Jake Gyllenhaal Opens Up About Relationship With Heath Ledger While Filming Brokeback Mountain

Heath Ledger was an extraordinary actor whose film career was taking off to new heights. You may remember Heath Ledger initially for films like A Knight’s Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You. Just when he was getting award recognition for The Dark Knight and Brokeback Mountain, he passed away at the age of 28. Ledger’s co-star from Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal, opened up about what his relationship was like with his co-star while filming the Academy Award-nominated movie.

Jake Gyllenhaal started gaining Oscar recognition at the same time Heath Ledger did through Brokeback Mountain playing two cowboys entering a forbidden relationship with each other during the 1960s and 1970s. He spoke to Vanity Fair about what his own film career has been like and the dedication he and Ledger had to their characters in making Brokeback Mountain together.

The relationship between me and Heath while 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. A deep respect for their love and their relationship. There were many jokes being made about the movie, or poking fun at, things like that. And [Ledger’s] 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.

Brokeback Mountain may have been considered controversial to some when it came out 17 years ago, ended up being universally acclaimed. When Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Zant was originally going to film the movie, it had trouble getting made because he could not find a strong cast. Big-named actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Ryan Phillippe reportedly all said no at the time. 

Why would all of these A-listers be saying no to a film that tells a beautiful romance story similar to Titanic? After all, Titanic won a number of Oscars including Best Picture, and broke box office records. Jake Gyllenhaal believed there was a stigma occurring during Brokeback Mountain, specifically related to two straight men afraid of playing gay characters. Luckily, Gyllenhaal was the right man for the job as he felt it was important to break the stigma for straight actors and that a small group of people should not have to be the only ones playing these roles. 

While some think the Academy got it wrong picking Crash for Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards, it got it right over a decade later when Moonlight won a deserving Best Picture win and was the first LGBT film to do so. Even Disney+’s Better Nate Than Ever has raised LGBT awareness in its storyline. All I can say is thank you, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, for breaking the stigma and encouraging more straight actors and studios to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community.

While Jake Gyllenhaal has plenty of memories he will hold dear to him forever, so has another Brokeback Mountain star. House of Cards Kate Mara’s breakout role was actually in Brokeback Mountain playing Heath Ledger’s daughter. She said that working with Heath Ledger was an “amazing experience” and that it was “special” of him to take her under his wing despite only being a few years older than her. Ledger’s death was a tragic loss to Hollywood and fans who grew up watching him over the years. If he was still alive right now, I believe we would have seen him play a number of eccentric, unique roles with years of award buzz to follow him.

If you want to see more of Jake Gyllenhaal, you can see his newest film Ambulance in theaters now and check out our 2022 movie releases to be up-to-date the next time Jake Gyllenhaal hits the big screen.

Carly Levy
Entertainment Writer

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.