Jake Gyllenhaal reflects proudly on Brokeback Mountain and how it helped break down stigma
Baked beans and spit (if you know, you know).
In 2005 Brokeback Mountain told ‘the story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years’. To this day, it’s still considered somewhat of an iconic cornerstone in terms of gay cinema, despite the fact its two lead actors were straight.
The movie featured Hollywood A-listers and received global media attention, but perhaps what made the film so significant in its time was that its two main characters – Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) – did not portray the ‘flamboyant’ personalities which were typically socially associated with ‘the gays’ you’d see in cinema and on TV at the time of its release. This helped the movie shatter some then stereotypes about gay men and was positively received by the majority of the community when it hit cinemas.
LGBT+ representation in movies has certainly come a long way in the last 16 years. The focus has now shifted to making sure that queer actors are cast in queer roles, but back in the day – arguably – it felt important seeing two straight (dare we say ‘masc’) actors be so willing to controversially take on gay roles.
Despite being straight, both actors were subject to numerous homophobic remarks and encounters whilst promoting the movie (one example below).
Reflecting on the film, for which he was nominated for an Oscar in 2006, in an interview with The Sunday Times, Gyllenhaal was asked if he thought two straight actors taking on the romantic leads today would get a different reaction.
“Aaahh. I don’t know. Maybe?” he replied. “Part of the medicine of storytelling is that we were two straight guys playing these parts. There was a stigma about playing a part like that, you know, why would you do that? And I think it was very important to both of us to break that stigma,” he says.
“But then again I think that has led the way towards people saying, you know, people of all different experiences should be playing more roles, that it shouldn’t be limited to a small group of people. And I believe that. But at the same time I was very proud to be in that space, and to be given that opportunity.”
He continues: “And the reaction from the majority of the gay community when the movie came out, I got this sort of — we both did, everyone in the movie — we got this overwhelming sense of open-heartedness and gratitude.”
Check out our list of some other ‘Quintessential Queer Cinema Titles That Paved The Way’ right here.