Heath Ledger's Family Recall His Tragic Accidental Overdose

By David Konow 07/29/16

The late actor's father also warned others about the danger of mixing prescription medications.

Heath Ledger's Family Recall His Tragic Accidental Overdose

It was a bittersweet moment when The Dark Knight was released in 2008 to major box office success and critical acclaim. Heath Ledger put in a brilliant performance as Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker, but he died of an accidental overdose of several drugs, including oxycodone, before the film’s release. (The fact that he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor posthumously was a true testament to his talent.)

Now, eight years after his passing, Ledger’s family recalls warning him about mixing medications, which ultimately caused his untimely passing at age 28. Ledger was struggling with insomnia, and when he mixed together oxycodone, diazepam and hydrocodone, among others, it caused his system to shut down.

As his father, Kim Ledger, said to news.com.au, the actor's sister Kate told him, “You can’t mix drugs that you don’t know anything about.” The last thing Ledger said to her was, “I’ll be fine.”

Ledger’s autopsy report listed his death as accidental from “acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone (Vicodin), diazepam (Valium), temazepam, alprazolam (Xanax) and doxylamine (an antihistamine and a sedative).”

In the wake of his son’s death, Ledger’s father has been speaking out. He doesn’t believe his son was an addict, but that his death was “a one-off thing." "That’s what killed us," he said. "Losing a child is something that never leaves you. You can live with the pain, but it never leaves you.” (Ledger would also leave behind a daughter, Matilda, who is now 10 years old.)

As Kim Ledger continued, “He was a young guy that traveled all the time for work. He was trying to work and travel and do everything in a short space of time.”

Kim told the Daily Mail, “Because he was traveling a lot, he would pop in to a doctor. In the case of someone with a higher profile it’s often a case of ‘what do you want’ instead of ‘what do you need.’ There’s so much pressure on them to perform so even though your body is telling you that it’s not good and needs time, it’s like ‘Just take these painkillers and keep going.’”

In addition to The Dark Knight, Ledger also starred in Brokeback Mountain and Lords of Dogtown.

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.