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Brokeback Mountain is a beautiful film about forbidden love. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist and Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar, the movie explores themes of love, loss, and hope. But despite the heart-wrenching storyline and the critically appraised director behind the film, a handful of famous Hollywood actors turned the movie down.

According to the director of the film, it’s because they were afraid to star in a film that showcased a romance between two men.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger introduce a clip of 'Brokeback Mountain', nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger introduce a clip of ‘Brokeback Mountain’, nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture | M. Caulfield/WireImage

Heath Ledger stood up for ‘Brokeback Mountain’ on multiple occasions

There were several instances where Ledger had to stand up for Brokeback Mountain because of all the homophobic comments the movie was receiving at the time.

“I think it’s an incredible shame that people go out of their way to voice their disgust or negative opinions about the way two people wish to love one another,” Ledger said. “We’re showing that love between two men is just as infectious and emotional and strong and pure as it is with heterosexual love. And if you can’t understand that, then just don’t go see the movie!” Ledger said. “It’s OK! We don’t care. Deal with it in your own private life. Don’t voice it out.”

And according to Gyllenhaal, Ledger was adamant about taking the film seriously. Gyllenhal says that Ledger had to stand up for the movie when the Academy Awards was planning to make a joke out of it.
“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about [the movie],” Gyllenhaal told Another Man. “And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, OK… 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.'”

All the famous actors that turned down a role in ‘Brokeback Mountain’

In 2005, a handful of notable celebrities turned down the roles of Jack and Ennis in Brokeback Mountain.

“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant revealed, according to IndieWire. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out.”

“I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe,” the director shared. “They all said no.”

Mark Wahlberg made an insensitive comment about the movie

Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Wahlberg, who was also being looked at for the film, made an insensitive remark about the script creeping him out.

“I met with Ang Lee on that movie, I read 15 pages of the script and got a little creeped out,” Wahlberg revealed. “It was very graphic, descriptive — the spitting on the hand, getting ready to do the thing. I told Ang Lee, ‘I like you. You’re a talented guy if you want to talk about it more.'”

“Thankfully, he didn’t,” Wahlberg added. “I didn’t rush to see Brokeback. It’s just not my deal. Obviously, it was done in taste — look how it was received.”

Later on, Wahlberg attempted to defend his remark.

“The funny thing was I was basically just trying to downplay the fact that I was never offered the movie,” he told Access Hollywood. “I mean, I had a meeting with Ang Lee, but he didn’t offer me the movie. You don’t pass up an opportunity to work with Ang Lee. I’ve been scared to do other things before because of my own insecurities, but I faced them. I was just basically trying to make light of the fact that I was never offered the movie. He didn’t think I was a good enough actor to play the part.”