New details of Heath Ledger's death revealed as Hollywood director remembers devastating phone call

FILE- Actor Heath Ledger attends the photocall for "Candy" as part of the 56th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) on Feb. 15, 2006 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

New details surrounding Heath Ledger's death have emerged as Hollywood director Stephen Gaghan revealed the phone call he received after the fact.

Ledger's body was discovered by a housekeeper on Jan. 22, 2008. The "10 Things I Hate About You" star's death was ruled accidental and attributed to a mixture of prescription drugs – OxyContin, Vicodin, Valium, Xanax, Unisom and Restoril.

At the time of Ledger's death, Gaghan had been working with the 28-year-old on an adaption of Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking."

Director Stephen Gaghan revealed he received a phone call from Heath Ledger's dad after the actor was found dead.  (Getty Images)

Gaghan recalled the phone call he received from Ledger’s father after he arrived at the scene.

"They were there with the body and our script was in bed with him, and your book was on the bedside table," he said on Gladwell's "Revisionist History" podcast series "Development Hell." "I think my number was on the script, like written. These guys, as you can imagine, they are in shock and they dialed that number and I don’t know why."

"I’m in an airport with my wife [Minnie Mortimer] just going from one place to another, and I literally just collapse, never happened to me before or since," the director added. "My feet went out from under me. I just literally sat down because I was like, 'What?' The emotion, what they were going through, I should not have been a party to in any way really, and yet as a human or as somebody who just cares, I just was there and I was listening and my wife was looking at me. I remember her face and I was just like, I was speechless. I just listened and listened and listened. It was just really, really sad. And it’s still sad. For me, I just had to put a pin in it."


Gladwell's podcast series revisits projects that were never made – including the "Blink" adaptation. With Leonardo DiCaprio attached to the project, the film originally landed with a studio in 2005. However, it never got off the ground.

"We pick a studio, we huddle with our agents, we pick a winner, checks are cashed," Gladwell said. "Some brilliant producer is assigned to our case, and off we go. Only it never happens. A year passes, then two years, then three years. And this is why we’re doing ‘Development Hell,’ an entire series devoted to scripts that never happen. This is always the most devastating part of the story, the plot twists that happen off the page."


Eventually, "Blink" landed with Universal Studios and Gaghan spent some more time developing the script. After re-working DiCaprio's character, the director realized he had written the part for Ledger.

"I’d gotten to be very, very close with him instantly," Gaghan recalled. "I just had a real connection with him that was kind of unusual and really special to me. I got really excited and I started seeing him as the main character. Once I started seeing that I couldn’t unsee it, and obviously it was very delicate in a way. Leo’s totally cool. I mean, obviously, he has a thousand choices, but in my mind it was a big deal."

Gaghan abandoned the revived project after Ledger's death.

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