The actor Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday afternoon in an apartment in Manhattan, according to the New York City police. Some signs pointed to an accidental overdose or a suicide, although no note was found, police sources said. Mr. Ledger was 28.
At 3:31 p.m., according to the police, a masseuse arrived at the fourth-floor apartment of the building, at 421 Broome Street, between Crosby and Lafayette Streets in SoHo, for an appointment with Mr. Ledger. The masseuse was let in to the home by a housekeeper, who then knocked on the door of the bedroom Mr. Ledger was in.
When no one answered, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found Mr. Ledger naked and unconscious on a bed, with sleeping pills — both prescription medication and nonprescription — on a night table. They attempted to revive him, but he did not respond. They immediately called the authorities. As the news reports spread quickly, throngs of people gathered in the neighborhood.
The police said they did not suspect a crime. Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the office of the city’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, said that employees of the office were at the apartment and that an autopsy would be conducted on Wednesday. Around 6:30 p.m., city workers rolled Mr. Ledger’s body, in a black body bag on a stretcher, out of the building.
(At first, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for public information, said that the apartment was owned by the actress Mary-Kate Olsen, but later reversed himself and said that was not the case. In a phone interview, Annette Wolf, a representative of Ms. Olsen, said, “It is not her apartment,” adding, “She does not own the apartment. She has never owned the apartment. She and her sister have an apartment in New York City but they are not in this building.” An earlier version of this article reported the erroneous detail from the police.)
Heathcliff Andrew Ledger was born on April 4, 1979, to Sally Ledger, a French teacher, and Kim Ledger, an engineer. Named for a character in Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights,” he and his older sister, Katherine, grew up in Perth, Australia; his parents were divorced when he was about 10. As a student, he joined a local theater company and appeared in a production of “Peter Pan,” which led to his being cast in children’s television programs.
Mr. Ledger’s first Hollywood film was the teenage romantic comedy “10 Things I Hate About You” (1999). He later appeared in romantic-hero roles in films like “A Knight’s Tale” (2001) and “Casanova” (2005).
But the role for which Mr. Ledger was probably best known by American audiences was in “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). The film, based on a short story by Annie Proulx about two cowboys who fall in love, won critical acclaim. Reviewing the film in The New York Times, the critic Stephen Holden wrote, “Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character. It is a great screen performance, as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn.” Mr. Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in January 2006. (His death came on the same day that the 2007 Oscar nominations were announced.)
Mr. Ledger met the actress Michelle Williams while filming ‘’Brokeback Mountain.” They became romantically involved and moved to Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, where their comings and goings were widely noted by the celebrity press. They had a daughter, Matilda Rose, who was born on Oct. 28, 2005. The couple separated last year.
In an interview in London for an article published in November, Mr. Ledger told The Times, ‘’I feel like I’m wasting time if I repeat myself.” He said in the interview that he was not proud of his latest role, in Todd Haynes’s “I’m Not There,” in which Mr. Ledger was one of a half-dozen actors depicting the musician Bob Dylan. ‘’I feel the same way about everything I do. The day I say, ‘It’s good’ is the day I should start doing something else,” he said in the interview.
Mr. Ledger had been cast as the Joker in the latest Batman installment, “The Dark Knight,” set to be released this summer.
As news of Mr. Ledger’s death made its way across the Internet, the Police Department issued a fairly terse summary of the death: “On Tuesday, 01/22/08, at approximately 1530 hours, in the confines of the 5 precinct, police responded to 421 Broome Street and found a M/W/28 unconscious. The victim was pronounced DOA at the scene. M.E.’s office to determine the cause of death. Investigation continues.”
Calls by The Times to Mara Buxbaum, a publicist for Mr. Ledger, and Steve Alexander, the actor’s agent, were not immediately returned.
The building at 421 Broome Street was sold for $4.8 million in 1999 by Ho Hwa Properties Inc. to Red Tulip, L.L.C. Calls to a phone number listed for Junia Hissa Neiva, a Brazilian painter who is listed as an owner of Red Tulip and of the building, went to an answering machine that was full and could not accept new messages.
Julie McIntosh, a hair stylist in a SoHo salon a few doors down from the apartment building, said this afternoon that she used to see Mr. Ledger once or twice a week and had twice seen him going on walks with his young daughter. “I think it’s really sad,” Ms. McIntosh said. “He’s a really nice guy. He seemed happy.” A month ago, she said, she chatted with Mr. Ledger in front of the salon and jokingly asked him, “When are you going to come in and let me wash your hair?” Ms. McIntosh said she believed Mr. Ledger had been living in the area for several months. “He always said hello,” she said.
Outside Ms. Williams’s house in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, this evening, residents expressed shock at Mr. Ledger’s death. Elliott Puckett, an artist who lives in neighborhood, said, “That’s terrible. I used to see them with their dry cleaning and their baby. It’s really sad.”
Emily Ekman, a student who lives in Boerum Hill, said, “I knew Michelle. I’m blown away. I hope she’s O.K. She must be really upset.”
Elise Harris, who lived across the street from Ms. Williams and Mr. Ledger, said, “I’d met them. They were very nice, with their daughter. I think shock is the reaction. I didn’t even know he was on drugs, but that’s the kind of thing you don’t know unless you are in that circle. He was a nice guy, attractive, very friendly.”
A block away, at the Brooklyn Inn, the manager, Jason Furlani, said, “Obviously we’re shocked that it happened. We knew that he was in the neighborhood. I saw him around with his wife and daughter in the neighborhood, just normal folks. It’s a tragedy.”
Al Baker, Julie Bloom, John Eligon, David S. Hirschman, Thomas J. Lueck and John Sullivan contributed reporting. This is the initial blog post on Mr. Ledger’s death. More news coverage is available at NYTimes.com.
** The CafeMom Team