Happy 10th Anniversary, ‘Brokeback Mountain’! (All Coverage)

Posted on September 2, 2015


Ten years ago today, Brokeback Mountain was publicly screened for the first time EVER at the Venice Film Festival. All the critics praised it and it took home the TOP PRIZE. Even Roger Ebert gave his HIGHEST-ever rating for this film. Ever since, ‘Brokeback’ has won numerous Best Pictures, even more than Titanic‘s and Schindler’s List’s combined, putting ‘Brokeback’ as the most honored movie in cinematic history. It’s the most beautiful, profound, and groundbreaking American Film (even tops the recent new comer, Boyhood). But most importantly, ‘Brokeback’ has changed millions of lives and hearts, in ways NO OTHER FILMS EVER DID. And its cultural impact is beyond significant, important, and relevant more so than ever, even after a decade later.

So to honor its phenomenal achievements in film history, below we summarize all the special coverage from major interviews in celebrating the 10th anniversary of Brokeback Mountain, including how the cast, director and producer remember the late Heath Ledger (may he rest in peace):

by Alex JS, editing by Adam MS

Director, AngLee. and producer, James Schamus, look back to the phenomenon!

This year marks the 10th anniversary of “Brokeback Mountain,” which made history as the first gay romance to cross over into the mainstream, eventually grossing $178 million worldwide. Nearly a decade later, it’s still the most successful same-sex love story that Hollywood has ever produced. The film’s director Ang Lee and producer James Schamus spoke to Variety in separate conversations about their memories of the movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as closeted cowboys.

Schamus: “It started when I was at Good Machine, which was a scrappy low-budget outfit. We read the short story (by Annie Proulx), and of course it’s a quick read — an instant and brutal one. We found out it wasn’t under option. We tried and tried again for six years to get financing, and there was no luck. You’re such a big target for ‘Are you kidding?’ And then came the day that Good Machine got morphed into Focus Features. I remember early on, sitting behind my desk as a studio head and realizing, ‘Oh, I could pitch myself on this.’ ”

Lee: “I cried at the end of reading the short story, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so moved. The language was unfamiliar to me. Actually, nothing was familiar to me. But the idea of a mysterious romance up on Brokeback Mountain — one that once you leave, you are always pursuing and can never get back — always haunted me. There was a moment in the story where Jake says, ‘All we got is Brokeback Mountain.’ That really hit me and touched my heart. I felt compelled to make the movie because of that mystery.”

BBSchamus: “I remember when I met Heath. He came to my apartment, in Columbia University housing. He arrived at my front door, and we’d been joking around about the tent scene where he spits in his hand. I pretended to spit in my hand before I shook his hand, and said, ‘Come on in, man. We’re doing this.’ I was such a fan already.”

Lee: “Jake met me, and I thought he was great for the part for a romantic love story. Heath came in and wanted to do it right away. I think he told me that he learned from one of his uncles, who is also a very macho, homophobic gay, much like Ennis, and also a rancher. I interviewed about 20 or 30 actresses for each of the female roles. Michelle Williams was the second one to read, and as soon as she walked in, I knew it was her. With Anne Hathaway, I didn’t really know her work. On the Universal lot for auditions, the casting director told me the next actress coming in to read was going to apologize for her clothes and makeup, but to just let her do that and go into the reading. Then Anne came in, wearing heavy makeup and dressed as a princess, because she was shooting a parade scene for ‘The Princess Diaries 2’ on the Universal lot. She used her lunch hour to audition for the part.”

Schamus: “The budget was well below $15 million. After we locked in, the movie was stress-free. It was a very happy set outside Calgary.”

BB1Lee: “I was pretty shy shooting sex scenes, so I designed a very complicated one-shot deal, with 13 points of focus. I made it technical so that no one would think about anything else except hitting their marks. Once we got past the first take, nobody was shy anymore. We tried to make it as real and compelling as possible, and they were very professional. Getting into the first take was hard, and it was the 13th take that I ended up using, which was the last take.”

