Jake Gyllenhaal: Heath Ledger Refused Oscars Appearance Over Brokeback Mountain Joke
Ang Lee’s 2005 film Brokeback Mountain was the favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar in 2006, only to lose the award to Crash. Lee was nominated for his work, as were actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Oscars usually entail people associated with the nominated films taking part in many activities relating to the ceremony. While Gyllenhaal and Lee and many others involved with Brokeback Mountain attended, Ledger declined to make an appearance.
Gyllenhaal said in a new interview with the Another Man magazine that he and Ledger were invited to contribute a gag to the opening monologue at the Oscars that year. Part of the appearance would focus on making light of the same-sex relationship that was a critical part of the film.
Gyllenhaal was willing to participate, feeling that he wanted to have a bit of fun. But Ledger refused to participate.
The interview says that Heath Ledger did not want to participate in a Brokeback Mountain-themed joke because he didn’t think it was a joke. He felt that the story is about love between two men, and that it isn’t necessarily something people can mine humor out of.
Jake Gyllenhaal said that he appreciates Ledger’s decision in retrospect. He felt that it was an understandable move. The move came as there were enough cases at the time of people in the LGBT community being used as punchlines. Part of this includes mocking the idea of two people of the same gender being in a romantic relationship with one another. The point was one that Ledger did not appear to be comfortable with, thus leading him to avoid getting into the event.
The awards ceremony did end up having a pre-taped sketch at the start were Billy Crystal and Chris Rock were peeking out of a tent, like the one featured in the film. The gag has been considered to be inappropriate today. The clip is available on YouTube, although most people who have seen the video are not fond of the attempt at a joke.
Gyllenhaal has looked back at Ledger’s work over the years, especially following his death in 2008. Gyllenhaal says that Ledger was a great friend and even felt years later that Ledger would have never tried to make any jokes about Brokeback Mountain.
Gyllenhaal mentioned Ledger during a speech at the 2018 BAFTA Awards. He said that he felt Ledger would be proud of how the LGBT community has experienced many positive advancements and that he played a key role in moving it forward.
Gyllenhaal has talked in many instances about how Ledger has been essential to his life over the years. He talks about how Ledger has been one of his greatest influences, and that he was one of the best people that he had ever worked with in the entertainment industry. Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008, not long after he finished his work for the film the Dark Knight.