Heath Ledger was dedicated to the message behind the groundbreaking film Brokeback Mountain — so much so that he refused to make jokes about the film’s homosexual love story.
In a recent interview with Another Man magazine, Jake Gyllenhaal, who starred opposite Ledger in Ang Lee’s film, said that the late actor refused to present at the 2007 Academy Awards over a joke involving their characters’ romantic relationship.
“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it, Gyllenhaal, 39, recalled.
“And Heath refused,” he explained. “I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay… whatever.’ I’m always like, ‘It’s all in good fun.’ And Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me – I don’t want to make any jokes about it.’ ”
The actor added, “That’s the thing I loved about Heath. He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love. Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.’ ”
Gyllenhaal and Ledger starred as Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, respectively, in the film, which explores their unexpected love story in the American West across two decades. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway also star.
The classic romance received eight Academy Award nominations at the 2007 ceremony, including acting nominations for both Gyllenhaal and Ledger. In a surprise to many, the film ultimately lost in the Best Picture category to Crash.
In an interview on Sunday Today in July, Gyllenhaal spoke about how the film impacted his career, sharing that it had been unlike any other film he’d done before.
“When we did Brokeback Mountain, I was like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ This is a level of focus and attention that hits a certain nerve and you’re like, ‘This is bigger than me,’ ” he explained. “I understand what it is but this little movie we made that meant so much to us has now become not ours anymore. It’s the world’s.”
Gyllenhaal has also been open up the deep impact Ledger’s death in 2008 has had on him.
“Personally, it affected me in ways I can’t necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly,” Gyllenhaal told PEOPLE in 2016. “In terms of professionally, I think I was at an age where mortality was not always clear to me.”
Having turned 27 at the time of Ledger’s death, Gyllenhaal said that he had not lost many friends at that point in his life.
“It [gave me] the experience of, ‘This is fleeting.’ And none of the attention or synthesized love that comes from the success of a film really matters at all,” he shared. “What matters is the relationships you make when you make a film, and the people you learn from when you’re preparing for a film. That changed a lot for me.”