Jake Gyllenhaal has once again shared memories from the making of one of his most iconic films, Brokeback Mountain, and the emotional bond he shared with his co-star, Heath Ledger.
The 2005 film, directed by Ang Lee, became a sensation thanks to its story of two cowboys in love. The movie earned eight nominations at the Academy Awards, including nods for Ledger and Gyllenhaal, as well as Best Picture. Lee, along with screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, actually took home the golden statues. Audiences flocked to Brokeback as well; the film grossed $178 million at the box office against a $14 million budget.
Now, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Gyllenhaal has opened up about the moment he and Ledger realized they’d made a classic film and the impact it would have.
“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,” the 41-year-old actor reminisced. “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.’”
“I thought, 11 times in 10 days,” Gyllenhaal continued. “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.”
Gyllenhaal also says that he and Ledger shared a unique, intimate bond with one another–one that only intensified as the accolades rolled in.
“The relationship, I think, between me and Heath when 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,” he elaborated, “and a deep respect for their lives and relationships.”
“One thing I really remember about the process after the movie came out was Heath never wanting to make a joke, even as, culturally, there were many jokes being made about the movie… His consummate devotion to how serious and important the relationship between those two characters showed me, I think, how devoted he was as an actor, and how devoted he was to the goals and story of the movie.”
“For us, the experience of the movie was a really deep and fun one,” he added.
Brokeback Mountain remains a pop-culture touchstone and a seminal entry in the queer cinema canon. The success of the film helped open the door for a flood of other LGBTQ films to follow, including Milk, The Kids are Alright, Transamerica, and more. It also further cements the legacy of Heath Ledger as an important actor; he died just three years after the release of Brokeback due to a drug overdose.