romantic tragedy involving two gay cowboys. This is one of the biggest heartthrobs on earth taking on that character. That's an artist."


The release of the Heath Ledger documentary has made people to re-speculate about the possible causes of Ledger's depressive state of mind that ultimately led to his death from drug overdose. 

Gerry Grennell, his friend and dialect coach, told People magazine about how badly Ledger missed his daughter. "He missed his girl, he missed his family, he missed his little girl - he desperately wanted to see her and hold her and play with her," said Grennell while talking about the trauma Ledger was going through owing to his relationship crisis with his former girlfriend Michelle Williams with whom he had a daughter named Matilda. 

Grennell also revealed that despite taking sleeping pills, Ledger couldn't get a good night's sleep and yet he couldn't stop himself from taking the pills. "It wasn't helping with the relationship issues, it wasn't helping with missing his kid, it wasn't helping his sleeping and he knew that," Grennell remarked.  


`I Am Heath Ledger' also reveals how Ledger's death inspired the Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon's 2011 song Perth, which talks about 'The Dark Knight' actor's upbringing in Australia.  

According to the news.com.au report, 'I Am Heath Ledger' also features clips wherein the actor confesses about his insecurities. He says, "It's kind of a rule of thumb for me to self-doubt, to think I fooled them."

'I Am Heath Ledger' Trailer

Are you waiting to see the new documentary?