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Jake Gyllenhaal Opens Up About How Heath Ledger Shut Down The Oscars From Making Homophobic 'Brokeback Mountain' Jokes In Poignant Interview

Focus Features

To this day, the Academy Awards struggle with optics.

Not surprisingly, they did 15 years ago as well.

Sometimes, though, they come up against a wall. A wall named Heath Ledger.

In a recent interview with Another Man, the biannual men's fashion and culture magazine, Jake Gyllenhaal spoke at length about both his past and his present.

Gyllenhaal's free-flowing answers span across topics and disciplines. At one moment he's sharing how he approached the lead role for his 2017 film Stronger. Moments later, he's naming his fears for the digital age.

The interview took an especially poignant turn when the 39-year-old actor discussed his experiences portraying a closeted gay man in 2005's Brokeback Mountain, one of the most significant roles of Gyllenhaal's career.

The discussion centered not on the acting work itself, but the press around it. Gyllenhaal described the uncomfortable humor around the film and it's subject matter at the time.

Remember, this was back in 2005.

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

He goes on to note a distinction between his looser ethics and his now deceased co-star Heath Ledger's.

"And Heath refused. 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.'"

When the interviewer, Chris Heath, notes his opinion that Ledger was smart to take such a firm stance even 15 years ago, Gyllenhaal agrees with a simple, "Absolutely."

Heath Ledger was 26-years-old at the time.

Twitter loved learning about Ledger's conviction.

Brokeback Mountain won three Oscars that year, including "Best Director," "Best Adapted Screenplay" and "Best Original Score." It was also nominated for five other awards.

Gyllenhaal's reflections about the ignorant humor toward the film illustrate mainstream culture's remarkable ability to both celebrate a sensitive film about the marginalized while belittling those same marginalized people all the while.

The Oscar winning film Brokeback Mountain is available here.