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Heath Ledger Dead at 28; Is Oscars Going to be Another Golden Globes?; Tiger Woods Gets Kelly Tilghman Off the Hook

Aired January 22, 2008 - 23:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: Shocking, breaking news tonight. Heath Ledger is dead. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. TV`s most provocative entertainment news show starts right now. On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, tragic, late-breaking news. Heath Ledger is found dead. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the stunning details.
What happened to the "Brokeback Mountain" star that leaves behind a little daughter with actress Michelle Williams? Were drugs involved? Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the dramatic details of Heath Ledger`s shocking death.


Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer, broadcasting tonight and every night from New York City where there is news so shocking tonight it is almost hard to believe. Heath Ledger has been found dead in an apartment here in New York City. He was just 28 years old. From New York to Hollywood, to the Sundance Film Festival, where Hollywood`s biggest stars have been in the past week, there is absolute shock. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson is at Sundance. She`s been gathering the latest information. Brooke, what do we know?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CO-HOST: Well, A.J., Heath Ledger just 28 years old, was found dead today in a Manhattan apartment. Soho, actually. New York police said Ledger had an appointment with a massage therapist for a massage and then when that masseuse arrived, the housekeeper and masseuse found Ledger dead in his room. "The New York Times" reports that he was naked in his bed.

Now, authorities tell us that the death could be caused from a possible drug overdose, that there were pills around him, and that those pills were over the counter sleeping medication. But, A.J., of course, the medical examiner will have to make the determination of the cause of death and that could take a while.

HAMMER: Absolutely incredible news tonight. Stay right where you are. I want to bring in from Hollywood, Howard Bragman, the founder of Fifteen Minutes PR, somebody who knew Heath Ledger very well. Also tonight in Hollywood, Tom O`Neil from "" And also joining us from Hollywood tonight, entertainment journalist Ken Baker.

Howard, I want to start with you. This has to be so incredibly difficult for you. I know that you were right there by Heath`s side during the entire award season when he was nominated for best actor for his performance in "Brokeback Mountain." It is just such shocking news, Howard.

HOWARD BRAGMAN, FOUNDER, 15 MINUTES PR: You know, there`s probably 25 or 50 people you could name if this happened to, you know, including Brad Renfro and you`d say that was an accident waiting to happen. Heath was just such a force of nature as a person, as an actor. There was so much love for his daughter, Matilda. Nobody saw this coming. And he was such a beloved guy.

I want to make it clear. I wasn`t his publicist. I was fortunate enough to work on "Brokeback Mountain" a little, got to know Heath as an actor and we actually hung out at a couple parties and just a gentleman. He hated the Hollywood party. He hated the red carpet. He just loved to act. And that`s the way he expressed himself. And, I`m just as sad and as heart broken as anybody, A.J.

HAMMER: Yes, Howard. And I think you bring up a really good point that confirms what I was feeling and I think a lot of people were feeling. This just really comes so far out of left field. Tom O`Neil, you have followed his entire movie career. Obviously, a celebrated actor. What was it about him from your perspective that made him so extraordinary?

TOM O`NEIL, "THE ENVELOPE.COM": Well, he had a little bit of every man in him and a little bit of matinee star. He had this withdrawn quality that made him mysterious at the same time. Of course, he was a first-rate actor.

I interviewed him five or six weeks ago. And I have to tell you, A.J., I was very, very perplexed by the encounter with him, because he was jittery in the chair. I remember his hair just seemed so unwashed and unkempt. And, OK, you know, he was doing the bohemian downtown Manhattan number. Let`s excuse all of that. But at the end of the interview, he jumped up out of the seat so fast and ran out of the room. I thought at first, well, I know he is a cigarette smoker. He was probably just going out for a cigarette. But now that I look back at the incident, you know, I`m wondering if he wasn`t trying to get something else in that room.

HAMMER: Yes. It is difficult to know exactly what was going on, what precipitated this tragic death. And a huge part of the tragedy, obviously, the fact he`s leaving behind a two-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose, who he had with his "Brokeback" co-star, Michelle Williams. They had since broken up.

Ken, I know from everything I`ve learned about Heath Ledger over the time I`ve been working in this business, his family was always so supportive of his career and obviously thrilled about their granddaughter. What heartbreaking news for them.

