LOS ANGELES – Heath Ledger's tragic death earlier this year came as a surprise to the public, but the warning bells were ringing two years ago during the filming of the latest "Batman" flick, “The Dark Knight."
According to an on-set source, Ledger was advised to seek professional help for his personal problems, but turned to the Joker role to mask his psychological woes.
"Heath refused to talk to anyone out-of-character," the source said. "If you tried to communicate with him normally instead of the Joker, he would just ignore you.
"He would often come to the set to hang out even on his days off in character, freaking everyone out," the source continued. "Toward the end of filming, he was warned by people that he’d gone too far, but it was almost like he couldn't connect with those who cared for him anymore."
Ledger reportedly locked himself in an apartment for an entire month to fully become the crazed, criminal-minded character, and we're told by another source on the set of "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" that Heath couldn't "snap out of it" and basically "lost sense" of who he was.
"Heath couldn't be himself anymore and that terrified him," said the source, adding that the controversies surrounding his will, alleged cocaine usage and possible love child prove that no matter how “removed” Heath tried to be from the limelight, he could never escape the constant hearsay.
“When you have people talking s—t about you all the time, of course it's hard to stay levelheaded and remember who you really are,” the insider said.
Pop Tarts has also been told that Warner Bros. may be considering cutting scenes from the new film that show the Joker in a body bag after audiences got upset during a prescreening.
"It's highly likely that that will be modified," an insider said.
Reps from Warner Bros. were not available for comment.
Heather Mills Has 'Intense Conversation' With Owner of Penthouse
After appointing Miss Texas Crystle Stewart to be Donald Trump's new Miss USA in Sin City on Friday night, judge Heather Mills made her way over to Planet Hollywood hotspot Prive nightclub for the after-party.
Mills was jeered by the Vegas audience when introduced by pageant host Marie Osmond as a "goodwill ambassador"; however, Mills shrugged it off with an embarrassed roll of the eyes.
Although Mills refused to do interviews at the post-party, we're told she posed for a picture before planting herself on a VIP couch to talk business with the new owner of Penthouse magazine, Marc Bell.
"The two were engaged in a very intense conversation for well over an hour," our party insider said. "It appeared to be very business-minded and they insisted on a lounge off to the side where nobody could bother them."
Legendary publicist Elliot Mintz was also with the duo — sparking speculation that an "interesting" collaboration between the moguls could be on its way.
Sipping water only, the soon-to-be former Mrs. McCartney then dominated the dance floor to strut what she learned on "Dancing With the Stars" alongside fellow show grad Shanna Moakler.
Meanwhile, 10 of the losing contestants showed up with a brave face — no word on what the other 40 pageant princesses were up to.
Across the Strip at the ultra-luxe Bank nightclub, the newly single Eddie Murphy celebrated his 47th birthday with style. Murphy reportedly insisted that his protection peeps walk him through the jam-packed venue so he could "pick out" the lucky ladies that caught his eye.
"He stayed on the prowl until about 2:30 a.m.," our spy said. "Finally he found one girl in a dress that left little to the imagination. He seemed to like her a lot and they stayed very close throughout the night."
Britney Spears Strikes Car on Freeway
Oops! She did it again!
Britney Spears was driving her banged-up Benz on the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday in slow-moving traffic when she bumped the backside of a Nissan, causing the Nissan to rear-end the car in front.
Luckily for the pop princess (who despite her not-so-pristine driving record has managed to avoid any serious accidents), nobody was injured and the cars were not damaged.
According to a rep from the California Highway Patrol, no citations were issued and Spears was very "cooperative" when they were called in to investigate the fender bender, which took place around 8:20 p.m. PT on Saturday.
Leona Helmsley's Dog Makes as Much Money as Carrie Underwood and Scarlett Johansson Put Together
It's a ton of dough to most of us, but Carrie Underwood and Scarlett Johansson's salaries of $7 million and $5 million respectively seem to pale in comparison to Leona Helmsley's trust-fund dog Trouble.
According to Parade magazine's annual "What People Earn" survey, the 8-year-old white Maltese barked up a bank balance of $12 million last year, thanks to the funds Leona left.
Other "top dogs" include Gisele Bundchen, who earned $33 million; Miley Cyrus, who scooped up $18.2 million; Mary-Kate Olsen, who made $17 million; Ryan Seacrest, who talked his way into $12 million; Katherine Heigl, who enhanced her value by $11 million; and "expecting" starlet Jessica Alba, who has a fresh $9 million to share with her little one on the way.
But of course, these young Hollywood hotties have along way to go to rival some of the older talents of Tinseltown. Dr. Phil McGraw made a cool $90 million, according to Parade; Steven Spielberg scored $110 million; and Oprah Winfrey collected paychecks to the tune of $260 million. Sigh.
Daughtry Fights Global Poverty With Ice Cream
Given their current tour with rock legends Bon Jovi and appearance on "Idol Gives Back," it seemed strange that the hit band Daughtry would make an appearance at Burbank's Ben & Jerry's ice cream store on Monday afternoon.
However it wasn't a matter of scoring a free sweet treat (although they did take advantage of that, especially the new ONE cheesecake brownies).
The boys stuck to their word and (eventually) "rocked" in, and they weren't the ones performing. The "It's Not Over" crooners were upstaged by the African Children's Choir, which entertained the onlookers to celebrate Ben & Jerry's partnership with the ONE Campaign to bring new voices to the fight against global poverty.
"We just took our first trip to Africa, and it was an amazing experience to see American money providing life-saving medicines to the poor and putting kids in school," lead singer Chris Daughtry told us. "We as people have a lot to offer, so let's unite, get involved and make a difference together."
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