Heath Ledger Golden Globe nod boosts Oscar momentum

LOS ANGELES Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:31pm EST

Actor Heath Ledger arrives at the premiere of the film ''Candy'' in New York, November 6, 2006. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Actor Heath Ledger arrives at the premiere of the film ''Candy'' in New York, November 6, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Heath Ledger's final role as the demented Joker is turning out to be one of his best.

The Australian actor, who died in January of an accidental prescription drug overdose, was nominated for a Golden Globe on Thursday for his role in the Batman movie "The Dark Knight", piling on the momentum for rare posthumous Oscar recognition.

Ledger, 28, won two awards in the past week for his acclaimed but unnerving performance in the movie that was released just months after his untimely death.

The Australian Film Institute awarded Ledger its prestigious international award for best actor on Saturday and on Tuesday the Los Angeles Film Critics Association chose him as best supporting actor of 2008.

"He will be a lock now for an Oscar nomination," said Tom O'Neil, columnist for awards Web site www.TheEnvelope.com after Ledger's Golden Globe nod as best supporting actor.

"As for whether he can win, we will see. The first test will be at the Golden Globe awards in January," O'Neil said.

Awards buzz for Ledger began as soon as "The Dark Knight" was released in July. But the Batman blockbuster, which has taken $997 million worldwide at box offices, is the type of comic book action series that Hollywood rarely favors when handing out its honors.

Posthumous awards are even rarer. Only one actor has won an Oscar after death -- Peter Finch for 1976's "Network."

Ledger's father Kim, in Perth, Australia, said the family welcomed Thursday's Golden Globe nomination. In a statement, Kim Ledger said it was "deeply appreciated and is not lost on those of us who continue to love and miss him. We are so proud our boy's work is being recognized in this way."

In life, Ledger failed to win either a Golden Globe or an Oscar despite being a strong favorite for his 2005 role as a taciturn gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain".

This time around, it could be different.

"The nomination was expected...and Ledger may be a favorite in that category for sure," said Pete Hammond, film critic with Hollywood.com.

Ledger's fellow Golden Globe nominees include Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise for their comic turns in the satire "Tropic Thunder", Philip Seymour Hoffman for church abuse tale "Doubt" and Ralph Fiennes for the costume drama "The Duchess".

Asked if Ledger would win the Golden Globe, "Hustle & Flow" actor Terrence Howard told Hollyscoop.com; "I'm sure he will. Even if someone else won in his category, if I had won in that category, I would give it to his family because he truly had the best performance."

Jorge Camara, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which will hand out the Golden Globes on January 11, said; "It is just a shame Heath Ledger is not here to celebrate."

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