Ledger buried in discreet service

Tragic Australian actor Heath Ledger was remembered at a private memorial service in his home town today.

Tragic Australian actor Heath Ledger was remembered at a private memorial service in his home town today.

Actor Cate Blanchett gave a eulogy and Ledger's father thanked his son's fans for their support.

Actors Cate Blanchett and Bryan Brown at the memorial service for Heath Ledger at Penrhos College in Perth, Australia. The late Australian actor was found dead in his New York apartment on January 22, from an overdose of prescription drugs. Photo: Getty
Actors Cate Blanchett and Bryan Brown at the memorial service for Heath Ledger at Penrhos College in Perth, Australia. The late Australian actor was found dead in his New York apartment on January 22, from an overdose of prescription drugs. Photo: Getty

Ledger (28) best known for his role as a conflicted gay cowboy in the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain, died of an overdose of prescription drugs in his New York apartment on January 22nd.

His death shocked film fans and actors around the world and prompted warnings about mixing prescription drugs, particularly pain killers, tranquillisers and sleeping pills.

Among the mourners at the memorial service, in Perth, were Ledger's former partner and Brokeback Mountainco-star Michelle Williams, who arrived with Ledger's sister Kate but without the couple's two-year-old daughter Matilda.

Also among the hundreds of mourners at the service, at a private girls school, was model Gemma Ward, with whom Ledger had been reportedly linked, as well as Australian actors Blanchett, Bryan Brown and Joel Edgerton.

Ledger's father, Kim Ledger, had earlier asked the media to allow the family to grieve in private, but said cameras would be allowed to photograph mourners as they arrived for the memorial service.

"It's a pretty sad time and we are finding it difficult to cope by ourselves, let alone cope with everybody around the world," Mr Ledger told reporters outside the family home earlier.

"Having said that, we do really appreciate the outpouring and the emotional support from all over the world."

The memorial service lasted about 90 minutes. Local media said Ledger's body was then cremated at a private funeral service attended by only about 10 immediate family members. Other mourners went on to a beachside restaurant for a wake.

Ledger starred in 18 movies in Australia and Hollywood, and received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a gay cowboy opposite co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.

Most recently, he starred as the Joker in the latest Batman movie Dark Knight, and was one of the many incarnations of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There.

He was working in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at the time of his death.

Other films included Casanova, The Brothers Grimm, Monster's Balland Ned Kelly, where he portrayed Australia's best-known bushranger.

Mourners said Blanchett, Ledger's parents and sister all gave moving and poignant eulogies at the service, which also included video clips of the actor and some of his favourite music, including Dylan's The Times They Are A Changing.

Born in Perth in 1979, Ledger first gained attention playing a surfer in an Australian television soap, but had his big break when fellow Australian Mel Gibson cast him in a leading role in the 2000 film The Patriot.

The brooding actor was considered one of the industry's great young talents, with Australia's media including him in the "Aussie Hollywood Mafia" group alongside Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.

Actors Cate Blanchett and Bryan Brown at the memorial service for Heath Ledger at Penrhos College in Perth, Australia. The late Australian actor was found dead in his New York apartment on January 22, from an overdose of prescription drugs. Photo: Getty