Hollywood director reveals heartbreaking new detail about Heath Ledger’s tragic death

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Written By Maya Cantina

Stephen Gaghan has revealed heartbreaking new details about Heath Ledger’s tragic death for the first time.

The Hollywood director, 58, has spoken about a devastating phone call he received from Heath’s father Kim after the Australian actor’s death on January 22, 2008.

Heath tragically died of an accidental drug overdose in his New York apartment aged 28, and sixteen years on, Stephen has now shared how he learnt of the news.

He was speaking on Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History: Development Hell – which explores projects that didn’t make it to screen – about a movie Blink he had planned to make with Heath.

On the podcast, he explained how Heath was found with a copy of the Blink script beside him, while one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books also lay on his nightstand.

Stephen Gaghan has revealed heartbreaking new details about Heath Ledger’s tragic death for the first time (Heath is pictured in December 2005) 

The screenwriter told how Heath’s father Kim, who he had never met, saw his phone number on the script and called him after arriving on the scene in a moment of shock and grief.

Speaking for the first time about the call, he recalled: ‘The dad and the guy who was closest to him in his professional life, they were there with the body and our script was in bed with him, and [Gladwell’s] book was on the bedside table.

‘I think my number was on the script, like written. These guys, as you can imagine, they are in shock and they dialed that number and I don’t know why.’

He devastatingly said he ‘collapsed’ upon learning the heartbreaking news during the phone call, which came while he was in an airport with his wife Minnie Mortimer.

‘I’m in an airport with my wife just going from one place to another, and I literally just collapse, never happened to me before or since,’ he said. 

The Hollywood director (pictured in 2020), 58, has spoken about a devastating phone call he received from Heath's father Kim after the Australian actor's death on January 22, 2008

The Hollywood director (pictured in 2020), 58, has spoken about a devastating phone call he received from Heath’s father Kim after the Australian actor’s death on January 22, 2008

‘My feet went out from under me. I just literally sat down because I was like, ‘What?’

‘The emotion, what they were going through, I should not have been a party to in any way really, and yet as a human or as somebody who just cares, I just was there and I was listening and my wife was looking at me.

‘I remember her face and I was just like, I was speechless. I just listened and listened and listened. It was just really, really sad. And it’s still sad. For me, I just had to put a pin in it.’

Stephen also reflected on his ‘really special’ bond with Heath and how he had planned to make ‘a bunch of movies’ with the Joker star before his tragic death.

‘I met Heath Ledger and I’d gotten to be very, very close with him instantly. I had a real connection with him that was unusual and really special to me,’ he shared.

Heath tragically died of an accidental drug overdose in his New York apartment aged 28, and was found with the script for Stephen's movie Blink beside him

Heath tragically died of an accidental drug overdose in his New York apartment aged 28, and was found with the script for Stephen’s movie Blink beside him 

‘I had this feeling that I love this guy and was going to make a bunch of movies with him – and then I got [the] phone call.’

Stephen shared that he decided to ‘put a pin’ in his plans for the movie Blink after years of development following the news of Heath’s death.

He explained how he had previously considered Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead role, but after meeting Heath, couldn’t see anyone else but him portraying the character.

Stephen is best known for his work on 2020 film Dolittle, 2016’s Gold and 2005’s Syriana, as well as for writing the screenplay of Steven Soderbergh’s film Traffic.

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