Heath Ledger refused Oscars gig over Brokeback Mountain jokes

brokeback mountain health ledger jake gyllenhaal
Photo: Focus Features

Jake Gyllenhaal has said his Brokeback Mountain co-star Heath Ledger hated jokes about the iconic film’s gay romance, and refused a presenting spot at the Oscars as a result.

The 2006 Ang Lee-directed gay romance, which starred Gyllenhaal and Ledger starred as cowboys Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, received eight Academy Award nominations at the 2007 ceremony, the most for any film that year.

Speaking to publication Another Man, Gyllenhaal, said Ledger was so adamant that the 2005 film be taken seriously, he refused to present at the 2007 Academy Awards after they planned to write a joke involving their characters’ romantic relationship into the opening monologue.

“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Gyllenhaal said.

“And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay… whatever.’ I’m always like, ‘It’s all in good fun.’

“Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me – I don’t want to make any jokes about it.’”

Gyllenhaal agreed Ledger’s stance was “absolutely” smart in hindsight.

“That’s the thing I loved about Heath. He would never joke,” he said.

“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.’”

Brokeback Mountain was a major critical and commercial hit

Brokeback Mountain was an adaptation of the 1997 short story by Annie Prioux of the same name.

It depicts Jack and Ennis’ romantic relationship in the American West over 20 years from 1963 to 1983.

The 2006 film adaptation was a major critical and commercial success. The film earned Oscar nods for both stars, as well as Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score.

Heath Ledger tragically died in January 2008 after an accidental overdose of various prescription medications. He was 28.

Earlier this year, it emerged Gyllenhaal will play another gay role in the film adaptation of Broadway musical Fun Home.

Fun Home tells the story of Alison Bechdel’s upbringing with her closeted gay dad Bruce Bechdel, played by Gyllenhaal.

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