KEN BAKER, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Yes. And my condolences to the Ledger family and, of course, to his close friends. But last year, `07 was a very difficult year personally for Health. He split from his long-time companion, Michelle Williams, like you said, the mother of their daughter Matilda, who`s just two years old.

And, you know, he was very much a frequent person on the New York party scene every since that split and was seen out a lot partying. And you know, there are always the rumors of excessive partying and things like that. And I think in the interviews that I have seen of him and just seeing him out and about, there was, to Tom`s point, a change in demeanor. You know, when you look back to the year 2000, with "The Patriot," that was his breakout movie with Mel Gibson, so fresh-faced, so young, just such a handsome young guy at that time, you know, just barely 20 years old. "Brokeback Mountain" really the pinnacle, the peak of his career. And just the tragic irony on the day that Oscar nominations come out that this would happen.

And I just think a lot of people are saying, oh, it`s shock, but people who really have been following him and have been around him have known for a while that he really wasn`t at the top of his game and was very morose and somewhat somber just around a lot of people.

HAMMER: Well, it`s interesting because what you`re saying obviously in contrast to what Howard was saying a few moments ago and that is something we have seen in his personality over the years. He was well-known for shunning that Hollywood lifestyle, for shunning the party lifestyle and at the same time, he would also be known to go out and hit that party scene more recently.

Brooke Anderson, let me bring you back in from the Sundance Film Festival. I know that you had many opportunities throughout Heath`s career to sit down with him and speak with him and talk to him about his movies. What did you find that he was like? How did you find he stood out from the rest of everybody that we get to interview all the time?

ANDERSON: Well, I tell you this, A.J. I always knew that it wasn`t going to be an easy interview. He wasn`t terribly upbeat but he was always very cordial, very pleasant. But he was a very quiet, very reserved guy. And he did want to focus on the craft. He wanted to focus on his movies, his acting. He was very, very serious about that.

And I remember speaking to him while Michelle was pregnant with their baby. I believe it was for the movie "The Brothers Grimm" and asked him what he was most excited about in terms of becoming a father and having a baby. And he just said, "You know, I just can`t wait to meet this child at this point." He just seemed really elated about becoming a father and that is one of the things that`s most tragic to me is that he has a two-year-old child, Matilda Rose, who will never know her father and never probably remember him.

HAMMER: Well, it was interesting as Ken Baker pointed out, this happens on the day that the Oscar nominations were announced. Of course, we remember Heath most for his Oscar-nominated performance in "Brokeback Mountain." And I want to take a look at what he told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT about what it took to create such a memorable performance. Watch this.


HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR: Just feel it. You just - you know, you - once you get a thorough understanding of your character and his battle, you kind of try and keep penting something up, storing something up. And so there`s self manipulation and directorial manipulation. And ultimately acting for me at least it`s all about harnessing the power of belief, you know. And I think once you do that, you can take yourself kind of anywhere.


HAMMER: Tom O`Neil, let me go back to you. Because that was kind of the point with Heath Ledger. You know, he shunned the traditional way of taking any role that he could and he had a lot of roles thrown at him. He sort of went about the Hollywood career in a different way.

O`NEIL: Yes. He was turning down really important roles recently to do more artistically challenging roles like "I`m Not There" which he just did. But to this point of this clip that we just saw and how he would immerse himself almost in an exaggerated way into his roles, he addressed that back in November to "The New York Times." And he addressed pills there too, and sleeping pills specifically.

He said that doing this role as The Joker so traumatic for him, doing a character so sinister, so nasty, that he wasn`t getting more than two hours of sleep at night and that he was taking Ambien pills and they weren`t working. This is how distraught he was. Well, is this really a substance abuse hint he was giving us, or was he so immersed in this role, so believing in this evil character that he couldn`t sleep?

HAMMER: And of course, the role of The Joker for the upcoming be the Batman movie now in post production. Howard Bragman, you mentioned a moment ago you had an opportunity to work with Heath while you were working on the movie, "Brokeback Mountain." Any specific memories you could share with us tonight?

