Pictures of a newly crowned film star Heath Ledger frolicking in Las Vegas with fellow Australian Rose Byrne in 1999 may feature in an exhibition at the WA Museum courtesy of a donation from pop star Miley Cyrus.
Cyrus outbid her fiancé Liam Hemsworth on Wednesday night when they went head-to-head at a Hollywood charity auction for the limited edition series of seven photographs by celebrity snapper Rupert Thorpe.
Taken soon after Ledger had turned 20, the photographs show the actor hamming it up with Byrne in cheap, loud outfits they bought at an op-shop on the way to the shoot.
The images capture the Perth-born Ledger’s excitement on the brink of stardom shortly wrapping up the Australian gangster film Two Hands with co-star Byrne.
His high-school romance 10 Things I Hate About You had just been released and he was preparing to film his first blockbuster opposite Mel Gibson in The Patriot.
Cyrus pipped Hemsworth with a final bid of $22,000 at the Australians in Film Awards auction and has reportedly donated the prints to the Ledger exhibition, tentatively scheduled for late 2014.
WA Museum curators are working on the exhibition about the Perth-born star’s life with Ledger’s family, who have provided his costume worn as The Joker in The Dark Knight and the Oscar he won for the role.
His sister Kate, who had been staying with Ledger after his move to Los Angeles in 1999, said the family did not have any details about the Cyrus donation but the images captured the excitement of the time.
“We decided that afternoon that we were going to go Vegas for three or four nights with Rose and Gregor (Two Hands director Gregor Jordan) and we all decided we would dress up in costume,” Ms Ledger said.
“The gig was we had to have fake names, fake ID and we weren’t allowed to get changed out of our costumes. We had an absolute ball.”
Photographer Thorpe has said of the exuberant shoot that there were no publicists, managers or minders present so the soon-to-be stars were relaxed and unguarded.
“I had never heard of (Ledger) but he was full of energy and you could see he was destined for great things,” Thorpe said in 2010.
“He was a little boy from Australia (who had) come over to big America. He was loving life and he didn’t seem to have a care in the world. He was happy and carefree. He was young and untarnished and full of beans back then.”
Ledger, 28, died in 2008 from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, leaving his daughter Matilda, 6, from his relationship with Michelle Williams.