( dpa ) - Australians were in shock Wednesday on learning that Perth-born Heath Ledger had been found dead at the age of 28 in his New York apartment.
Ledger's body was found by his housekeeper Tuesday afternoon. According to a New York Times report, foul play is not suspected, and police found a bottle of pills near his body.
The Oscar-nominated actor attempted suicide in September, shortly after he called off his engagement to actor Michelle Williams, with whom he has a 2-year-old daughter.
Noted film critic Margaret Pomerantz, who last met Ledger at the Venice Film Festival, where the actor was promoting the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, described him as "enormously sweet but very shy" - a troubled megastar who had been awkward and had mumbled through her interview.
"It was so hard to get him to look up," she told national broadcaster ABC. "I don't think he was ever very comfortable with that press profile that is so necessary with young performers."
Pomerantz, Australia's best-known film critic, said it would seem the high-school drop-out was living the life any young actor would envy - the roles he wanted, a swank New York apartment and popular acclaim.
"People may seem to have everything on the outside, but really they are craving some sort of peace inside, and they go about finding it the wrong way," she said. "It's just such an incredible waste."
She said the star of Brokeback Mountain, a story of two gay cowboys, had made "very intelligent choices" after he moved to Hollywood in 1999 and made a breakthrough appearance in 10 Things I Hate About You.
"Working with Ang Lee on Brokeback Mountain was actually a risky film for him to make," she said. "It took a long time to get up because of the subject matter - people don't want to see films about gay relationships mainstream - and taking on that role was a real risk for him."
Neil Armfield, the Australian who directed Ledger in the local drugs-and-sex film Candy, said he was a great talent.
"He was always a complex and complicated man to work with but ... just a master, so passionately concerned to get it right," Armfield said.
Ledger, who has a 2-year-old daughter, Matilda-Rose, with Brokeback co-star Williams, had a testy relationship with photographers. He was previously romantically linked to fellow Australian actor Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman's best friend.
Ledger claimed paparazzi had driven him out of Australia when he put his Sydney harbourside house for sale in 2006. Ledger bought the house in the beachside suburb of Bronte for 4.4 million Australian dollars (3.3 million US dollars) in 2004.
"Bronte is scaring me at the moment," Ledger was quoted as saying. "I feel like the paparazzi are going to kick me out of that city."
At the premiere of Brokeback Mountain in Sydney, press photographers squirted him with water pistols in retaliation for being spat at by him. Ledger also starred in The Patriot, Monster's Ball, A Knight's Tale and The Brothers Grimm.
Ledger, who never attended drama school, was criticized for his choice of film roles but said he took what appealed to him.
"I'm not good at future planning," he was quoted as saying. "I don't plan at all. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. I don't have a day-planner, and I don't have a diary. I completely live in the now, not in the past, not in the future."