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Heath Ledger, Prague
, 2000 (printed 2009)

by Bruce Weber

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 43.0 cm x 33.5 cm, image: 42.0 cm x 32.5 cm, frame: depth 4.3 cm)

Heath Ledger (1979–2008), actor, left his native Perth with a mate in his teens and arrived in Sydney virtually penniless. With no formal acting training, he appeared on Australian television and in the feature film Two Hands (1999) before winning the lead in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and being chosen by Mel Gibson for The Patriot (2000). Having starred in A Knight’s Tale (2000) he returned to Australia to make Ned Kelly (2003), a box- office squib. For his heartrending performance in Brokeback Mountain (2005) he was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award and a BAFTA, and won the New York Film Critics’ Circle Award and an Australian Film Institute Award. He returned to Australia for Candy (2006) and was a member of the star ensemble in the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There (2007) before he turned to the last film he completed, The Dark Knight (2008). For his terrifying portrayal of the sociopath Joker he won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. The awards, however, were posthumous; a chronic insomniac, he died in New York from a toxic combination of prescription drugs at the age of twenty-eight. Cate Blanchett delivered the eulogy at his funeral in Perth.

Bruce Weber (b. 1946), photographer and filmmaker, made his name in the late 1970s with advertising campaigns for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Ever since, he has been one of the world’s leading fashion, editorial, portrait and advertising photographers. This characteristically smouldering photograph, taken in the Czech Republic while Ledger was filming A Knight’s Tale, appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in August 2000.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with the assistance of Alan Dodge AM 2009
Accession number: 2009.56