“I can’t really express how proud I am of it.”
Nearly two decades after its release, Brokeback Mountain is still one of the most referenced and quintessential queer films of our time. Not only did it capture commercial success, but it was also critically praised and awarded. The films enduring impact on the queer community is indisputable. Still, it’s mostly LGBTQ+ audiences who still have a deep appreciation for the Ennis and Jack’s love story. Now, Jake Gyllenhaal is remembering what the iconic role, and his relationship with his co-star Heath Ledger, meant to him.
What Is Brokeback Mountain About?
If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely already seen Brokeback Mountain. Either way, here is a brief overview in case you aren’t familiar or need a refresher.
Directed by Ang Lee and based on a short story by Annie Proulx, the film follows Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two cowboys from Wyoming during the 1960s. While spending the summer herding sheep, the two men develop a romantic connection that culminates in one of the most iconic sex scenes in cinematic history!
The closeted cowboys part ways after their encounter and enter into heterosexual relationships. Years later, Ennis and Jack reconnect and immediately rekindle their love affair, though still living as straight men. Unable to reconcile his sexuality, Ennis refuses Jack’s advances and requests to start a life together. They continue to see each other as their marriages become strained and eventually erode. Eventually, their unrequited love causes conflict between the two. Ennis and Jack drift apart while still longing for one another. We will stop the overview here for anyone who has not seen how the film ends. But honestly, seventeen years later, spoiler alerts shouldn’t be necessary.
During a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Gyllenhaal reminisced about his filming with his co-star. He also talked about why his experience with Heath Ledger still resonates years later.
Jake Gyllenhaal Talks Brokeback Mountain
The 41-year-old actor said, “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. I remember us coming on stage in a humorous mode because we were just having fun with each other. We sat down, the lights came up, and a man stood up. 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.'”
At the time, no other film featuring two gay leading characters had seen such success. But it wasn’t just the box office numbers or reviews that caused Gyllenhaal to take inventory of his work — it was this comment from a man in the middle of a Q&A.
Gyllenhaal continued, “I thought, 11 times in 10 days. I remember the wash of that over us. We were poking fun at each other before we go on, and then […] 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.”
He also remembers Ledger’s commitment to the story of two men whose experience deserved to be told authentically. Gyllenhaal says, “His [Ledger] 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.”