BRAGMAN: You know, I spent a tough hour with him trying to help him get through the intricacies of doing an interview. Heath, as Tom can tell you, and Brooke can tell you, he didn`t like to sit still. He didn`t like the interview process and we went through it. And I remember thinking, this guy hates me because I was tough on him. And it was like, OK, I did my job. I did what I had to do. I got a good performance. I`m the electronic press kid out of him. I said he isn`t going to be my buddy.

And then I get a call a couple of weeks later, you need to fly to New York and meet with Heath and Michelle at their home in Brooklyn and help prep Michelle to do some interviews. I thought, oh, this is going to be a miserable time. I knocked on the door and Heath answers and I got a hug like I was his long lost brother. And I think he respected I wasn`t trying to be his friend. I was trying to do his job and from that moment on, we had an incredibly warm relationship. I wouldn`t be at an event that I wouldn`t see Heath and wouldn`t get a hug. I saw so much love that day, A.J. His daughter was just a couple of months old at the time.

HAMMER: Howard, I`m out of time here. I want you to stay with us and I do appreciate you sharing that story with us. We`re going to have so much on this throughout our show. Brooke Anderson, Howard Bragman, Tom O`Neil, Ken Baker, you`ll all be back with us in a bit. Stay with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT - continuing coverage of this tragic and shocking story, Heath Ledger dead. Much more coming up. We`ll head to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in just a moment.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s most provocative entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. Tonight, the Oscar nominations are out but will the show go on? With the writers` strike still going strong, are the Oscars shaping up to be another bust just like the Golden Globes were?

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson joining us now from Park City, Utah, where she has been covering the Sundance Film Festival. Hey, Brooke.

HAMMER: Hey there, A.J. And it sure seems to be shaping up that way as you said. Joining now me to talk Oscars and nominees is Leah Rosen, film critic for "People" magazine. She`s here with me at Sundance, and in Los Angeles, Tom O`Neil from "" Thank you both for being here.

And first, I want to take a look at the best picture nominees. We have got, "Atonement," "Juno," "Michael Clayton," "No Country for Old Men," and "There Will Be Blood." Now, these are all fabulous pictures but what really strikes me, Leah, is that these are not huge blockbusters. A lot of people haven`t seen these movies but that doesn`t really matter, does it?

LEAH ROSEN, FILM CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Absolutely not. The Oscars are about quality, not box office success. When`s amusing, though, the biggest money maker here is really "Juno," what was supposed to be this little, tiny indy film and it`s nearing $80 million.

ANDERSON: Wow. It`s been a pleasant surprise for those film makers and the Academy voters get those screeners in the mail so they don`t actually have to go buy the tickets and make the movies a blockbuster. Tom, what do you think? Big surprises out of the nominees?

O`NEIL: I think so, yes. Usually the top earning serious movie of the year is nominated. Last year, it was "The Departed." In the previous years, "A Beautiful Mind" and "American Beauty." Well, last year, the "American Gangster" was the top grossing serious movie; it`s not here.

And the best tea leaves we have leading up to Oscar nominations in this category come from the directors` guild and the producers` guild. Well, they both nominated "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." The Oscars didn`t. They both excluded "Atonement," but the Oscars put it in.

ANDERSON: Leah, what do you think? Any surprises? I was kind of surprised Denzel Washington didn`t get a nod.

ROSEN: There were just so many good male performances this year. There just wasn`t room. I think the surprise in best picture was possibly "Sweeney Todd." I mean that was certainly seen as an Oscar contender, got very good reviews. There - I think its lack of box office success hurt it. This is a film that`s so far, you know, has not turn into blockbuster. It`s only performing OK. And I think there was such high expectations that that kind cost it a nomination.

ANDERSON: OK. Well, we can talk about potential Oscar winners but as we know, there may be not be a traditional Oscar ceremony. The producer of the show, Gil Cates has said the show will go on with or without the writers. That seems like it would be a challenge, Tom, if the writers are picketing the show. He said, though, there will be a plan B. What could possibly be plan B?

O`NEIL: He`s been very secretive about plan B. Up until the other day when he told us at "The L.A. Times" that he will put on a show full of a lot of clips of past Oscar shows and will go on even if the actors aren`t there, he said, "Because I would like them there." Well, that`s the first we heard of this. We always hoped the secret plan somehow included the actors and quite frankly, Brooke, I find this shocking. Are the Oscars really first and foremost a TV show? Or is this what we always thought it was which was a gathering of the Hollywood clan to honor the best film work of the year? I would think the TV show should come second.

