2005’s Brokeback Mountain is one of the most culturally significant LGBTQ+ movies in history, and it also featured a star-studded cast of actors who became Hollywood A-listers over the years.
Directed by Ang Lee and based on a 1997 short story by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain was set in the 1960s and told a story of forbidden love between two cowboys: Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Throughout the film, Ennis and Jack’s intense-but-reluctant relationship ends up having several repercussions on the people in their lives.
LGBTQ+ stories in mainstream media are much more common in 2022. Back in 2005, though, it seemed unimaginable that a queer movie could be so well-received by critics and audiences. Against the odds, Brokeback Mountain was nominated for a whopping eight Academy Awards, including the highly-coveted Best Picture award. The film ultimately won three Oscars – Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Adapted Screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana), and Best Original Score (Gustavo Santaolalla) – and an outcry took place when it didn’t win Best Picture over Crash.
In hindsight, Brokeback Mountain featured some of the most talented and famous actors in Hollywood. However, most of these stars were still up-and-coming actors when they worked in this movie – which makes their post-Brokeback Mountain trajectory so fascinating.
Scroll through to find out what the cast of Brokeback Mountain has been up to since working on the 2005 film.
Unfortunately, Heath Ledger passed away in 2008 after battling prescription drug abuse. The actor was only 28 years old and had just peaked in his career for his performance as The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. This was an incredibly tragic loss to LGBTQ+ fans who felt seen by his performance in Brokeback Mountain, to comic book readers who loved his portrayal of The Joker, and for the general public who admired him as an extremely talented actor.
At the 81st Academy Awards, Ledger received a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Dark Knight.
(Image: Focus Features)
Jake Gyllenhaal has become an absolute Hollywood A-lister since appearing on Brokeback Mountain. In the years that followed, Gyllenhaal delivered memorable performances in films like Zodiac, Love & Other Drugs, Prisoners, Nightcrawler, Nocturnal Animals, and Velvet Buzzsaw.
Most recently, Gyllenhaal joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and Sony’s Spider-Verse – by playing Quentin Beck (a.k.a. Mysterio) in Spider-Man: Far From Home. As of 2022, Gyllenhaal starred in the Michael Bay-directed Ambulance and voiced a character in Disney’s Strange World.
(Images: Focus Features/Universal Pictures)
Even though the Princess Diaries movies certainly helped, Anne Hathaway’s ascension as an actress was also propelled by her performance as Lureen Newsome Twist in Brokeback Mountain.
Since then, Hathaway has landed iconic roles in movies such as The Devil Wears Prada, the live-action Alice in Wonderland, Love & Other Drugs, The Dark Knight Rises, and Ocean’s Eight, just to name a few. She won an Oscar after playing Fantine in the 2012 big-screen adaption of the musical Les Misérables. In 2022, she is still one of the most famous and sought-after actresses in Hollywood.
(Images: Focus Features/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Anna Faris became a household name after starring as Cindy in Scary Movie, but playing Lashawn Malone in Brokeback Mountain was a huge opportunity for her to prove herself as an actress who could deliver dramatic performances as well.
In subsequent years, Faris had a very successful career that included unforgettable movies like The House Bunny, What’s Your Number?, and Overboard. She also starred in the CBS sitcom Mom for many years and launched her own podcast, Anna Faris Is Unqualified, in 2015.
(Images: Focus Features/CBS)
A lot of people remember Linda Cardellini for her performances as Velma in the 2002 live-action adaptation of Scooby-Doo and as Samantha Taggart on ER, but her role as Cassie Cartwright in Brokeback Mountain was just as memorable.
Since then, Cardellini has stayed booked and busy on TV shows such as The Good Family, Mad Men, Gravity Falls, Sanjay and Craig, Bloodline, and Dead to Me. She’s also become a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Laura Barton in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Endgame, and the TV series Hawkeye.
(Images: Focus Features/Netflix)
Michelle Williams starred in Brokeback Mountain as Ennis' wife Alma Beers Del Mar, and her career has only grown over the years.
As one of the busiest actresses in the entertainment industry, it’s hard to credit all of Williams’ successful films. Alas, noteworthy projects include her Oscar-nominated performances in 2010’s Blue Valentine, 2011’s My Week With Marylin, and 2017’s Manchester by the Sea. Williams is also remembered for appearing on Shutter Island, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Greatest Showman, and the Venom franchise. She also made waves (and won a Golden Globe) for her portrayal of Gwen Verdon in the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon.
(Images: Focus Features/Columbia Pictures)
David Harbour had a pretty small role as Randall Malone on Brokeback Mountain, but he has truly become a household name in Hollywood in recent years.
Harbour’s most noteworthy appearances on screens, both big and small, include Stranger Things, Black Widow, Hellboy, The Newsroom, and Pan Am. As of 2022, the actor is set to appear in the films Violent Night and We Have a Ghost.
(Images: Focus Features/Netflix)
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