Ang Lee’s 2005 romance “Brokeback Mountain” was a seminal moment in queer film history. With eight Oscar nominations and $178 million grossed at the worldwide box office, the film brought mature queer themes and a gay love story to the masses like few films before it in history. The industry embraced “Brokeback Mountain,” but that didn’t stop the film from becoming the center of endless homophobic jokes over the next decade. In a new interview with “Today,” “Brokeback” actor Jake Gyllenhaal reveals his late co-star Heath Ledger refused to let people he encountered get away with making gay “Brokeback” jokes.
“I see people who have joked with me or criticized me about lines I say in that movie — and that’s the thing I loved about Heath,” Gyllenhaal said. “He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love’. Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.’”
Both Gyllenhaal and Ledger received Oscar nominations for their performances in the movie. While “Brokeback” opened new dramatic doors for Gyllenhaal, it didn’t take long for him to realize the film had taken on a life beyond just his career. “It opened tons of doors. It was crazy. It was amazing. It’s defined my career in different ways,” he said. “[But the film] is bigger than me…It has become not ours anymore. It’s the world’s.”
The movie’s success proved to Hollywood that queer subject matter could be hugely profitable at the box office. Funnily enough, Gyllenhaal and Ledger were not the first choices to play the movie’s lead roles. Gus Van Sant developed “Brokeback” before Ang Lee came on board and told IndieWire last year the film was offered to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time.
“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant said. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no. Yes, all those young gentlemen [at the time] turned down the project, for various reasons.”
Watch Gyllenhaal’s “Today” interview on “Brokeback Mountain” in the video below.