Heath Ledger has become the second posthumous winner of an acting Academy Award by winning the supporting actor category for his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in January last year. It was the seventh posthumous acting nomination.
His family, father Kim Ledger, mother Sally Bell and sister Kate Ledger, accepted the award on his behalf. All three spoke.
His father, Kim, said the award was ‘’humbling’’ and he thanked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the film’s studio, Warner Bros, the film’s director Christopher Nolan and his agent, Steve Alexander.
‘’This award tonight would have humbly validated Heath’s quiet determination to be accepted by you all here, his peers,’’ he said.
His mother said Heath was ‘’a generous and compassionate soul.’’
‘’Tonight we are choosing to celebrate and be happy for what he has achieved,’’ she added.
Kate revealed on stage she had spoken to her brother about the possibility of award attention for his performance as The Joker.
"We really wish you were, but we proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful (daughter) Matilda,'' Kate said.
Stars including Brad Pitt and Anne Hathaway fought back tears when Ledger's name was read out.
Throughout the speeches, cameras panned around the audience to capture the teary reaction of stars like Kate Winslet and Adrian Brody.
Presenter Kevin Kline said Ledger's performance would long be remembered.
"Menacing, mercurial, droll and diabolical, Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight kept us all on edge, anxious to see what act of appalling mischief he might commit next,'' Kline said.
"With this ... performance, as well as with a wide range of other roles to which he put his unique signature, Heath Ledger has left us an original and enduring legacy.''