Heath Ledger's Daughter Is All Grown-Up And Her Mother, Michelle Williams, At Long Last Spoke Out About Raising Her

Jan 23, 2021 by apost team

Heath Ledger was not just an Academy-award winning actor but the father to Matilda Rose Ledger, with his ex-partner Michelle Williams. Notoriously guarded about her private life after Ledger's death, Williams has slowly opened up over the years and told more of her and her daughter's story, and about what it was like to raise Matilda by herself after Ledger passed away unexpectedly in 2008.

Heath Ledger (2005), (J. Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images)

It has been twelve years since Heath Ledger tragically passed away from a drug overdose according to his Biography. It truly came as a shock to the world, just as the actor was reaching the peak of his career.

His daughter Matilda Rose Ledger was only two years old when her father died, and has since been raised by her mother, Dawson's Creek actress Michelle Williams. Williams spoke openly about her privacy fears, raising a child in the limelight, especially after her late father's death, but she made sure that little Matilda got to spend her childhood growing up safely out of the public eye.

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams' love story was one for the ages, but like many Hollywood stories, it ended in tragedy. The couple met on the set of Brokeback Mountain and according to their co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, there was an instant connection between the two of them. As reported by Who Magazine, Gyllenhaal said, "I remember being in rehearsal, and the two of them had googly eyes with each other."


Heath Ledger (2006), (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage/Getty Images)

In fact, Gyllenhaal is Ledger and Williams' daughter Matilda Rose's godfather, while actress Busy Philipps—Williams' best friend, ever since the two appeared in Dawson's Creek together—is Matilda's godmother. Speaking about how the couple met, Williams later told GQ in 2012, as reported by Who Magazine:

"Our initial meeting, the circumstances of how we first met, were cosmic or something. Yeah, a lot of things happened at once. It’s a bit like, we had a lot of things to do because we didn’t have a lot of time, or something.”

She wasn't wrong, as the couple soon found out they were expecting a baby, and in October 2005, Matilda Rose was born in New York. Tragically, when Matilda was only two years old, Ledger would die at the age of 28, after an accidental drug overdose. Williams was notoriously closed about speaking of Ledger's death or their daughter to the public, but over the years she's opened up and begun to discuss their story, as have those close to the former couple. In her 2018 memoir, This Will Only Hurt A Little, Busy Philipps opened up about her best friend's former relationship and Ledger's untimely death. As per People Magazine, Philipps wrote in her memoir:

“He and Michelle were in the process of separating at that point, and I felt sad for both of them but weirdly like something would be figured out and it wasn’t the end of the story for them."

She continued:

“They were so young and that baby was the light of both of their lives. They were just working all the time and it was complicated. S— is always complicated. Especially when you’re twenty-eight. And movie stars. With a baby."

Michelle Williams (2008), (George Pimentel/WireImage)

In a Vanity Fair feature from 2018, the details surrounding Ledger and Williams' relationship at the time of Ledger's death were revealed. The couple had bought a large townhouse in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn but had separated as their relationship wasn't working. Ledger had moved to SoHo where he was renting an apartment, and just five months after their split Ledger would die in January 2008 at the tender age of 28, after taking a fatal mix of prescription pills.

The next years were terribly hard for Williams as she not only had to raise Matilda alone, but she was hounded by the paparazzi daily in Brooklyn. She reveals in the Vanity Fair interview: 

“It was unmanageable to be stalked like that, every moment of the day. So I left, in a desire to create a sane home environment.” 

As a result, she moved to rural upstate New York and raised her daughter there, also taking her along to live with her on location when she was working. In the same interview Busy Philipps explains Wiliams' pain at the time:

"She always had a difficult time with the idea of doing press and what to reveal. And then obviously when Heath passed away, and people had this insatiable interest in her and her child and their grief, it was overwhelming and incredibly painful.” 

