The family of the late Heath Ledger have expressed their pride in the actor's performance in The Dark Knight.

The Australian starred as The Joker in the Batman sequel and has been widely tipped to receive a posthumous Oscar for his villainous turn.

Ledger was found dead in his New York City apartment on January 22nd this year after a fatal overdose of prescription medication.

And after his Dark Knight colleagues Christian Bale and Sir Michael Caine paid tribute to the late actor's brilliance, his family have issued a statement iterating their admiration for the Brokeback Mountain star.

"The Dark Knight is everything we hoped it would be and more," Ledger's father, Kim, said in a statement issued on behalf of the actor's immediate family.

"Heath loved the experience of creating this character and working on the film. We are so proud of our boy."

Speaking at Monday's New York premiere, Maggie Gyllenhaal - who steps into Katie Holmes' shoes as love interest Rachel Dawes - echoed her co-stars' sentiments about Ledger's work in The Dark Knight.

"Heath is incredible in the movie and you know he's totally free in the movie, which is so rare even among the greatest actors," she told Access Hollywood.

"And I think all of the attention that it's getting him makes total sense when you watch his work. It's such a shame he's gone."

The Dark Knight is released on July 25th.

16/07/2008 09:30:16