Gyllenhaal played cowboy Jack Twist, who starts a secret, decades-long affair with ranchhand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger), despite them both having wives at home, portrayed by Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams.
“The relationship between me and Heath while we were making this movie was something that was based on a profound love for a lot of people that we knew and were raised by in our lives, a deep respect for their love and their relationship,” Gyllenhaal said.
The “Ambulance” actor added, “There were many jokes being made about the movie, or poking fun at, things like that. And [Ledger’s] consummate devotion to how serious and important the relationship between these two characters was — it showed me how devoted he was as an actor and how devoted we both were to the story and the movie.”
Gyllenhaal also shared a moment that he often looks back on when it came to “Brokeback” reception.
“Heath and I were at a Q&A at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles, and I remember us going to dinner while the movie was screening. And I remember us joking backstage, and I remember us coming on to the stage in a humorous mode because we were just having fun with each other,” Gyllenhaal said. “We sat down, the lights came up, and a man stood up — and the movie had been out for a week and a half — and he said, ‘I just want to say, this is my 11th time seeing this movie, and I can’t stop watching it, and I just want to thank you all for making it.’ And I thought, 11 times in 10 days.”
The “Nocturnal Animals” star continued, “I remember the wash of that over us. We were poking fun at each other before we go on, and then the profound realization of — the profundity of this thing washed over us. It happens constantly to this day, and I can’t really express how proud I am of it.”
Gyllenhaal has previously spoken out about Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” helping to de-stigmatize straight male actors playing queer characters. The actor also revealed in 2019 that late co-star Ledger refused to let people he encountered get away with making homophobic “Brokeback” jokes. Ledger reportedly even turned down presenting at the 2007 Oscars because of quips about the film’s love story.