Schamus: “We watched it with friends to know it had the impact that we wanted. I didn’t know how far it would carry us commercially. I knew we had a film that worked emotionally.”

Lee: “I also thought it would be an art-house film with a very small audience. I was nervous about the subject matter hitting the shopping mall, and I was surprised at its success. I think it has something to do with the fact that it’s a poignant love story.”

Schamus: “You could sense the lack of excitement in Hollywood after the 847th trophy was picked up, and I could tell that a lot of folks felt there was a safe political narrative (with ‘Crash’). The day the Oscar ballots closed, I gathered everyone at the company in the Focus conference room, and gave a speech. I said, ‘Look we lost.’ I wanted everybody to be happy for the other guys. I was very proud of the Focus team and Ang that night. There was so much emotion and symbolism involved in that campaign.”

(this interview was originally published by Variety for its marriage equality special issue. image:Getty)

Heath Ledger Hated That ‘I Wish I Knew How to Quit You’ Became a Meme

For the tenth anniversary of Brokeback Mountain‘s release, Out has an oral history of the film. As expected, it’s full of loving remembrances of the late Heath Ledger, who, besides being one of the best actors of his generation, comes off like an absolute mensch. In his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal’s memory, Ledger hated the way the movie was turned into a meme — “the gay cowboy movie” — which he felt diminished its resonance. “He was extraordinarily serious about the political issues surrounding the movie when it came out,” Gyllenhaal says. “A lot of times people would want to have fun and joke about it, and he was vehement about being serious, to the point where he didn’t really want to hear about anything that was being made fun of.”

As the cast and crew recall, the intense emotions on set were aided by Ang Lee’s decision to house them all together in a remote campground. Gyllenhaal calls it an “old-school way” of making everyone a family: “It’s why we are all still close — not just bonded by the success of the film, but bonded by the experience. It was an intimate project in that way. We’d wake up and make breakfast for each other, and hang out. Heath and Michelle fell in love. It was a really special, special time.”

jack2It wasn’t just obvious to the actors. Screenwriter Diana Ossana can pinpoint the exact moment Ledger and Williams fell in love, in a scene where their characters go sledding together. “Michelle fell off the sled, and at the bottom of the hill she was crying,” she remembers. “She’d twisted her knee, and we had to call someone to take her to the hospital. Heath was not about to let her go alone, and as he was getting into the vehicle with her he was smoothing her hair back. I remember him looking at her, and she looking up at him with these wide eyes. She was almost startled by the attention he was giving her, but you could see it every day from thereon. For him it was truly love at first sight.”

Other on-set accidents were more embarrassing. During her audition, a crucial piece of advice from her parents — “If you’re ever asked if you can do anything, say yes. You can learn anything in two weeks if you’re motivated enough” — had led Anne Hathaway to lie about knowing how to ride a horse. She took riding lessons before production started and, in her own words, became “really, really, really good.” But during one rehearsal, she was given a horse that only responded to verbal commands: “I went to a rehearsal in front of 300 extras, all of whom work in rodeos, and the horse wouldn’t do a damn thing I wanted it to. And at the end it threw me — in front of everyone.” And this time, she didn’t even get an Oscar for her trouble!

Jake Gyllenhaal on Heath Ledger: ‘I miss him as a human being’

In an interview with NPR this summer, Jake Gyllenhaal reminisced on his career including his first role in City Slickers and his memorable roles in movies like Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain.

It’s been a decade today since Brokeback was released and more than seven years since his co-star Heath Ledger’s passing, but both still have a profound effect on Gyllenhaal today.

On the attention he and Heath Ledger received for being two straight men playing gay men in Brokeback Mountain

It was fascinating, particularly because I don’t think we knew what a success the movie would be, what it would become and it was an intimate and really scary thing for me and Heath, in particular, to dive into. It was uncomfortable for both of us in some of the scenes, and yet we both deeply believed in what the movie was saying. … At the time it was pretty unreal. … The emotional response you get from that movie from people who see that movie, I think it was one of the first movies where people would go, “Oh, I can see it as love.” Believe me, we got a lot of other responses, too.