Nevertheless, Williams was able to raise Matilda in a normal way, giving her daughter a regular life, despite the hardship they'd faced. As the years have gone by Matilda has grown to look more and more like her father, and his presence is felt every day, despite him being so dearly missed.

In the same interview with Vanity Fair, Williams said: "When you’re a single parent, and that element of provider and protection is missing, it’s scary… I always say to Matilda, 'Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes.'”

Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger (2006), (Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

Matilda Ledger is now 15 years old and the time since she has grown-up has given her mom some time to reflect. The actress spoke with Porter magazine in 2016 about her circumstances, saying:

“In all honesty, for pretty much everything else, I feel like I’m a believer in not fighting circumstances, accepting where you are and where you’ve been. In pretty much all senses but one, I would be able to go totally down that line of thinking were it not for Matilda not having her dad. You know, that’s just something that doesn’t…I mean, it just won’t ever be right," she said to the magazine as per Grazia.

After spending her daughter's early years in upstate New York, the pair moved back to Brooklyn when Matilda Rose was six, and Williams highlights in the Vanity Fair interview how normal a life her daughter has led since. She's been enrolled in the same private high school since that age and, "hasn't had her routine disrupted and hasn't missed class." The close mom and daughter spend their summers together, enjoying "undone time" at their house upstate, which Williams describes as, “less scheduled, less regulated, less hustle, less go go go.”

In a particularly introspective moment, she shared her feelings about motherhood to Porter, as reported by Grazia:

“I watched [Matilda] warm in the sun, in her swimsuit, get on her bicycle and smile and wave as she rode off to go meet her friends,” she said. “I went back into the house and sobbed because of this incredibly simple moment—common everyday happiness. I really felt like in that moment, like wow, we’ve done it. Not only are we OK, she’s happy. Life has brought us to a place that’s not just surviving, but thriving.”

Michelle Williams (2018), (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

According to Who Magazine, Williams has said that she misses Ledger, but all she has to do is look at her daughter to remember him. She said, “Every time I really miss him and wonder where he’s gone, I just look at her." Ever since Ledger's death, Williams has focused on raising Matilda Rose out of the public eye, as well as working incredibly hard at her career.

She's gone from strength to strength in her acting work, appearing in independent movies such as Blue Valentine and Manchester By the Sea, for which she received Academy Award nominations. In fact, Williams has been nominated at the Oscars four times in total, has won two Golden Globe Awards for My Week with Marilyn and Fosse/Verdon, has won an Emmy, and been nominated for a Tony.

In the Vanity Fair interview, Williams explains that she "never gave up on love." In the years since her relationship with Ledger, she's had brief relationships with director Spike Jonze and actor Jason Segel, among others. She even had a brief marriage to musician Phil Elverum, in which the two had bonded over their grief of losing their respective partners as they each had children under the age of two. However, despite their coming together through shared understanding, the union was not meant to be, and they divorced less than a year after marriage.

Michelle Williams, Matilda Ledger (2009), (Ray Tamarra/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

However, Williams has finally found love again with theater producer Thomas Kail, who's known for his work directing the musicals In the Heights and Hamilton. The couple surprised the public when it was announced in December 2019 that they were not only engaged but also expecting a baby together. They were married in March 2020 and not long after welcomed their first child together in June 2020. A source told Us Weekly in January 2020 that the couple was "very happy and thrilled to be bringing a baby into the world,” as reported by Who Magazine.

Michelle Williams and her daughter Matilda's lives have been completely changed and impacted by the death of Heath Ledger. The journey they've been on is a tough one, but seeing that Williams has not only managed to survive and raise their daughter but truly thrive and succeed in her career, is the uplifting fairytale ending we all wished they could have. 

Michelle Williams, Matilda Ledger (2013), (NCP/Star Max/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Did you know about Michelle Williams and her daughter Matilda's hard journey? Do you think Matilda looks like her dad Heath Ledger? Let us know and pass on their story to those you know.

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