ANDERSON: Well, you know, Jason Wrightman(ph) - he`s here at Sundance. He was actually honored with an Oscar nomination for "Juno" for Best Director. And he told us that his understanding was that the Oscars may be taped or without cameras and that would attend if that were the case. But Leah, we learned today that the writers aren`t planning to picket the Grammy Awards which will happen before the Oscars. So there`s still hope for resolution for the Academy, right?

ROSEN: There`s a lot of pressure now on the writers to settle the strike given that the Directors` Guild settles, given that everyone really does want to see an Oscars` telecast. So, I mean, we will see. You could end up with a show that`s just a whole lot of black and white clips of Bob Hope. You could end up with just the world`s biggest private party that we don`t get to see. Or maybe we`ll have the real Oscars.

ANDERSON: Well, I`ve been speaking to a lot of people here at Sundance about the writers` strike and the Oscar ceremony including Robert Redford. And listen to his strong take on the situation.


ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR: I`m on the side of talent because I think talent has been mistreated over the years. It goes all the way to the beginnings where in the sense they were treated like slave labor in some cases. The industry`s changed a lot but what doesn`t seem to have changed is the relationship between the bosses and the talent.


ANDERSON: OK. If even Robert Redford is up against the studios here, Tom, is that indicative of how bitter this has become and how it could potentially affect the Academy Awards?

O`NEIL: Yes, it could, because the writers and the producers are far apart. You know, the writers only get 0.3 percent. Yes, not 3 percent. 0.3 percent of DVD sales and they want 2.5, so they`re way apart. I think the solution to this, Brooke, is move the Oscars back to April. That`s where they were held traditionally. What`s the big - only in the past four years did they move up to February. So you know what? It`s an emergency situation. Let`s put them back in April. The strike will be over by then. We \ have a TV show and a ceremony and everybody`s happy.

ANDERSON: OK. Maybe give them a little bit more time to resolve the situation. Tom O`Neil, Leah Rosen, thank you both. We will leave it there. A.J., there`s still - you know, its February 21st so still a month away. Hopefully there will be a resolution.

HAMMER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson, thank you very much. And now we want to hear from you. It is our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day, "The Oscars: Do you care if they are canceled?" Let us know at, or E-mail us at

All right. We`ve got much more on the tragic late-breaking story tonight. Heath Ledger found dead in his New York City apartment. Heath got an Oscar nomination for role in "Brokeback Mountain." He leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter that he had with his former fiancee, actress Michelle Williams. Heath Ledger, dead, at the age of 28. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s continuing coverage of Heath Ledger`s shocking death, coming up.



LEDGER: A spent year in my house doing nothing and it`s a most important year of my career, definitely.

LEDGER: Are you a man of principle?

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: When you have a family of your own, perhaps you will understand.

LEDGER: When I have a family of my own, I won`t hide behind them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And then, "The Patriot," the film that every young American actor wants to tackle comes to you.

LEDGER: It`s a hard thing to imagine, hard thing to comprehend you`d ever working opposite Mel Gibson, you know in a role in an American dream that was epic, an adventure on the revolutionary war. It is like, you know, it never came to me that I`d be in that position.



HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s most provocative entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. There are two other big stories in Hollywood right now.

I got to tell you, I don`t really know what to say about Amy Winehouse except that I`m really concerned about her. Britain`s biggest paper "The Sun" has posted a disturbing video of the singer smoking something out of a pipe. Also on the shocking home video, Amy says that she`s just taken some Valium. The Grammy-nominated singer has battled a drug problem. She was in rehab last summer and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has learned Amy has been getting ongoing outpatient treatment.

Well, Tiger Woods is speaking publicly for the very first time about a TV anchor`s startling comments that other golfers should, quote, "lynch Tiger" because that would be the only way to beat him since he`s so good.


TIGER WOODS, GOLF CHAMPION: Kelly and I did speak and, you know, there was no ill intent. She regrets saying it so, in my eyes it`s all said and done.


HAMMER: Seems like that`s wrapped up. His friend, Golf Channel anchor, Kelly Tilghman, that he referred to in the clip was suspended for two weeks for making the comment and while I don`t think she meant any harm by what she said. Obviously, a pretty terrible choice of words.

