Already something of an established actor in his native Australia, Heath Ledger first came to the attention of American audiences in 1999 with his winning turn in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, playing the rebellious Patrick Verona in the update of The Taming of the Shrew.
Born in Perth, Western Australia on April 4, 1979, Ledger first became interested in acting while attending the all-boys Guilford Grammar School. He began his career performing onstage with the Guildford Theatre Company and was soon appearing in substantial roles on Australian television shows. The 1996 series Sweat featured him as a gay cyclist, while the following year's Roar cast him as a medieval Celtic prince--and also won him the beginnings of a fan base. After moving across the Pacific to Los Angeles, Ledger landed his lead role in 10 Things I Hate About You opposite Julia Stiles in 1999. The movie proved to be a summer hit, and it succeeded in introducing Ledger to a legion of new fans. That same year, he starred in Two Hands, an Australian action comedy that cast him as a Sydney teenager who finds himself in debt to an underworld kingpin, played by Bryan Brown. The film premiered at that year's Sundance Film Festival. Following a prominent role in Roland Emmerich's The Patriot (2000), Ledger brought Excalibur sensibilities into the new millenium with A Knight's Tale (2001). With its tradition shattering blend of modern slang and music balanced with the classic tale of jousting mayhem, A Knight's Tale served as an exciting star vehicle for the popular young actor. The young actor also garnered a fair amount of praise for his supporting role as a deeply depressed prison employee in the Oscar-winning film Monsters Ball (2001).