Heath Ledger’s family and friends reflect on his final days

By Gemma Strong

It's been nine years since Heath Ledger passed away in 2008 from an accidental overdose at the age of 28. Ahead of the release of a new Spike TV documentary I Am Heath Ledger, his friends and family have opened up about the talented Australian actor, sharing memories of his final days.

During the last weeks of his life, Heath had been dealing with his split from Michelle Williams, mother of his then-two-year-old daughter Matilda, was busy filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and was also battling a pneumonia-type illness and insomnia. He was "exhausted, emotionally and physically", his friend and roommate, dialect coach Gerry Grennell told People.

TAP TO VIEW GALLERYA photo of Heath Ledger with Michelle WilliamsHeath Ledger pictured with Michelle Williams, mother of his daughter Matilda

STORY: Michelle Williams speaks candidly about Heath Ledger's tragic death

"He missed his girl, he missed his family, his missed his little girl – he desperately wanted to see her and hold her and play with her," he said. "He was desperately unhappy, desperately sad." The new documentary – set to air on 27 May - gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Heath's life, with rare footage filmed by Heath himself, as well as interviews with his family. Sister Kate Ledger has said she believes the actor was piecing together footage for Matilda. "You can tell her about things, but with her being able to visually see the movement and his expressions, it's almost like he had actually filmed the documentary himself and pieced it together for her," she told People.

A photo of Heath LedgerHeath passed away on 22 January 2008, aged 28

STORY: Michelle Williams on raising daughter Matilda without Heath Ledger

Kate continued: "I still feel very connected to Heath. I feel connected to him through his beautiful daughter Matilda. When Heath was around, she looked so much like him, we used to say, 'It's Heath in pigtails.' Now everything she does, the way she rides a skateboard, reminds me of Heath. For the first five years every time I saw her I'd be in tears, but now I can be happy and feel her daddy's energy through her."

I Am Heath Ledger executive producer Matt Amato, one of Heath's closest friends, described the star as a "natural" dad. "He knew what to do with a baby right away," he said. "I said, 'How come you are so comfortable with this?' He said, 'Well, I look at her and I try to be her and try to understand what she needs.' I hope she remembers the way he would spin her around and call her darling and her excitement seeing him. They really did have something wonderful."

HELLO! Canada magazine is available for your tablet and smartphone. Get HELLO! Canada, PEOPLE, Vanity Fair and over 100 more of the world’s best magazines for one low monthly price at Texture by Next Issue. CLICK HERE to sign up for a free trial.