February 1, 2008 / 12:44 AM / in 10 years

Hollywood rallies to Heath Ledger over video

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a rare display of unity, Hollywood rallied to the side of Heath Ledger to protest the airing of a two-year-old video showing the deceased actor at a drug-fueled hotel party that was yanked off U.S. airwaves.

Australian actor Heath Ledger poses during a photocall to present his film 'Candy' in the competition at the 56th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 15, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

“Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider,” which feature interviews with Hollywood stars about their new TV shows and movies, had planned to air the video on Thursday.

After they had aired portions of the video on the U.S. East Coast, a spokeswoman for the TV shows said in a statement released on Wednesday evening that they decided against playing the video “out of respect for Heath Ledger’s family.”

But the decision followed a campaign by Ledger’s publicity firm, Los Angeles-based ID-PR, to rally Hollywood’s creative community against the shows.

ID-PR sent an e-mail to public relations companies, talent agencies, management firms and studio executives, calling into question the “common decency” of the programs’ producers.

“This is not journalism, it is sensationalism. It is a shameful exploitation of the lowest kind, to a talented and gentle soul, undeserving of such treatment,” said the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

“We are asking the Hollywood community to pressure ‘Entertainment Tonight’ to pull the segment,” the e-mail said.

Mara Buxbaum, chief operating officer of ID-PR, said, “there were a lot of people who were so appalled ... they stood up for what was right.”

A spokeswoman for “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” was not immediately available to comment on the ID-PR e-mail.

Ledger, 28, an Oscar nominee for his role in gay romance “Brokeback Mountain,” was found dead in his bed at his New York apartment last week with sleeping pills and other prescription drugs nearby, police said. An official cause of death has yet to be determined.

The grainy video, portions of which can be seen on Web sites, does not show Ledger using drugs, but he can be heard admitting to smoking marijuana in the past. The video was said to be taken in January 2006 at the Chateau Marmont hotel on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.

In recent days, several magazines and Web sites, citing unnamed sources, said Ledger went on drinking binges and used cocaine and other drugs. They said his companion Michelle Williams, who co-starred with Ledger in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” left the actor in 2007 to get their daughter Matilda away from his partying lifestyle.

“Michelle didn’t want their daughter around that,” one source told People magazine.

Us Weekly reported that Williams even went so far as to drive Ledger to a rehab clinic outside Los Angeles but he refused to check in.

Editing by Jill Serjeant and Mohammad Zargham

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