Sydney-Bred Actor Wins Heath Ledger Scholarship

A Sydney-bred actor has become the first recipient of a scholarship in the name of the late Heath Ledger.

Oliver Ackland, 29, beat out 150 applications to win the scholarship, which was designed to give an Aussie actor a leg up in Hollywood.

“How do we judge this,” Rachel Griffiths told those gathered at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles on Thursday night, including Ledger’s family, according to Australia’s WA Today. “Are we looking for the next Heath Ledger? … We all said ‘No. There is no next Heath Ledger, but there’s plenty of other people.’… After a lot of arguing, we finally said Oliver Ackland.”

The scholarship Oliver received was worth $10,000 and will also provide him Qantas air travel between Australia and the U.S. in his bid to advance his acting career abroad.

Support for the award came from friends of the star, including Hugh Jackman, Heath’s ex Michelle Williams and Naomi Watts, according to People.

The recipient was chosen by a panel including Griffiths, and Ledger’s friends and associates, including his U.S. Agent Steve Alexander, “Ned Kelly” Director Gregor Jordan and Ann Fay, who cast Heath in his first TV series.

In addition to the Ledger family, a host of Australian stars attend the ceremony including Melissa George, “House’s’ Jesse Spencer and Rose Byrne.

Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose in January 2008, at the age of 28.

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