Heath Ledger Once Refused to Present at the Oscars Over “Brokeback Mountain” Jokes

According to Jake Gyllenhaal, Ledger was offended by the casual homophobia the show's writers had proposed

Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain
Focus Features
By Bonnie Stiernberg / April 9, 2020 6:07 am

The year 2007 may feel like a lifetime ago — hell, now that we’re all stuck in quarantine, last week feels like a lifetime ago — but in the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of staggering to remember just how recently casual homophobia was socially acceptable.

Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s moving tale about two cowboys who fall in love, was up for several Oscars that year, including Best Picture, but according to a new Jake Gyllenhaal interview, the Academy still couldn’t resist an attempt to work a few tasteless gay jokes into the show.

Gyllenhaal, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jack Twist, told Another Man that his co-star Heath Ledger was offended by the planned Brokeback Mountain jokes and dropped out of participating in the bit.

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

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

Ledger was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Ennis Del Mar in the movie. He died of an accidental drug overdose the following year.

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