John Travolta Calls Heath Ledger an Inspiration

"Actors need other actors to be inspired by. He was my actor," he tells PEOPLE

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Photo: INF;Michael Caulfield/AP

Although Heath Ledger‘s career was cut tragically short with his death on Tuesday, he remains an inspiration to fellow actors whose thoughts turned to him that very night.

“My feeling about Heath is that I don’t want to lose him at any age – 28 or 88. … He’s a real valuable guy. So I’m truly sorry and my heart goes out to everyone that knew him and loved him,” John Travolta, 53, told PEOPLE at the G’Day USA: Australia Week event at Time Warner Center in New York just hours after the shocking news of Ledger’s death broke.

“Actors need other actors to be inspired by. He was my actor,” said Travolta, who also likened Ledger’s death to the loss of James Dean, who died, age 24, in a 1955 car crash, just as he was on the crest of stardom.

Added Travolta, “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, nominated for an Academy Award for 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, appears as the Joker in the Batman feature set to open July 18, The Dark Knight; he was shooting The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at the time of his death.

Fellow Australian, Transformers actress Rachael Taylor, 23, echoed Travolta’s sentiments and praise for Ledger’s craft. “I was really impressed by his early Australian film, Two Hands, and his film Candy and, of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the performance in Brokeback Mountain. He was extraordinary. It was a monumental moment in cinema.”

Travolta also said: “I thought he was extraordinary and had a depth and ability and a sense of humanity that I’ve never seen on screen … I really don’t like it at all that he’s gone.”

Heath Ledger: Life in Photos: See all the actor’s most recent photos – from life as a dad to being an Oscar nominee

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