News of Heath Ledger's tragic death spread Tuesday within minutes from New York to Australia to Hollywood across media outlets, BlackBerries and iPhones. Once the initial tragedy settled in, those who had known Ledger expressed their shock, shed tears and reflected upon the Oscar-nominated actor's life and accomplishments.
Ledger's body was discovered in his New York apartment by his housekeeper and masseuse in what the police believe was an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. From Australia, where the actor was born, to Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival was under way, it was hard for both those who knew Ledger intimately and those who had never crossed his path not to react to the startling and, to most, unbelievable news.
Australian actress Naomi Watts couldn't hold back tears at Sundance when she heard of her former boyfriend's death, according to several reports in Australian papers. The two dated from 2002 to 2004 after meeting on the set of "Ned Kelly."
Watts' best friend and fellow Aussie, Nicole Kidman, didn't offer a statement but simply reacted to the news by saying,"What a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to Heath's family."
Another colleague from Down Under, Mel Gibson, spoke about the young actor's promising career. "I had such great hope for him," Gibson said in a statement. "He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
Ledger starred alongside Gibson in 2000's "The Patriot," which would help catapult the up-and-comer to the forefront of the Hollywood scene.
The stunning news of Ledger's death came just as model Helena Christensen was on her way to visit him, she told Women's Wear Daily. Christensen, who was rumored have hooked up with Ledger this past fall following his split from actress Michelle Williams, told the fashion publication: "My heart goes out to his family. I am just beyond sad at this point, and shocked.
"I was on my way over to pay him a visit when I found out. I had just left him a message and heard his voice on the machine.
"He was such a special and genuine person, so extraordinarily talented because he was so raw and honest with his feelings," Christensen said. "He was so full of life, so electric. … This is immensely sad."
Other colleagues reflected on Ledger's acclaimed career.
Speaking at an Australian Week event in New York City, John Travolta called Ledger one of his favorite actors. "He's touched me deeply as a talent and it's a great loss,'' Travolta told the Access Hollywood Web site.
Travolta also touched on his battle with his Hollywood status to People magazine: "He was very modest. He was almost bashful when accepting compliments. He didn't want to make a big deal out of himself. He's a big deal."
Ledger's "I'm Not There" co-star Cate Blanchett also talked of Ledger's potential in the profession. Blanchett said in a statement to Australian papers, "I deeply respect Heath's work and always admired his continuing development as an artist." The Oscar-winning Australian actress offered her condolences: "My thoughts are with his family and close friends."
Another Oscar-winner and friend of the actor, Charlize Theron, learned of his death while walking down the red carpet at Sundance.