Kissin� Cowboy


By Bruce Shenitz

Speaking of movies, let's talk about Brokeback Mountain. What would you say that the movie is 'about'?

The movie is about the inability that we have, and ultimately, the ability we have, to love. And that when you love, and when you really, really, truly love, that you fight as hard as you can to hold onto it. And the struggle that people have to do that. I watch movies all the time that are considered to be about love, or a love story, or whatever. A story between a man and a woman has become so clich'. There's movies you see now like 'Man finds girl. Man loses girl. Guy gets girl again.' And the struggle is to find the girl, and we all buy into it. I'll speak for myself, I buy into it. And I try to make my own love I find in my life after those movies. Love stories have a huge influence on people.

Was there special preparation to play gay love scenes in Brokeback Mountain?

[Director] Ang [Lee] was very respectful of the love scenes that we shot. It was a very intimate process. We didn't have playbacks, we didn't have any of that. We were really like working organically. We did one or two takes of a lot of love scenes. There's something about the awkwardness and the uncomfortableness of it' As an actor I think we need to embrace the times we feel uncomfortable and oftentimes are the best performances that we give.
In terms of preparation for the movie we went to cowboy boot camp. Heath [Ledger] had actually been riding his whole life. But I hadn't really ridden that many horses and I wasn't very good at riding. We had to do that, we were putting up fence posts, we hung out with sheep, we herded sheep for a while, and I had to learn how to lasso and stuff like that. Ultimately, the work I'm really most proud of is that I can lasso, (laughs) which is much harder than it looks. It's technically a very difficult thing to do, and do it right, and I think it looks pretty damn good in the movie. So I'm excited about that. (Laughs)

During the making of the movie, you were quoted as saying, 'Every man goes through a period of thinking they're attracted to another guy.' That's not something straight men talk about a whole lot. What prompted that comment?

I don't even think there's like a specific situation that I could talk about. Let me give you an example. You can be together with somebody. You can be in a relationship with somebody. And you can say they're the only person that I want to be with. Like, I love them, I'm in love with them, this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. But if you don't acknowledge that there might be, even if it's not even a possibility in your mind, if you don't acknowledge, oh, maybe there's another girl that I could fall in love with, or maybe I'm going to check people out on the street, you know what I mean. We're all human beings and we do. If I don't do that, it won't feed my relationship and the thing I really love. I guess that's sort of the idea that I was trying to put out there that, like, I think there are a lot of people who are unsure and'that comment has followed me around.

I bet it has.

For me it's not a specific thing. It's more of an idea of'

Possibility? Potentiality?

It's like it should be a part of sex ed. So someone should say, OK, like, now's the week where you go around, check this out and that out, what do you find attractive, compare this and that. And I think it would clear a lot of issues up for a lot of people. You know? And if it was just talked about, it would be a different thing. I think sexuality as a young kid is a very complicated thing. For everybody. And it's mixed up and everybody has preference, straight or gay. You can divide people like that, but within that division are billions of subdivisions. I think people just need to be able to explore and be open. That's what I talked about Secretary [which stars Jake's sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal]. Some people are turned on by sado-masochistic things. Others couldn't even think about that.

So same-sex attraction is not a part of your life and your history.

No. I mean clearly, hopefully, you can see I'm not afraid of it.

You've mostly done indie films, but you now have some big Hollywood movies under your belt. Where are you in terms of what you want to be doing? Do you want to be 'indie guy,' do you want to be 'Hollywood guy'?

I want an audience that wants to see the films that I'm in. I want to be able to have recognition, and have people go, 'Oh, his movie's coming out this weekend, and I want to see it, because I know every time I go into a movie, into a journey, it's going to be an interesting thing.' There are actors that I look up to that do that. Like Tom Hanks does that. I'm interested in seeing his movies. Regardless. It's not only to be entertaining. There's going to be something cool in it. No matter what. There are people who've done that for a long time. Paul Newman' Those types of people that I really look up to as men that I want to be like. And that's the type of career that I want. I want a lot of people to want to see my films. It doesn't have to be enormous. But I do want that. I put a lot of thought into the movies that I choose and I do. It's for a reason.

I hear that you're also fairly active in terms of lines, rewriting.

I think it's in an actor's nature.

Are you a pain in the ass on set?

Um. I'm sure there are some people who will tell you I'm a pain in the ass. Definitely. I think the creative process is collaborative. And an actor wants to just feel like, because they're in a more vulnerable position, they want to feel like they're part of the process. Ang, like, gave both Heath and me so much room. A lot of room'it was almost like 'Action' and it was like 'Do what you do,' OK.

What's next for you?

I'm very proud of the films that I have coming out in the fall. I'm very proud of the people I've worked with and the experiences I've had. I know somewhere there will be experiences from those experiences, and I'm really excited to go to Venice, and go to Toronto, and enjoy the festivals there, and do press for these movies. And to talk about them and stuff. For me, like, they're kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in a lot of ways. What's next for me is really being able to enjoy whatever comes. I'd like to learn how to just be even happier and enjoy everything that's happened. And hopefully more of it will happen.