Heath Ledger was ‘extraordinarily serious’ about gay rights in Brokeback Mountain
With Brokeback Mountain reaching it’s 10th anniversary – cast, crew and directors look back and talk about the experience and losing their beloved co-star.
Brokeback Mountain is regarded by many as one of the most poignant LGBT films of all time – having two straight a-list celebrities portray the moving romance of two gay cowboys would’ve been previously unheard of.
Speaking to Out magazine, director Ang Lee looked back at the casting process, saying: “During the interviews I had a feeling they were a little, if I may say, afraid, uncomfortable.
“Usually when they come to meet with [the director] their agents will follow up: “How’s it going?” They didn’t say that to me this time”.
Lee was determined to find the right duo to play Ennis and Twist as Jake Gyllenhaal explained: “When I first met with Ang there were a number of different combinations of actors he had in mind—and each combination of actors was different.
“None stayed the same. You would hear: ‘Oh, this person and that person, or not them at all’” Or ‘this person and that person’, and then ‘not them at all’.
“After I had met with Ang – a brief, somewhat awkward meeting—I heard, “Now he’s thinking about Heath Ledger and you. But if Heath doesn’t want to do it, then it’s going to be somebody else.”
With Heath Ledger eventually cast, it then came out that he claimed the script to be “the most beautiful script he’d ever read.”
According to Gyllenhaal – who recently released an emotional tribute to his co-star:”[Ledger] was extraordinarily serious about the political issues surrounding the movie.”
The actor continued: “A lot of times people would want to have fun and joke about it, and he was vehement about being serious, to the point where he didn’t really want to hear about anything that was being made fun of.”
Ang Lee supported this talking about the different acting styles of the two leads: “Jake is more of an improv actor – try this, try that – by Heath’s preparation was really deep.
“He kept his teeth clenched and his face scrunched up for about two months – he didn’t let go.” Lee added.
Anne Hathaway – who played Gyllenhaal’s wife Lureen Newsome in the film – also spoke about Ledger’s devotion to the script and the character: “Heath almost broke his hand making the movie.
“It’s the scene where Jack drives off and Ennis starts to walk down the road and all of a sudden sort of falls into an alleyway.”
She continued: “Heath just really wanted to go there…The plan was for him to put his face against the wall – that’s what the shot was supposed to be – and he just wound up punching the brick.
“Everyone was freaking out because it was a real wall. It wasn’t a movie brick wall. It was a f**kin’ brick wall.”
Hathaway talks later about a different scene but concludes with: “I just remember looking at Heath in that moment, and thinking, That is one of the greatest actors that has ever been.”
Not only did the team make clear Ledger’s strict acting techniques but also his experience of meeting his future spouse – Michelle Williams.
“The first day we filmed that scene where Michelle’s character is on the toboggan and falls off the sled, and Ennis is with her – they’re laughing; well on the third take, Michelle fell off the sled, and at the bottom of the hill she was crying.” Diana Ossana – one of the film’s screenwriters – discusses.
“She’d twister her knee, and we had to call someone to take her to hospital. heath was not about to let her go alone, and as he was getting into the vehicle with her he was smoothing her hair back…For him it was truly love at first sight. He was so taken with her.”
Obviously Ledger’s death was a trying time for many of the cast. Gyllenhaal voiced his feelings: “While there are many parts of the real story that are sad, one of the saddest things is that I won’t be able to exchange ideas creatively with Heath again, because that was one of the most beautiful things to come out of that.”