Heath Ledger’s father said his death came as a ‘terrible’ shock to the family, having recalled the heartbreaking final conversation they had with him.
When the movie was released six months later, his turn as The Joker became cemented in cinema history as one of the best performances ever, though also one that was ultimately tinged with sadness as his final role.
Ledger was posthumously awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, with father Kim accepting the accolade on his behalf - saying the honour would have been validation of his son's 'quiet determination to be truly accepted' by his fellow Hollywood stars.
Speaking to Australia’s ABC News seven years ago, Kim said the death came as a huge ‘surprise’ to the Ledgers.
The actor had accidentally overdosed on prescription painkillers, having struggled to sleep and turned to tablets to help.
Kim said his daughter, Kate, had spoken to her brother the evening before, warning him about the dangers of mixing medication.
“I guess the whole thing was such a surprise to us,” he said.
“We knew that he was taking some prescription medication for an illness that he had, and my daughter Kate was talking to him literally the night before.”
Recalling his son’s final moments, Kim continued: “It was daytime here in Perth and nighttime there in New York, and basically Heath was complaining about not being able to sleep because was busy, meeting Steven Spielberg the next morning.
“He really needed to be bright and shiny and it was finding it difficult with the chest cold, or the chest infection, to sleep.
“So Kate was saying to him, ‘Well, Heath, you can’t take sleeping tablets on top of prescription medication - you know, it’s not a good mixture.’
“And he sort of said, ‘Katie, Katie, look, it’ll be fine. I just need to get some sleep.’
“Well they are really the last words we ever heard from Heath - or at least the last words that Kate heard.”
Kim added: “It was a terrible shock to us. I mean, he literally went to sleep.”
Speaking about the final conversation herself, Kate told news.com.au that she and her younger brother had been 'laughing and joking'.
"He was a really happy person and he had huge plans for his future," she said.
"I spoke to him the night before and we were laughing and joking."
Dispelling rumours that his role in The Dark Knight contributed to how he was feeling and ultimately caused his death, she went on to add: "He was so proud of what he had done in Batman. And I know he had plans for another Batman. He loved working with Chris Nolan and Christian Bale and Gary Oldman. He just had the best time ever doing that film.
"When he came home at Christmas he couldn't wait to tell us all about it and he was doing the voice and laughing, showing me all the rushes. We had a great time."Featured Image Credit: dpa picture alliance archive / Alamy Stock Photo / ABC