'She Will Be Brought Up in the Best Memories of Him'
She had kept her silence since Heath Ledger’s death on Jan. 22, but when Michelle Williams finally spoke out about the man she loved and lost, it was with devastating candor. “My heart,” she said in a Feb. 1 statement, “is broken.”
For her part, Williams continues grieving privately and caring for the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Matilda. She also joined the actor’s family, friends and colleagues at a tribute in Los Angeles honoring Ledger, who died at age 28 in his New York City apartment. At the Feb. 2 ceremony, about 300 mourners gathered on the Sony Pictures Studios lot for “a wonderful celebration of Heath’s life,” says a guest. “It was so moving.” Musician Ben Harper sang a lullaby about Matilda, and Heath’s father, Kim, thanked the actor’s “Hollywood family” for supporting his son in a speech that brought many to tears. “Heath’s mom [Sally] and dad were so composed and so lovely,” says the guest. “It was incredible.” Close friends like Jake Gyllenhaal—Ledger’s costar in ’05’s Brokeback Mountain—and celebrity admirers including Sean Penn, Colin Farrell, Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (who costarred with Williams on Dawson’s Creek for six seasons) watched images of Ledger and took home individual chess pieces—a nod to the game he loved. “Heath Ledger was an artist that Tom admired,” Cruise’s spokeswoman told PEOPLE.
Others lauded Ledger’s memory as well. In a speech at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Jan. 29, actor Ryan Gosling—who had been quietly dating Williams, his costar in the now-postponed romance Blue Valentine—saluted Ledger’s “gentleness” and “humble dignity,” adding, “I just don’t think that’s something you can act; I think that’s who you are … we were all sort of trying to achieve the same level of honesty that he was achieving in his work.” (Williams is still scheduled to begin filming the Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island in Boston with Leonardo DiCaprio next month.)
For Ledger’s family, of course, the loss is painfully profound. On Feb. 4, a solemn Kim, Sally and Ledger’s elder sister Kate arrived in the family’s hometown of Perth after making the 18-hour flight from Los Angeles. The actor is expected to be buried Feb. 9 in a family plot with two of his grandparents at Perth’s Karrakatta Cemetery. Williams was expected to be there with Matilda to say a final goodbye.