On how Ledger’s death has affected him

I miss him as a human being and I miss working with him and what an unfortunate thing it is that we won’t be able to see the beauty of his expression. …

(Kimberley French/Focus Features)I’m trying to be present where I am. I’m trying to have relationships that are as real as they possibly can be on a movie set, be close to people because I know that it’s precious. And I know, not only can this career end in a very short period of time and this or that can happen, but also that life is precious. I think losing Heath and being a part of a family that was something like the movie, that 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.


Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway Remember Heath Ledger and Look Back on the Oscar-Winning Film (this part originally appeared on PEOPLE Magazine)

Brokeback Mountain: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway Remember Heath LedgerTo mark the 10-year anniversary of Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway shared their memories of making the Oscar-winning film, and they also remembered their late costar, Heath Ledger.

The actors got together for a feature in Out to talk about the film – and Ledger, who died in 2008 from an accidental drug overdose, was a big part of the conversation.

“I’d known Heath for a really long time before that movie,” says Gyllenhaal, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role of Jack Twist. “We were friends. We went to a sort of boot camp, where we’d all hang out and learn to ride. Heath already knew how to ride really well, but we’d ride and hang out on the ranch outside of Los Angeles.”

Gyllenhaal admits that he misses his friend and collaborator.

“While there are many parts of the real story that are sad, one of the saddest things is that I won’t be able to exchange ideas creatively with Heath again, because that was one of the most beautiful things to come out of that,” Gyllenhaal, now 34, says.

Brokeback Mountain 10 Years Later: Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway Remember Heath Ledger and Look Back on the Oscar-Winning Film| Brokeback Mountain, Movie News, Anne Hathaway, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams“Heath almost broke his hand making the movie,” Hathaway adds. “It’s the scene where Jack drives off and Ennis starts to walk down the road and all of a sudden sort of falls into an alleyway because he’s got a pain in his stomach and is overwhelmed.”

“Heath just really wanted to go there, and kind of got down,” the actress, now 32, says about Ledger’s role as Ennis Del Mar, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. “The plan was for him to put his face against the wall – that’s what the shot was supposed to be – and he just wound up punching the brick. Everyone was freaking out because it was a real wall. It wasn’t a movie brick wall. It was a f—— brick wall. And he did it, and they got it, and they said his hand was mangled. He might have actually broken it.”

Hathaway also reminisced about her audition for the part of Lureen Newsome.

“I was filming Princess Diaries 2, and I was working on Universal Lot [where] Ang [Lee, the film’s director] was going to be meeting with people,” she says. “We were shooting the coronation part of the movie, so I was dressed a ball gown, wearing this big hairpiece that was way over the top, but also worked for a rodeo queen, so it was fine. I just put on my jeans and a plaid flannel shirt, and drove across the lot in a golf cart with my big princess hair. I remember being very, very calm, which is unusual for me under any circumstances, especially at 21. I just felt so centered and focused, and in way like a predator: I knew what I wanted.”

Gyllenhaal adds that, once they began shooting, the cast and crew grew closer than is typical on a movie set.

Brokeback Mountain 10 Years Later: Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway Remember Heath Ledger and Look Back on the Oscar-Winning Film| Brokeback Mountain, Movie News, Anne Hathaway, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams

“For the first month of shooting, we all lived by this river in little trailers, and I had my dog there. We all just lived on a campground and would walk to set. You know, in a world driven by commerce, particularly in the movie business, there’s no time spent together – relationships are fleeting,” the actor says. “We are all still close – not just bonded by the success of the film, but bonded by the experience. It was an intimate project in that way. We’d wake up and make breakfast for each other and hang out. Heath and Michelle fell in love. It was a really special, special time.”

Check out the full story in Out, which also includes conversations with costar Randy Quaid, director Ang Lee, and screenwriters Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry.