Brokeback Mountain, which was released in 2005, explored the two-decade romantic relationship between cowboys Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger).
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were both widely praised for their performances in this neo-Western, which tackled complex themes like sexuality and masculinity. A critical triumph, Brokeback Mountain proved itself to be one of the best movies of the year with three Academy Award wins along with various other accolades. In a conversation with the Screen Actors Guild, Gyllenhaal reflected on his performance in one of the best drama movies of all time and explained how he noticed one key detail about one of his most iconic lines.
“I did a Q&A where they played a few clips from [Brokeback Mountain] and I remember realizing that that now famous line of you know, ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’ is on my back. It’s not a close-up, you can just see my back,” he recalled.
“And I realized, like, that’s the that’s the power of storytelling, you know, and, and, and where people go ‘Oh, your performance,’ I’m like, ‘No, it was on my back! Like it wasn’t even on my face. So I think the paradox is that thing, where, you know, you think, ‘It’s all in this moment.’ It’s not. It’s the story. The story is the most powerful thing.”
When it came to Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal’s co-star, the late Heath Ledger, was equally driven by the film’s powerful storytelling — especially during promotion for the movie.
“One of the things I really remember about the process after the movie came out was Heath never wanting to make a joke,” Gyllenhaal recalled in an interview with Vanity Fair.
“Even as I think culturally, there were many jokes being made about the movie or poking fun at and things like that. And his consummate devotion to how serious and important the relationship between these two characters was. It showed me, I think, how devoted he was as an actor and how devoted he was, and we both were, to the story in the movie. And for us, the experience of the movie, I can say, was a really deep and fun one.”
For more powerful storytelling, check out our breakdown of all the new movies coming out this year. Or, if you want to keep in with the Western theme, head over to our guides to the best Clint Eastwood movies and Yellowstone season 5 part 2.