All right. Stay with us. Breaking news tonight. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with continuing coverage of the shocking and tragic death of Oscar- nominated actor, father, Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger found dead at 28 years old. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT coming right back with the very latest details.



HAMMER: On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, absolutely shocking news, Heath Ledger has died. The Oscar nominated actor, just 28 years old, found dead in his apartment in Manhattan. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the latest developments on a story that has left Hollywood stunned.

Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer broadcasting tonight and every night from New York City where there is news so shocking tonight it is almost hard to believe. We are back with our continuing up to the minute coverage of the death of Heath Ledger. Ledger has been found dead today in an apartment here in New York City in the Soho district. He was just 28 years old and from New York to Hollywood to the Sundance Film Festival, there is absolute shock tonight.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson is covering the Sundance Film Festival. She has been there all week and has been gathering all of the latest information. Brooke, what do we know at this point?

ANDERSON: Well, A.J., just 28 years old as you say found dead in a Manhattan apartment today. New York police say that Ledger had an appointment with a massage and that the massage therapist arrived at that apartment and that the housekeeper and the massage therapist found Ledger dead in his room. "The New York Times" is reporting he was actually found naked in his bed. We`re told that the housekeeper and the massage therapist, he was found unresponsive, of course, around 3:26 local time.

The police, the paramedics were called. They arrived within five minutes but it was already too late. Now, we`re also told from authorities that he did die from a possible drug overdose, that there were pills all around him. We`re told that the pills were over the counter sleeping medication. Of course, A.J., the medical examiner will have to make a determination as to the cause of death and that could take a little while.

HAMMER: And I have to imagine it is sending shock waves through Sundance Film Festival right now. Stay with us, Brooke. I want to bring back from Hollywood tonight, Howard Bragman, the founder of "Fifteen Minutes PR," somebody who has spent sometime with Heath Ledger, knew him well. Also tonight from Hollywood, Tom O`Neil from "" and entertainment journalist Ken Baker.

Howard Bragman, you got the know Heath Ledger quite well. You spent an entire awards season with him when he was getting all the accolades for a role that I think he was really proud to have taken. He shunned all of the big Hollywood roles and he took the role in "Brokeback Mountain," received all kinds of nominations for it, including, of course, the big Oscar nomination. It`s just so shocking and I imagine for somebody that got to know Heath a bit, it has to come so out of left field.

BRAGMAN: You know, it`s horribly sad. Heath was - stardom sort of came to Heath but that wasn`t what he was after like so many people. He was after the acting challenge. I think it was incredibly cathartic for him. He would never choose the easy roles. And I`ve always said about Heath he`s defined by what he turned down as an actor as much as what he took. And he took darker roles, edgier roles, more interesting roles. He liked to get his head into a role and he was pretty fearless.

I mean, he was afraid and he knew it was hard work but he was fearless in accepting roles that other people said, I wouldn`t be do "Brokeback Mountain" or I wouldn`t do some of these thing that is Heath did. And we all respected him as an actor.

You know, when I think about Heath, I think about the great performances we`re not going to see now. And I think he doesn`t have a huge body of work but I think we`re going to look at him in the passage of time almost like a James Dean character because what he did put on the screen was so amazing for such a young man.

HAMMER: Yes. And I think the point you make about the fact that stardom was not an important aspect of the business to him is something that people really need to pay attention to. I remember reading an interview with him once where he said he was almost starving, he was - he barely had any money. He was living on freeze-dried noodles and water and would rather do that despite the fact that there were these other, you know, big Hollywood- type roles coming at him because of the integrity that was so important to him.

And another great story, he went to audition to work alongside Mel Gibson in "The Patriot." He made it about halfway through the first audition for the role. He wasn`t having a good time of it and in the middle he said, "You know what? I`m giving you a bad read. I`m going to leave. Thanks for the opportunity. He left." Well, he ended up getting another audition and he got the part and he told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT how important that role was to him. Let`s take a look at what Heath Ledger said.


LEDGER: I spent a year in my house doing nothing and, you know, there`s a most important year of my career, definitely.


LEDGER: Are you a man of principle?

GIBSON: When you have a family of your own, perhaps you`ll understand.

