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Ledger's autopsy 'inconclusive'

A drug overdose is possible. The woman who found his body called an actress friend before dialing 911.

January 24, 2008|Paul Lieberman and Rachel Abramowitz | Times Staff Writers

NEW YORK — It will take up to two weeks to determine the cause of Heath Ledger's death, the New York City Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday, but police were investigating the possibility of a drug overdose as additional details emerged about the discovery of the 28-year-old actor's body.

Authorities said a rolled-up $20 bill was found near Ledger's body on the floor of his loft, and that one of the women who discovered him had phoned actress Mary-Kate Olsen before she called authorities.

New York police said masseuse Diana Wolozin, who had an appointment to give Ledger a massage at his Soho loft, called Olsen in California using the actor's cellphone, knowing that she was a friend of his, and only after a second conversation with the actress did she call 911 at 3:26 p.m. to report that Ledger was unresponsive.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said no illegal drugs were found in the spacious loft and that no drug residue was visible on the rolled-up $20 bill.

On Tuesday, a police spokesman at the scene reported that sleeping pills were found near the bed and other prescription drugs were in the bathroom, reportedly including antidepressants, but that there was no sign of foul play and no note.

An autopsy Wednesday proved "inconclusive," the city medical examiner said. Authorities said they would have to wait 10 days to two weeks for the results of toxicology and tissue tests to find out what killed the actor, who won acclaim for his portrayal of a gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain."

On Wednesday, Det. Brian Sessa provided a timeline of how Ledger's body was discovered:

* At about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, housekeeper Teresa Solomon arrived to clean the apartment on Broome Street. Half an hour later, while changing a bathroom lightbulb, she saw Ledger facedown on his bed and heard him snoring.

* Ledger did not come out of the bedroom when the masseuse arrived at 2:45 p.m., so Wolozin called his cellphone, apparently to wake him, and got no response. Entering the bedroom, the masseuse started setting up her table, but the actor did not wake when she stirred him.

* Wolozin then speed-dialed Olsen using Ledger's phone to report that the actor was unconscious, and Olsen called a security firm in New York. Soon after, the masseuse phoned Olsen again to say that Ledger remained unconscious. She then called 911.

* A New York City Fire Department emergency crew was unable to revive the actor when it reached the loft at 3:33 p.m. Guards from the security firm called by Olsen reached the scene about the same time.

During their efforts to revive Ledger, the paramedics moved his body off the bed, police said, thus explaining a statement by a police spokesman Tuesday night that the actor had been found naked on the floor.

Police said the witnesses were cooperating, including Olsen, who for a time attended nearby New York University with her twin sister.

"The whole thing is still under investigation," Sessa said.

Hollywood was paying close attention to updates in the investigation, as filmmakers who had been working with Ledger on upcoming movies tried to figure out how his death would affect their projects.

In the weeks before his return to New York on Sunday, Ledger had been working in London on the $30-million Terry Gilliam fantasy movie "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," about a theater impresario (played by Christopher Plummer) who offers audience members the opportunity to cross through a magical mirror into a universe of limitless imagination.

On a day when a Times reporter was present on the set, Ledger, whose roguish character falls in love with Dr. Parnassus' daughter, was wearing a white-pinstriped suit with a red cravat, a Venetian mask around his neck and gold paint glistening from his face. The actor was suffering from a cold, but remained friendly and chatty with the cast and crew.

Ledger, who had worked with Gilliam on 2005's "The Brothers Grimm," was devoted to the director, who hadn't asked him to star in the new film. Explained Gilliam: "[Heath] was working at my effects company doing an animated pop video . . . and one day I was showing a storyboard, projecting it to the effects guys, and in the middle of that he slipped me a note and he said, 'Can I play Tony?' And bingo."

The production had recently wrapped its filming in London and was scheduled to shoot an additional 23 days of special-effects sequences in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Gilliam planned to create the inside of the Imaginarium. The production has reportedly shut down temporarily. Producers for the film did not return calls, and it was unclear if the part could or would be recast.

For the last year, Ledger also had been gearing up for his directorial debut, working with veteran screenwriter Allan Scott on an adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel "The Queen's Gambit," about an orphan girl who becomes a chess prodigy. Scott said they recently offered the part to "Juno" star Ellen Page.

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