We still can’t believe that Brokeback Mountain lost out to Crash at the Oscars, which is one of the great awards mistakes of our time. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, under the stewardship of director Ang Lee, gave us a true classic of the romance genre. But it turns out that the two stars didn’t always see eye to eye on set.
Of course, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were two of the best actors in Hollywood at the time, bringing their respective intense personas – Gyllenhaal has only got more intense over the years – to the tale of two cowboys who fall in love on a Wyoming ranch. In an Empire Magazine tribute to Ledger, Lee wrote that the path of true love didn’t always run smoothly, admitting to occasional clashes between the stars.
“Sometimes there was friction – not quarreling, but a clash of styles,” said the Oscar-winning director. “Sometimes I would mediate that, but they were both good in different ways. They would always make the effort to find a way through.”
In many ways, that slight tension between the two actors might have helped to create extra fire at the heart of the story. The crackling mixture of emotions between Jack and Ennis is what turned this into one of the best romance movies ever made, so we can forgive Ledger and Gyllenhaal for living some of that tension for real.
“One aspect I cherish was getting to witness Heath and Jake [Gyllenhaal] develop that relationship between their characters,” said Lee. “I saw it unfold right in front of my eyes, from rehearsal all the way to filming. Michelle Williams broke her knee during pre-shooting, but Heath was always looking after her. He was so naturally caring towards Michelle. When it came to Jake, Heath had a very different attitude towards their work.”
Brokeback Mountain is the perfect way to witness the peak of Ledger’s considerable powers in front of the camera. His tragically short career gave us some of the best movies of all time, including teen classic 10 Things I Hate About You and The Dark Knight, as well as Brokeback.
We also have a great deal of affection for his work in the very underrated Australian thriller Two Hands, in which he played a strip club bouncer in debt to a local gangster. It’s a strange movie with a bit of a ramshackle feel, but Ledger simply radiates charisma and star power. His success was inevitable from then on.
For more on Ledger’s most famous role, check out our ranking of all the Joker actors and look ahead to new movies with the Joker 2 release date, in which Joaquin Phoenix returns to the infamous make-up after his Oscar win. Alternatively, find out about the lesson Jake Gyllenhaal learned from making Brokeback Mountain.