The Brokeback Mountain movie is a LGBTQ+ classic, released in 2005. The film directed by Ang Lee received universal acclaim. Taking place in 1963, Brokeback Mountain follows the love affair of two sheep herding cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively. The gentlemen have an emotional and sexual affair that lasts a lifetime. Never feeling like they can be together, they both go on to marry women and start families of their own, always finding their way back to each other, but never sharing a life together. This tear-jerking, queer must see was written by Annie Proulx, Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. Check out various screen facts below.
Surprise Loss for Academy Awards Best Picture
While the movie won the Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score Academy Awards, there was shock from everyone in attendance when it lost Best Picture to Crash. The presenter for the Best Picture award, Jack Nicholson, even released an audible gasp when reading the winner. Director Ang Lee would go on to express disappointment behind the stage that Brokeback Mountain did not win Best Picture and further disappointment that Heath Ledger did not win Best Actor.
On Set Romance
On camera, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were diving into the complexities of sexuality and relationships. Behind the scenes, Heath Ledger was becoming intimate with Michelle Williams, who played his wife in the film. Michelle even insisted on watching the two leading men kiss in front of her. She felt, being involved with Ledger both in the film and in real life, seeing this would help her performance on screen. She even commanded that the gentlemen put more effort into their kiss as she felt the first attempts seemed too half-hearted. Michelle ended up giving birth to her and Heath’s daughter, Matilda, before the premier of the film. Jake is Matilda’s godfather, he joked, “Heath and I made love, and they [Williams and Ledger] got a baby out of it.” The couple parted ways in 2007.
Cowboy and Queer Training
Both Heath and Jake were to attend a month-long cowboy camp. Ledger found a way out of it since he had grown up on farms, but Jake still had to attend becausehe needed to roughen up. Ang Lee also gave both actors copies of the book Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest, by Will Fellows. This book was recommended by the story and script writers, Annie Proulx and Diana Ossana, as a source reference to help the actors get into their characters. After reading the book, Gyllenhaal would say about Brokeback Mountain’s Ennis and Jack, “I don’t think that these two characters even know what gay is.”
Lead Actors Cast as a Pair
Ang Lee intentionally considered actors in pairs for the leading roles. Meaning if either Ledger or Gyllenhaal did not accept the role, the other would not have been cast. Gyllenhaal had met briefly with Ang Lee, where he was told about possible different combination of actors. Then Jake was told, “[Ang Lee is] thinking about Heath Ledger and you. But if Heath doesn’t want to do it, then it’s going to be somebody else.”
Fear of Playing Gay
Ang Lee had auditioned other actors for the lead roles, noticing hesitation in the audition process. Diana Ossana, one of the writers and producers, commented that many actors were discouraged from playing these lead gay roles, as it could have been “career suicide”. Ledger not only took on the role, but defended the film and actively shut down any homophobic jokes. His fears did not lie in playing a gay role, but in doing the role justice. Both Jake and Ledger would be nominated for Oscars for their roles.