Matilda Ledger: 9 Facts About Heath Ledger's Daughter

When Heath Ledger died suddenly in 2008 off the back of his profound success as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," the world was gripped with disbelief. Although he was only 28 when he passed, his work had an incredible impact on people and many have praised his method techniques. What many don't know about him though, is that he and Michelle Williams had a baby girl while they were dating, but she's remained predominantly out of the spotlight since.

Matilda Ledger was born on October 28th, 2005 to her actor parents and is Heath Ledger's only child. She has lived a very private life with her mother, Michelle Williams, who has been very open with her daughter about Ledger and made great strides to ensure she knew all of the positive sides of her father as well. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Williams said: "I always say to Matilda, 'Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes.'"

Matilda Ledger has been making headlines lately after being spotted a few times out and about with her mother. Many sources claim the 17-year-old looks just like her late father, and it's clear she's picked up some of Williams' looks as well. Now with so much media attention on her, the world wants to know: who is Matilda Ledger, and what facts are there to know about her?

1. She was only 2 when her father died

Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger met on the set of "Brokeback Mountain" in 2004 and got engaged fairly quickly. When speaking about their draw to one another, Williams told GQ: "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." They had Matilda the following year but unfortunately split in 2007, with some speculating that it had to do with his drug use and others claiming it was due to his intense preparation to play the Joker.

Despite this, they continued to co-parent their daughter. However, Heath Ledger died from an accidental drug overdose in January of 2008, only four months after their split, when Matilda was 2 years old. Although Ledger tragically passed very early on in her life, Matilda still had a father figure to look up to thanks to Michelle Williams' good friend, Jeremy Strong of "Succession." The two met back in 2004 and have remained close ever since. After Heath Ledger's death, Strong moved in with Williams and her daughter to help out. Speaking with Variety, Williams said her daughter "didn't grow up with her father, but she grew up with her Jeremy and we were changed by his ability to play as though his life depended upon it, because hers did."

2. Michelle Williams sheltered her from the spotlight

Michelle Williams is notoriously private and has made great strides to keep her daughter out of the public eye as she's grown up. Neither she nor Matilda has any social media presence and, despite Williams' fame, have only been photographed by paparazzi together a handful of times. This is in part thanks to Kristen Bell of "The Good Place," who lobbied to prevent the unauthorized publication of celebrity children. Williams commended her in an interview with the New York Post, saying she emails Bell "once every couple of months and say, 'I owe you everything. My daughter's happiness is in your hands.'" Williams has since dubbed Bell as her "personal hero," as her work changed the way she was able to raise Matilda.

In her interview with Vanity Fair, Michelle Williams referenced how she has tried to give Matilda a normal life despite her notoriety, but that it doesn't come without challenges. Williams said: "It's a very hard thing for me to navigate ... my instinct is to keep my life very, very private. But I also need and want certain things out of my career that demand I assume a more public voice."

Whatever she's doing, it's working. Williams has maintained a reserved public image, only surfacing for her work or to share the news that she wants the media to know. What's more impressive is that she's managed to protect her daughter from public scrutiny for many, many years.

3. Thomas Kail became her stepdad in 2020

Michelle Williams has dated a couple of men since Heather Ledger's passing, including Spike Jonze and Jason Segel. She married musician Phil Elverum in 2018, but the relationship was over within a year. While still married to Elverum, Williams worked with Thomas Kail who would go on to direct "Hamilton" in 2020. They split with their respective partners and after Matilda reportedly played "matchmaker" for the two, Williams and Kail got together. They married in 2020, but of course, it was all done privately. A source told Us Weekly that Kail has become a "wonderful father figure" to Matilda, who has embraced him as family.

Michelle Williams has strived to be a positive influence on Matilda and spoke about her love life openly in her Vanity Fair interview. She said, while still with Phil Elverum: "I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself, and I am finally loved by someone who makes me feel free." She added that she has given her daughter some important dating advice, inspired by her time with Heath Ledger: "Don't settle. Don't settle for something that feels like a prison, or is hard, or hurts you. If it doesn't feel like love, it's not love."

4. She was raised in New York

Williams, who is originally from Montana, said she fell in love with Brooklyn back in 1998 to 2000, as she had been living in Manhattan beforehand but loved that she could see the sky in Brooklyn. When Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams were still together, they shared a brownstone in Brooklyn. She and Matilda continued to live in the home together for many years after Ledger's death, but eventually, they packed up and moved to the New York countryside.

Williams said in an interview with the New York Post, referring to how she and her daughter were thrust into the spotlight after Heath Ledger died, saying: "We moved — we left Brooklyn and lived in the country for six years because it was an intolerable state of existence." Given her desire to provide a normal upbringing for Matilda, this move made sense. It provided more privacy for them as well, until the pair, along with Michelle Williams' husband, Thomas Kail, moved back to the city. They reportedly bought a townhome for $10.8 million in Brooklyn Heights, a location known to attract other celebrity couples like John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. All in all, Matilda Ledger has been a New York girl her entire life.

