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Jake Gyllenhaal: ‘It Was Very Important’ to Break Stigma of Playing Gay Roles with ‘Brokeback’

"People of all different experiences should be playing more roles," Gyllenhaal said.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, 2005, (c) Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection

Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal in “Brokeback Mountain”

©Focus Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

In a new interview with The Sunday Times (via Insider), Jake Gyllenhaal reflected on playing a gay role in “Brokeback Mountain” as a straight man. The actor earned his first and only Oscar nomination to date thanks to his performance opposite Heath Ledger in the Ang Lee-directed romance drama. The Times asked if people would have “a different reaction” to two straight actors tackling the romantic leads in “Brokeback Mountain,” to which Gyllenhaal replied, “I don’t know. Maybe?”

“Part of the medicine of storytelling is that we were two straight guys playing these parts,” Gyllenhaal added. “There was a stigma about playing a part like that, you know, why would you do that? And I think it was very important to both of us to break that stigma.”

Gyllenhaal continued, “But then again, I think that has led the way towards people saying, you know, people of all different experiences should be playing more roles, that it shouldn’t be limited to a small group of people. And I believe that.”

Ledger and Gyllenhaal took their roles seriously and frequently shut down homophobic conversations around the movie that popped up in the years after its release. Gyllenhaal revealed in 2019 that the late 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.’”

Ledger also refused to let the Oscars make a “Brokeback Mountain” joke the year the film was nominated. While “Brokeback” famously lost Best Picture to “Crash,” Ang Lee did receive the Academy Award for Best Director.

“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Gyllenhaal told Another Man magazine last year. “And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay… whatever.’ I’m always like, ‘It’s all in good fun.’ And Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me – I don’t want to make any jokes about it.’”

Next up for Gyllenhaal is “The Guilty,” streaming on Netflix October 1.

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