January 26, 2008 / 1:30 AM / 10 years ago

Ledger memorials planned for New York, Los Angeles

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The family of Heath Ledger was due to hold a private memorial in New York on Friday to mourn the 28-year-old Australian actor who died under mysterious circumstances on Tuesday, Australia’s foreign minister said.

<p>(L-R) Libby Hobday, 28, of Melbourne, Australia, and Christina Jeffs, 22, of Los Angeles, California, tape an Australian flag above a makeshift memorial in front of the building where actor Heath Ledger died in New York January 23, 2008. REUTERS/Nicholas Roberts</p>

A public remembrance has also been proposed for Los Angeles in the coming days, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told reporters in New York where he was visiting the United Nations.

“I understand there’s a private memorial service today for family members. I also understand it’s proposed there will be a public memorial service in Los Angeles later this week,” Smith said, adding that Australian consular officials have offered to help the family repatriate the body.

He provided no details of a Los Angeles memorial, and said any tributes in Australia would be up to the family.

“Certainly in Australia, in my own home town of Perth (where Ledger was from), there’s been public expressions of grief and sadness at the passing of Heath,” Smith said.

Ledger’s father Kim was expected to claim the body on Friday, the New York Daily News said, citing a funeral director.

“He wants to be with his son,” Dominic Carella, director of New York City’s Frank E. Campbell funeral home where Ledger’s body was taken, told the Daily News.

‘OLD SOUL’

Kim Ledger and actress Michelle Williams, the mother of Ledger’s 2-year-old daughter Matilda, were among those expected at a private viewing on Friday, the paper said.

<p>The transport casket for actor Heath Ledger is loaded into a hearse outside the Frank E. Campbell funeral home in New York, January 25, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky</p>

Williams starred with Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain,” the 2005 film for which the actor received an Oscar nomination for his powerful portrayal of a gay cowboy.

The couple split up last September and Ledger moved to an apartment in the SoHo area of Manhattan where his naked body was found on Tuesday, face down under the covers of his bed with sleeping pills and other prescription medication nearby.

Police said there was no suicide note, no illegal drugs and no evidence of foul play. An autopsy conducted on Wednesday proved inconclusive and further test results were expected within two weeks.

In a newspaper death notice published in Australia, Ledger’s family called him an “old soul in a young man’s body.” Kim Ledger said “We were one, in soul and commitment, just ... father and son,” and sister Kate said: “We were the ultimate soul mates.”

Ledger’s body was discovered by a masseuse who went to his apartment for an appointment. The masseuse called Hollywood actress Mary-Kate Olsen, a friend of Ledger‘s. She summoned private security guards, who arrived at the same time as emergency services.

“Heath was a friend. His death is a tragic loss. My thoughts are with his family during this very difficult time,” Olsen said in a statement released to People magazine.

Ledger told The New York Times in November he had trouble sleeping due to the stress of his work on two recent films and was taking sleeping pills.

Close friend and model Sophie Ward, whose supermodel sister Gemma Ward was romantically linked by the media to Ledger, told Australian media that Ledger was edgy and anxious during his Christmas holidays in Perth about not seeing his daughter.

“He was clean and wasn’t drinking any alcohol or taking drugs,” Ward told The West Australian newspaper on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons and Marko Georgiev; Editing by Eric Walsh

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