LEDGER: When I have a family of my own, I won`t hide behind them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: And then "The Patriot," the film that every young American actor wants to tackle comes to you.

LEDGER: It`s a hard thing to imagine, hard thing to comprehend you`d ever working opposite Mel Gibson, you know in a role in an American dream that was epic, an adventure on the revolutionary war. It is like, you know, it never came to me that I`d be in that position.


HAMMER: Tom O`Neil, that obviously was a pivotal moment for him getting that role. You followed his whole career. Why was he such a celebrated actor? What really made him stand out?

O`NEIL: "Variety" once put it this way that he gives the kind of performance where he emits loneliness that we feel in our bones as viewers. And I think we know what Tom McCarthy, the chief film critic of "Variety," meant when he said that.

Remember how Heath Ledger became an actor? When he was 10 years old, his parents divorced and he was very lonely and sad. And I believe his sister down in Perth, Australia who said to bring him out of his shell. She encouraged him to join the class plays at school. So he pursued this as a means of expressing himself, because he was so painfully shy and wounded by a world that, you know, that left him as a child.

He didn`t have the normal upbringing and so it`s interesting, looking forward in his career as a professional actor, that he was still trying to reach out to the world, express himself. He was still that wounded child inside.

HAMMER: And this news, obviously, still so fresh, reaction coming in from all over the place. Celebrities already chiming in. Nicole Kidman saying, quote, "What a tragedy. My heart goes out his family."

Ken Baker, as this was unfolding, I kept thinking of all of the actors he worked so closely with over time from Jake Gyllenhaal, his costar in "Brokeback Mountain" to Michelle Williams, obviously, with whom he has a child, everybody just in shock today.

BAKER: Yes. And it`s interesting you bring up Jake Gyllenhaal. You know, there`s a really important point here to make is that, yes, Hollywood is a tough business. The world of celebrity can be a very piercing one and can really push people to the limit, but Hollywood doesn`t kill people. You know, Jake Gyllenhaal, his costar in "Brokeback Mountain," you know, he`s very well adjusted, very happy guy and, you know, didn`t fall into the trappings in his personal life that Heath apparently has.

And I think it`s something important to note that like to Tom`s point that, you know, these dark roots of his sadness and the struggles and him is that struggling artist type really go back to his parents` divorce, back in Australia.

And one thing I just want to say is, you know, I was - immediately when I heard the news, my first memory was I had the great fortune of being inside the Oscars that year that he was nominated for "Brokeback Mountain." And my memory was of being in the lobby at the Kodak Theater and seeing him, not in the show, not sitting in his seat but at the bar smoking cigarettes and just really not wanting to be a part of it. And I think that there`s something really profound about that. He was so good at it, so talented, so much a part of it but yet he did it really with reluctance.

HAMMER: Well, of course, today at the Sundance Film Festival, this clearly takes over the big news that was waving through there, the Oscar nominations which were announced earlier today. Let me go back out to Brooke Anderson who`s with us in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival. I imagine, Brooke, shock waves through that town right now.

ANDERSON: Right. Everybody is stunned who has heard about this, and after the show, A.J. I`m going to head out to a couple of movie premiers tonight. And fellow actors, I`m sure that Heath knew, and maybe some whom he had worked with over the years, I`ll speak to them about how they`re feeling and their thoughts about his death. And I want to bring up a point, you know, on what Ken said. It was with reluctance many times that he had to do interviews and he had to be a part of the entire Hollywood system because I had interviewed him numerous times over the years about different film projects and he was always very quiet, very reserved.

I knew he didn`t enjoy it and Howard Bragman talked about it, as well. It was like pulling teeth trying to get him to do an interview and get excited. But he did love his craft. He was very serious about acting. And also, he was serious about family. I spoke to him while Michelle was expecting their child, and he told me he couldn`t wait to finally meet their baby. You know, and they did break up over the past year but he`s not someone we knew to have serious struggles. So we will have to wait and see what the cause of death is.

HAMMER: All right. Brooke Anderson - SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson, Ken Baker, Tom O`Neil, Howard Bragman, I thank you all. Just such a tragedy, almost difficult to report on. I want you to stay right where you are. It`s our continuing coverage of the death of Heath Ledger, just 28 years old. It will continue just after this.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. And we continue now with our coverage of the shocking death of Heath Ledger, found dead in a New York City apartment at just 28 years old. Police say there were pills found near his body but the cause of death has not yet officially been determined.

