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Heath Ledger Blocked Gay 'Brokeback Mountain' Jokes at the Oscars

Heath Ledger Blocked Gay 'Brokeback Mountain' Jokes at the Oscars

Brokeback Mountain lead.

“Someone wanted to make some sort of joke about the story, he’d say ‘No, this is about love.’”

The late Heath Ledger had no patience for jokes about Ang Lee's film Brokeback Mountain, the iconic gay romantic drama involving a cowboy and ranch hand. That's according to Jake Gyllenhaal, his co-star, in a new interview.

"I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it," Gyllenhaal told Another Man. "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.'"

Ledger, the Australian actor who passed away in 2008 at the age of 28, was notoriously protective of the film. During a press junket for the film Candy, when he was asked about those who might be "disgusted" by the Brokeback's LGBTQ+ themes, Ledger was blunt in his response.

"I think it's a real shame - I think it's immature, for one," the actor replied at the time. "I think it's an incredible shame that people go out of their way to voice their disgust or their negative opinions against the ways in which two people choose to love each other."

The 2006 romantic drama by director Ang Lee was adapted from an award-winning 1997 short story by Annie Prioux bearing the same name. The film was both a critical and commercial success, earning Oscar nods for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Score while grossing $178 million worldwide against a budget of only $14 million. In 2018, the film was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry.

Ledger was a rising star at the time of his untimely passing from a drug overdose. In addition to Brokeback Mountain, the actor had roles in movies such as 10 Things I Hate About You, The Lords of Dogtown, and The Dark Knight in which he gave a memorable performance as the villainous Joker.

However, it was Brokeback Mountain in which he played perhaps his most important role. In many ways, the movie announced the dawn of a new renaissance in LGBTQ+-themed cinema. Realizing the importance of the film, Ledger would allow no homophobic banter about its subject matter.

"And that's the thing I loved about Heath; he never, he never joked," Gyllenhaal told Sunday Today in a televised interview. "Someone wanted to make some sort of joke about the story, he'd say 'No, this is about love.'"

Ledger would have turned 41 on April 4.

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