(Recasts with family to accept any award)
LOS ANGELES Feb 18 Matilda Ledger, the
three-year-old daughter of late Australian actor Heath Ledger,
will be the eventual owner of an Oscar if he wins a statuette
on Sunday, but his family will accept the award on his behalf.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on
Wednesday it has decided if Ledger wins a rare posthumous Oscar
for his performance as the villainous Joker in "The Dark
Knight," Matilda would receive the Oscar after she turns 18.
Ledger, 28, who died last year of a prescription drug
overdose, is widely expected to win the best supporting actor
Oscar at the Feb. 22 Academy Awards in Hollywood after picking
up virtually every other award in that category this season.
He would be only the second actor to receive an Oscar after
death, following Peter Finch who won in 1976 for "Network", and
his family will be on hand if he does win, travelling from the
actor's home town of Perth in Western Australia for the
"We have had Oscars awarded to a minor directly and Oscars
awarded posthumously but generally there has been a spouse or
an oldest child of legal age" to accept them, said Bruce Davis,
executive director of the Academy.
"I don't think we have ever had a situation like this."
Australia's The Age newspaper said Ledger's family will
accept the actor's hotly tipped Oscar if his posthumous
award-winning streak continues.
His maniacal portrayal of the Joker has already won him
best supporting actor at the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes and the
Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The newspaper said his father Kim Ledger, mother Sally Bell
and sister Kate Ledger will all walk the Hollywood red carpet
ahead of the awards and accept a statuette on his behalf but
they had not yet decided who would address the ceremony if he
Ledger's engagement to actress Michelle Williams, Matilda's
mother, ended before his death and he was not previously
Matilda is too young to sign the winner's agreement,
required of all nominees, which says the recipient will not
sell his or her Oscar before offering it back to the Academy
Davis said that after discussions, Williams agreed she
would hold any Oscar in trust for Matilda until her daughter
turns 18. Matilda could then choose to keep the statuette or
return it to the Academy.
"It was a new circumstance for us and we had to figure out
what was fair and what would work," Davis said.
The Academy declined on Wednesday to say who would accept
the Oscar at the podium on Ledger's behalf if he were to win.
At the Golden Globe awards, "Dark Knight" director
Christopher Nolan accepted the trophy for Ledger and at the
Screen Actors Guild honors, "Dark Knight" co-star Gary Oldman
took the stage to handle the statuette and make a speech on
His family in Australia have said they expect Matilda to
eventually inherit those awards.
(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith)
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Bob Tourtellotte)