Actor Heath Ledger, 28, was found dead at a Manhattan residence Tuesday. Police told ABC News’ Richard Esposito that prescription drugs including sleeping pills and two anti-anxiety medications likely played a part, and the death appeared to be accidental.
At 3:31 p.m., a masseuse arrived at the apartment in Manhattan’s downtown SoHo neighborhood for an appointment with Ledger, police sources said. The masseuse was let in by a housekeeper, who then knocked on the door of Ledger’s bedroom.
When no one answered, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found the actor unconscious at the foot of the bed, naked and face-down. Police told ABC News they found bottles of Diazepam and Alprazolam, two anti-anxiety drugs, prescribed in Ledger’s name.
The housekeeper and masseuse shook Ledger, but he did not respond. They then called the authorities, according to police.
Police added that they did not suspect foul play. Initial reports claimed actress Mary-Kate Olsen owned the apartment Ledger was found in, but police denied that the residence was Olsen’s. A police source later said the maid or the housekeeper called Olsen and her security team responded to the apartment on Broome Street.
They said it was not clear who owned the apartment, but Ledger appeared to be a resident.
The superintendent of the building, Tamba Mossa, told ABCNEWS.com that Ledger had “been renting the apartment for about four months” but he didn’t know who owned the residence. Mossa added that he was surprised to learn about Ledger’s death, saying the actor had always been “very nice” and would often go on walks with his young daughter.
“We are all deeply saddened and shocked by this accident,” Ledger’s publicity agent said in a statement. “This is an extremely difficult time for his loved ones and we are asking the media to please respect the family’s privacy and avoid speculation until the facts are known.”
Police said an autopsy will be performed on Wednesday.
News of Ledger’s death hit Hollywood fast.
Two hours after his death was first reported, Nicole Kidman, who hails from Ledger’s home country of Australia, released a statement to reporters saying, “What a tragedy. My heart goes out to his family.”
“I had such great hope for him,” Mel Gibson said in a statement to reporters. Gibson and Ledger worked together in 2000’s “The Patriot.”
“He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss,” he continued. “My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Promising Career Cut Short
The Australian-born Ledger is probably best known for starring in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” about two cowboys who fall in love. He earned Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for that role.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone’s film critic, believes “Brokeback” will likely be the movie for which Ledger is remembered.
“He wanted to be an actor, not just a movie star,” Travers said. “‘Brokeback’ was one of the greatest performances of an actor from his generation.”
Ledger also met actress Michelle Williams while filming the movie. The couple had a very public romance, and a daughter, Matilda Rose, in October 2005.
In September 2007, Ledger and Williams separated. Ledger was rumored to be dating British model Gemma Ward shortly before his death.
Later this year, Ledger is slated to appear as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” the latest film in the Batman franchise. In a November interview with The New York Times, he revealed how he’d thrown himself into the role, saying, “Last week, I probably slept an average of two hours a night. … I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”
According to the newspaper, he was taking the sleep medication Ambien to get rest, but to no avail.
Ledger may be the second young actor to die from drug-related causes in 2008. On Jan. 15, actor Brad Renfro, 25, was found dead in his Los Angeles home. Though his cause of death has yet to be determined, he had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and had been arrested multiple times for drug possession.