Joining us once again from Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson. And with us from Hollywood tonight, entertainment journalist Ken Baker. Ken, I know we were just completely shocked when the very first E-mail came in about this news. I almost didn`t believe it and it was awaiting confirmation and sadly we got it. What was your first reaction having covered this business so long when you heard that Heath Ledger had died?

BAKER: Well, of course, anyone that dies at age 28, you`re initially going to be shocked, but there`s a difference between shock and surprise. I wasn`t surprised. Those of us who have been following his life over the last couple of years have seen really a downward trajectory of him being sad and being aloof and getting into partying.

And, it`s no secret that 2007 was a very difficult year for him. This is a guy who went through a painful separation with Michelle Williams while they had their two-year-old baby Matilda and almost immediately was out acting erratically, partying a lot. He was a real fixture in the downtown Manhattan club scene. When he was out in L.A., he was seen a lot at the Chateau Marmont, always partying. And it just seemed to be that that fresh faced boy we remembered from 2000, when he was in "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson, had just completely been lost. And I think - so it was shock but not really surprise.

HAMMER: And the picture you paint, Ken, in such stark contrast to everything I have ever read about him or seen him say in interviews where he talks about the joy he got from being a father to his young daughter Matilda that he had with Michelle Williams.

BAKER: Yes. You know, there obviously was a lot of sadness there along with the joy. And you know, I`m no expert in this but there are experts in the field who say that men sometimes go through their own version of postpartum depression, that they struggle with being new fathers. And it`s something that`s not talked about a lot. It`s not something that`s really popular or really discussed but that it does happen. And perhaps that had something to do with it.

We also know that he just was into partying and was often seen with a drink in his hand. So this wasn`t someone who was home and taking care of himself and working out. I also want to say, too, he was always bit of a maverick and alternative kind of guy. I remember a story sometime last year in the summer, where he would show up to a club in Lower Manhattan on his skateboard. I don`t know how many celebrities you know who get around town on a skateboard, but that was Heath Ledger. He always did things his own way.

HAMMER: Well, reaction coming in tonight from Hollywood. We just got word from Mel Gibson who worked with Heath on what many feel was the pivotal role he took. He played his son in "The Patriot." Mel Gibson saying, quote, "I had such great hope for him. 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."

Brooke Anderson, you are out there at Sundance. I imagine while I know you haven`t had the opportunity to speak with many people since this broke so suddenly, but I imagine shock waves just running through the place. What are you hearing and what have you been hearing since the news broke that he died?

ANDERSON: Right, shock and sadness. And we have a producer on the ground right now at a premier, and actually the publicists for a lot of these stars are saying, "We don`t want them to talk about Heath Ledger." They`re being standoffish about this at this point. There are other premieres taking place tonight, so I will be going to those later.

But I do want to say that Heath Ledger was never one to capitalize on his golden boy good looks. He didn`t just take the heartthrob films, the popcorn summer movies. He wanted to do deeper roles. He was very serious about his craft. And our friend Tom O`Neil, who interviewed him about six weeks ago, made an interesting point that his role as The Joker, the demonic Joker in "The Dark Knight," he said that it troubled him so much. He was having difficulty sleeping that he was starting to take Ambien. But it sounds like he had been having a very difficult time, as Ken said, not only in his personal life, but also, as Tom said, in his professional life with these roles that he fully immersed himself in.

HAMMER: Well, we all saw him fully immerse himself in the role in "Brokeback Mountain" that got him all of the accolades, got him his Oscar nomination. And that is perhaps one of the roles for which he`ll be remembered most. Let`s take a look at what he told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT about what it took to create such a memorable performance.


LEDGER: You know, I don`t ever really want to feel like I`m peaking or, you know, I`m - you know, I`ve got a lot more I want to do. I`m always learning my performance - I as a person. It`s evolving and maturing. I just want to continue to do that.


HAMMER: He really made the point, Ken Baker, that he wanted to learn more about his craft. He felt when he first started out, he was lucky to get the roles that he got but he didn`t even feel - he was very self effacing of how good of an actor or how bad of an actor he was. But the craft itself was so important to this man, wasn`t it?

