Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams’ Onscreen Romance Became the Real Thing

The actors played strained spouses in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ but fell hard for each other in real life.

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It’s very common for actors to develop romantic relationships, given the amount of time they spend together on movie sets. That’s especially the case when the actors play characters who are romantically entwined.

One of the most high-profile, 21st-century examples were Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, stars of 2004’s Brokeback Mountain.

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams’ Three-Year Romance

Ironically, the culturally iconic film Brokeback Mountain revolved around the romance between two men. In real life, it was Ledger and Williams, whose fictional characters were married in the film, who fell for each other.

The actors met on the set of the film in 2004. They quickly became an item, despite the strained relationship they played out onscreen. A mere year later, Ledger and Williams got engaged, with Williams giving birth to their daughter Matilda in October 2005.

The couple moved to Brooklyn, New York, and Ledger took a year off to care for Matilda while Williams worked. They broke up in September 2007, and Ledger was later linked to model Helena Christensen and actress Gemma Ward.

Ledger and Williams Go Their Separate Ways

After his breakup with Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger moved into an apartment in Soho, Manhattan. According to his sister Kate, despite the illness and insomnia, “he was having fun. He wasn’t depressed about The Joker.”

Obviously, she was referring to Ledger’s legendary role as the best-known comic book villain, in the superhero film The Dark Knight. To this day, and despite the litany of superhero movies released in the last 25 years, Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance is still considered the best in any of the films.

Kate was reportedly one of the last people to speak to Ledger. She said that during a phone call the night before his death, he showed no signs of depression.

On January 22, 2008, Ledger was found naked and unconscious in his bedroom by his housekeeper and masseuse. He died after ingesting six prescription medications.

Michelle Williams’ Post-Ledger Love Life

Us Magazine noted that the first man Michelle Williams dated after Heath Ledger’s death was esteemed movie director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are). They reportedly met during the making of the avant-garde film Synecdoche, New York, which starred Williams and which Jonze helped produce.

The two started dating in July 2008 but split roughly a year later, according to Vogue’s October 2009 issue.

“The timing was impossible,” Williams reportedly said, noting that she was struggling with the role of single mother. “I thought falling in love again was the only thing that was going to save me from the pain. This erroneous idea: It just makes things more complicated.”

In January 2011, Marie Claire posted an interview with Williams in anticipation of her film Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling.

Even three years after Ledger’s death, Williams admitted she hadn’t found a new partner.

“Very obviously, for me and for her, there’s a hole in our life,” Williams said. “Of course the natural inclination is to want to fill it and make it disappear. But what I’ve come to recently is that it’s impossible. Nothing will fit in that hole because what we want back we can’t get, which is this one person. I’m not going to rush anything and scamper around like a mad person and make myself crazy. I’m trying to be respectful of the absence. … It is what it is.”

Williams eventually wed indie-rock musician Phil Elverum in 2018, but they divorced a year later. In 2020, she got married again, to Broadway theater director Thomas Kail (Hamilton, In the Heights). Last week, they gave birth to a son, Hart, according to People.

Read More: “Mary Kate Olsen Was The First Person To Learn About Heath Ledger’s Death

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