Jake Gyllenhaal Says Heath Ledger Had No Time For Brokeback Mountain Homophobia

The actor said his Brokeback co-star, who died in 2008, "would never joke" about the gay romance at the heart of their film.

Sixxteen years after its release, Brokeback Mountain is seen as a modern classic. The 2005 film was forward-thinking in its portrayal of a gay relationship between two cowboys, prompting some viewers to scrutinise the off-screen lives of its stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.

Jake reflected on the impact Brokeback Mountain had on his Hollywood career in an interview with Sunday Today. He also shared a sweet memory about Heath, who died in 2008 of an accidental drug overdose.

Jake and Heath in the film
Jake and Heath in the film

“I see people who have joked with me or criticised me about lines I say in that movie — and that’s the thing I loved about Heath,” the Spider-Man: Far From Home star told host Willie Geist. “He would never joke.”

He continued: “Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This about love’.”

Directed by Ang Lee and based on the short story by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain won three Academy Awards and made Jake and Heath ― both of whom were Oscar-nominated for their performances ― bankable stars.

The two men remained close off-screen, too, with Jake becoming godfather to Heath’s daughter, Matilda Rose.

Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

In the intervening years, Jake has mostly stayed quiet about his friendship with Heath, telling People in 2016 his co-star’s death “affected me in ways I can’t necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly”.

In 2015, he told NPR that he missed Heath “as a human being”, adding: “I think losing Heath and being a part of a family that was something like the movie, the movie we all made together, makes you see that, makes you appreciate that and hopefully moves you away from the things that really don’t matter to the things that do.”

As for Brokeback Mountain, Jake said in his Sunday Today interview that the film “defined my career in different ways” and, for that, he remains grateful.

“This little movie we made that meant so much to us has now become not ours anymore,” he said. “It’s the world’s.”