NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City’s medical examiner conducted an autopsy on actor Heath Ledger on Wednesday and said a cause of death for the film star would be determined in 10 days to two weeks.
Ledger, 28, was found on Tuesday face down and naked at the foot of his bed with sleeping pills and other prescription medication nearby, police said, in a death that shocked his family, fans and Hollywood.
“The autopsy was finished and the cause of death for Mr. Ledger will be pending further study. We have to do additional testing and investigation. It’s going to be about 10 days to two weeks,” said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the office of chief medical examiner.
The handsome Australian is best known for playing a gay cowboy in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” for which he received an Oscar nomination. He had completed filming his role as The Joker in the new Batman film, “The Dark Knight,” due out later this year.
His family in Australia called his death a tragic accident.
“We, Heath’s family, can confirm the very tragic, untimely and accidental passing of our dearly loved son, brother and doting father of Matilda,” his father, Kim, said, reading from a statement outside the family home in Perth, Australia.
Ledger’s mother, Sally, and sister, Kate, gathered with Kim Ledger at the family’s suburban home and said they wanted to be left to grieve in private.
His former companion Michelle Williams, a co-star in “Brokeback Mountain” and mother of their 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, was flying back to New York from Sweden, the New York Daily News reported.
The couple split up in September and Ledger moved from their Brooklyn home to an apartment in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
“The saddest thing is his daughter whom he just loved dearly,” Larry Williams, the actress’ father, said in Australia.
“Tennyson got it right in the poem when he described someone as having died at a young age but burning the candles at both ends, and oh what a beautiful flame he made. That was Heath, what a beautiful flame he made and a great talent. My heart goes out to everyone in his family and my family,” he said.
Accolades also came from Hollywood’s elite, who considered Ledger a special talent who stood out both as leading man and supporting actor in films such as “The Patriot” in 2000 and “Monster’s Ball” in 2001.
“What a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to his family,” actress and fellow Australian Nicole Kidman said.
Mel Gibson, who played Ledger’s father in “The Patriot,” said his thoughts and prayers were with Ledger’s family.
“I had such great hope for him,” Gibson said in a statement released by his publicist. “He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss.”
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the country had lost one of its top actors in the prime of his life.
“Heath Ledger’s diverse and challenging roles will be remembered as some of the great performances by an Australian actor,” Rudd said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Michael Perry in Sydney and Rob Taylor in Canberra; editing by Claudia Parsons and Eric Beech