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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 15:37 GMT
Stars pay tribute to Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger tribute in New York
Flowers have been left in tribute in New York

Hollywood stars, family and fans have paid tribute to actor Heath Ledger, who has been found dead aged 28.

"He was just taking off and to lose his life at such a young age is a tragic loss," said Braveheart star Mel Gibson.

Nicole Kidman called the death of the Brokeback Mountain actor a "terrible tragedy". Ledger's body was found in his New York apartment on Tuesday.

The city's medical examiner said an autopsy was inconclusive. Police said prescription pills were found nearby.

Officers are reportedly investigating whether he died of an overdose of medication.

His father Kim Ledger said the death of his "dearly loved son" was "tragic" and "accidental".

Speaking in the actor's home town of Perth, Western Australia, Mr Ledger said his son was a "down-to-earth, generous, kind hearted, life-loving, unselfish individual".

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also paid tribute, calling the star "one of our nation's finest actors".

I deeply respected Heath's work and always admired his continuing development as an artist
Cate Blanchett

"Heath Ledger's diverse and challenging roles will be remembered as some of the great performances by an Australian actor," he said.

Cate Blanchett, who co-starred in one of Ledger's recent films, I'm Not There, said she was "shocked and very saddened by the news".

"I deeply respected Heath's work and always admired his continuing development as an artist. My thoughts are with his family and close friends."

US actor John Travolta, who was in Australia at the time of Ledger's death, said the young actor had been one of his favourite performers.

Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger
The saddest thing is his daughter whom he just loved dearly
Larry Williams, father of ex-partner Michelle Williams (above)

"I don't know how to compare his talent to others but he's touched me deeply as a talent and it's a great loss," he said.

Fans have been leaving flowers and candles outside Ledger's apartment in the SoHo district.

Khaled Ali, a 41-year-old Broadway stage manager, left a candle and said: "I felt a connection with him as an actor, as a fellow in the theatre community.

"With Brokeback Mountain he touched me personally in telling the story of my community. It was very touching."

The star, who earned an Oscar nomination for his role in Brokeback Mountain in 2006, was found dead in the rented apartment at 1526 (2026 GMT) on Tuesday.

New York police said they did not suspect foul play and the medical examiner's office said it would take about 10 days to determine the cause of death.

Terrible to see his young daughter lose her father. I've been looking forward to seeing him in the new Batman movie
Mark, Houston
In September, the Perth-born actor split from his girlfriend Michelle Williams, with whom he has a two-year-old daughter, Matilda.

Williams played Ledger's wife in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain.

On Wednesday, Williams and Matilda left Trollhattan, Sweden, where she had been filming.

The actress' father Larry Williams said the worst thing about Ledger's death was that Matilda would grow up without knowing her father.

"My heart goes out to everyone in his family and my family. The saddest thing is his daughter whom he just loved dearly," he said.

Ledger was seen in London last week shooting his latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, directed by Terry Gilliam.

The star also plays The Joker in yet-to-be-released Batman film The Dark Knight.

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