When Heath Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008, police found his apartment turned into a shrine to the Joker – his most torturing role.
Inside the ‘immaculately clean’ New York City apartment, investigators found several items showing Ledger’s obsession with the Batman villain, a law enforcement source told the New York Post.
Those items included Batman comic books, research on the origin of the Joker and clowns, small clown statues and recordings of Ledger practicing his own version of the Joker voice that would haunt a new generation of DC Comics fans.
‘He was studying up on the origins of clowns and all of the previous Jokers like Jack Nicholson’s character and Cesar Romero’s, who was the first Joker on TV,’ a source said.
‘He was trying to make his role different from the roles of the other actors. He was even studying how to make his voice different from theirs.’
The source says the cleanliness and organization of the apartment showed Ledger’s devotion to the character.
‘He was a perfectionist who clearly had a lot of respect for the character. All of that stuff was very tidy. He cared a lot about it,’ the source recalled.
Ledger moved into the apartment after breaking up with actress Michelle Williams, who he shares a daughter with, in September 2007.
In the wake of Ledger’s death in June 2008, many blamed the role for causing him to slip into a dark period.
In an interview with Empire magazine before his death, Ledger said he locked himself away in a London hotel room for about a month, writing a diary as the Joker and experimenting with different voices.
After his death, that very journal was found, and on one of the last pages was an ominous ‘bye bye’ scrawling. The book also included creepy photos, comic strips, drawings of the villain – as well as illustrations of clowns and hyenas.
Ledger told the New York Times in November 2007 that he was struggling with insomnia and would sometimes only sleep two hours a night.
His official cause of death was ruled an accident, from abusing a lethal combination of sleeping pills, pain killers, and anti-anxiety drugs.
Ledger was found dead by a masseuse who arrived at his loft in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan for a scheduled appointment.
The next month, The Dark Knight was released and became a major blockbuster success – grossing over a billion.
Ledger’s role as the Joker is considered by many critics to be the best iteration of the villain, and also Ledger’s finest work. The role saw posthumously win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He was 28 at the time of his death, and left behind a daughter, Matilda, with his ex-girlfriend Michelle Williams. Matilda is set to turn 11 years old on Friday.