BAKER: Yes. Obviously, he comes across as - it`s almost a portrait of a tortured artist. And I think that we also have to be careful here. You know, even though there were a lot of signs that would lead us to believe that, you know, he was going down a really bad path in his personal life, we don`t know if it was an accident. We don`t know what exactly went down in that bedroom last night.

But I think that one thing is clear - is that he was extremely talented, extremely unique and very revered not only by people in the press but by his peers. And I think what`s also interesting about this is that oftentimes when you hear of someone just suddenly dying like Brad Renfro, for example. You sort of have that reaction, "Wow, I haven`t heard from that person in a while." Heath Ledger has been out there. He`s been giving interviews. He`s been working. He`s been functional. And, I think that`s a big reason for the shock that`s coming from a lot of people right now.

HAMMER: Yes. I mean, it just adds to the idea of it being so completely unexpected. Some pictures I saw just earlier this evening of him out on the town or out shooting a movie working in England, I believe it was, over the weekend. This guy started acting when he was ten years old. He started doing amateur theater in his hometown of Perth in Australia.

Brooke, you really got the sense from him when you had the opportunity to sit down with Heath Ledger that acting was truly in his blood. This wasn`t something he was doing as a, you know, I don`t know, some kind of minor obsession.

ANDERSON: No. Absolutely not. He was focused on it. It was his priority and he wanted to be successful but not in financial terms. He wanted to be successful on his own terms. He wanted to be proud of the work that he did. He was always very quiet, very reserved but always very personable and pleasant, especially off camera. I remember getting a hug from him once, and a photograph with a still camera. Just very cordial and nice. But you could tell that doing interviews, doing publicity, that wasn`t his thing. His thing was acting.

And I do what to say, A.J., that he did have other interests. Of course, he was very focused on being a father and his family, but also, he started a record company with Ben Harper. He was very into music. So this isn`t a guy that holed up in his home and never did anything but read scripts and just went to the set to do movies. He had other interests and he loved his child and I know it was a very difficult split with Michelle Williams last year. It`s all very, very tragic and as Ken said, we do have to wait. We do not know the exact cause of death at this time.

HAMMER: And Ken, very quickly - I know this has to be sending shock waves through his native Australia. His fans back there were very emphatically supportive of him as was his family.

BAKER: Yes. I mean he was deeply rooted in Australia but he did spend most of his time over the last eight years in the States and made the decision to live in New York and very interesting I just want to add -

HAMMER: Ken, I have to wrap it up there because we`re out of time. And he was living in Brooklyn for a time with Michelle Williams and their daughter. Ken Baker and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson, thank you. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. And it`s time now for the SHOWBIZ TONIGHT first look. And tonight we have a documentary that rightfully has audiences cheering at the Sundance Film Festival. It`s called "Young at Heart." And it tells a story of a senior citizens` chorus in New England that sings rock songs. Here now is your first look.


VOICE OVER: It is the concert event rock and roll fans have dreamed of their entire life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Darling, you`ve got to let me know. Should I stay or should I go?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There`s about seven or so new songs that I want to take a look at.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I feel good. Singing does a lot to your whole body. That`s got a lot of life. That`s what we have, a lot of life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, Jack is sitting here. We have the possibility that he`ll pass a kidney stone for us today.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Very warm, enthusiastic welcome to the young at heart.

VOICE OVER: Experience the film that brought audiences to their feet with spontaneous applause at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is the best performance I ever seen in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Should I give it the gas?

VOICE OVER: They`re the rebels. The wild ones, who showed the world they can.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Learn the whole song.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I know we can can.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I think I can. I think I can. I think can can can. That`s hard.

VOICE OVER: From Fox Searchlight, the studio that brought you ground breaking comedies like "Sideways," "The Full Monty," and "Little Miss Sunshine," comes an event 80 years in the making - "Young at Heart."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I can can. I think I can can. If I want to can can. I think can. Yes, I can. Yes, I can. I know darn well I can. Yes I can can.


HAMMER: "Young at Heart" will be in theaters in April. Looks fantastic. That is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks for watching. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. The latest from "CNN HEADLINE NEWS" is next.