5. She became a big sister in 2020

In a 2012 interview with GQ, Michelle Williams shared her hopes to find the right man much sooner than she had. She said this was "because I really wanted, and I really expected or imagined, that Matilda would have siblings that were close to her age. I wanted that for her. But I couldn't make that happen. And now that she's 6 that isn't even a possibility anymore." Although it wouldn't happen for another eight years, Williams and her husband Thomas Kail did eventually provide that long-sought-after sibling for Matilda. Hart Kail was born in 2020 during the coronavirus lockdown, making Matilda Ledger a big sister for the first time.

Matilda was reportedly "nothing short of a godsend" (via New Idea) helping her mother and stepfather with the baby. In late 2022, Williams and Kail welcomed their second child, but very little is known about the baby, including their name. In an interview with Variety, Williams shared her joy of becoming a mother for the third time, saying: "There's nothing that makes you committed to a better world than raising a great kid. It's the ultimate creative act. ... As the years go on, you sort of wonder what they might hold for you or not hold for you. It's exciting to discover that something you want again and again, is available one more time. That good fortune is not lost on me or my family."

6. She and Heath Ledger share a lot of the same qualities

Aside from looking just like her father, Matilda also shares a lot of the interests and mannerisms Heath Ledger had, according to his family. "She's got an enormous number of his mannerisms," said her paternal grandfather, Kim Ledger (via Now To Love). "She's very inquisitive, she's got his energy, [because] Heath never slept from when he was two and Matilda's like that. I mean, she's just got this ball of energy and she radiates this little aura, Heath was kind of like that. So it's fabulous really."

Matilda Ledger has also reportedly taken up a hobby that Heat Ledger was enamored with playing chess. One close source told New Idea that "Heath was obsessed with chess, and now Matilda is getting quite good at it. She even has her dad's old chessboard." Matilda's father won chess championships while growing up in Perth, so perhaps it's become a way for her to connect with the late actor. In her first public statement after Heath Ledger's death, Michelle Williams acknowledged the grief she felt and said about Matilda: "All that I can cling to is his presence inside her that reveals itself every day. His family and I watch Matilda as she whispers to trees, hugs animals, and takes steps two at a time and we know that he is with us still. She will be brought up with the best memories of him" (via Reuters).

7. She inherited Heath Ledger's fortune

Although Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger split up after only a few years together, she remained close to his family and kept the relationship between Ledger's parents and Matilda Ledger close. Kim Ledger, Heath Ledger's father, said about Williams: "There is no animosity ... We are all just one family" (via People). Ultimately, their close relationship helped with facilitating Matilda's inheritance.

The last time Heath Ledger had updated his will was in 2003, two years before Matilda was born, which declared that he intended to leave his reported $16.3 million estate to his parents and sisters (via the Daily Mail). However, when he sadly died, there was no question in Matilda's grandparents' minds that she was the right heir to Heath Ledger's inheritance. Kim Ledger stated in an interview that their intention "from the moment my boy passed away," was to sign everything over to Matilda. "There was never any question about the fact that Heath's estate would go to Matilda. ... That's how Heath would want it" (via People).

8. She has desires to get in touch with her father's roots

As far as the public knows, Matilda Ledger has never visited her father's home country of Australia. Instead, her paternal grandparents have made regular trips from Perth to New York, visiting with her once a year. However, coronavirus restrictions prevented them from doing so, causing sources to claim that Matilda intends to visit them instead, saying: "Matilda is a strong-willed young thing, just like her dad, and she's informed Michelle that she wants to go to Perth" (via Now To Love). "Michelle is extremely protective of Matilda and has tried so hard to shelter her from public life, but she has accepted Matilda's wishes."

The news of Matilda's intentions to make the long journey to Australia has the media buzzing. "With Matilda growing up looking more and more like Heath, someone's idea of getting her on 'Home And Away' for an episode or two, in tribute to her dad, who got his own acting start on the show, has snowballed," a source said. But there's speculation on whether Michelle Williams would indeed support her daughter's decision to break into acting, having protected her from the public and going through the trials and tribulations of fame herself.

9. Her godparents are Jake Gyllenhaal and Busy Philipps

Matilda Ledger has two more famous actors in her circle; Jake Gyllenhaal of "Zodiac" and Busy Philipps of "Freaks and Geeks" are her godparents. With two very well-known actors as parents, it only makes sense that she would become the godchild of the people her parents worked closely with. Gyllenhaal starred in "Brokeback Mountain" alongside her mother and father in 2005, having become a close friend of Heath Ledger. In a 2015 interview with NPR, Gyllenhaal said about Heath's passing: "I miss him as a human being and I miss working with him and what an unfortunate thing it is that we won't be able to see the beauty of his expression."

Busy Philipps and Michelle Williams go way back, co-starring on "Dawson's Creek" together in the late 90s to early 00s, and have remained friends ever since. Williams said about Philipps in an interview with People: "I'm so in love with her. She's proof that the love of your life does not have to be a man! That's the love of my life right there." With the two having such a close relationship, it's no wonder that Williams trusted Philipps as her daughter's godmother, in addition to her late husband's close friend as godfather.