LOS ANGELES – Heath Ledger won the supporting-actor Academy Award on Sunday for his demented reinvention of Batman villain the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” becoming only the second actor to win an Oscar posthumously.
Ledger’s triumph came exactly 13 months after his death from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs on Oscar nominations day last year.
His Oscar for the Warner Bros. blockbuster was accepted by Ledger’s parents and sister. They accepted the Oscar on behalf of Ledger’s 3-year-old daughter, Matilda.
“I have to say this is ever so humbling, just being amongst such wonderful people in such a wonderful industry,” said his father, Kim Ledger. “We’d like to thank the academy for recognizing our son’s amazing work, Warner Bros., and Christopher Nolan in particular for allowing Heath the creative license to develop and explore this crazy Joker character.”
Since his death, the 28-year-old Ledger has gained a mythic aura akin to James Dean, another rising star who died well before his time.
The Joker was his final completed role, a casting choice that initially drew scorn from fans who thought Ledger would not be up to the task given Jack Nicholson’s gleefully campy rendition of the character in 1989′s “Batman.”
In the months before Ledger’s death, buzz on his wickedly chaotic performance swelled as marketing for the movie centered on the Joker and the perverted clown makeup he hid behind.
Ledger’s death fanned a frenzy of anticipation for “The Dark Knight,” which had a record $158.4 million opening weekend last summer.