It’s been more than 10 years since Heath Ledger died, and in that time, his legacy and reputation as an actor has been cemented as one of the greats taken too soon.
While he’ll be remembered by most of us for the roles he played on screen, there are a handful of people who knew the man off-screen, not just as himself but as a friend, partner and father.
At the time of his death, Heath had a 2-year-old daughter, with the actor Michelle Williams.
In the years since, she’s kept their daughter, Matilda, away from the media spotlight, and out of the showbiz world her parents are still very much part of.
While Michelle has revealed very little about her private life, and is careful not to talk too much about her previous relationship with Heath, she recently opened up and shared a few incredibly touching details in an interview with Vanity Fair.
The pair met while they were filming Ang Lee’s 2004 film Brokeback Mountain.
Matilda was born just before the movie was released, and the couple stayed together for the next three years. Just five months after they split, Heath sadly died of a drug overdose.
Inevitably, the media frenzy surrounding Michelle and Matilda after Heath’s death was intense, and almost too much for the young mum and daughter.
Michelle moved to upstate New York where she could raise her daughter away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi.
It was unmanageable to be stalked like that, every moment of the day. So I left, in a desire to create a sane home environment.
Michelle also spoke about the lasting impression Heath made and the lessons she hands down to their daughter, who is now 12-years-old.
I never gave up on love. I always say to Matilda, ‘Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes.’
When you’re a single parent, and that element of provider and protection is missing, it’s scary.
I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself […] Don’t settle. Don’t settle for something that feels like a prison, or is hard, or hurts you. If it doesn’t feel like love, it’s not love.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal last year, Michelle admitted to the challenges she’s faced as a single parent in the time since Heath’s death
In all honesty, for pretty much everything else, I feel like I’m a believer in not fighting circumstances, accepting where you are and where you’ve been. In pretty much all senses but one.
I would be able to go totally down that line of thinking were it not for Matilda not having her dad. You know, that’s just something that doesn’t… I mean, it just won’t ever be rig
Michelle recently married Phil Elverum, a singer-songwriter and producer, and is starring in the upcoming Marvel film Venom alongside Tom Hardy.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.