"I think we showed up and knew what we had to do. The scene is almost
lifted from the short story and literally to the word with how we did it.
Whatever fear we had, the comfort of knowing that it was explored for us
already, that the path had been basically forced for us and we had to walk it."
Rarely does an openly gay actor play a straight romantic lead. It is a
de-facto no-no in the mainstream. Asked to provide his take on one of Hollywood's
nagging double standards, Gyllenhaal says, "That is probably not for me to answer.
It goes on in other things, too ... Your private life should be your own. I think
it's the job of any actor to stay beneath your face, your work and your personality.
That way people will believe you in every character you play."
Although it is Ledger who is being talked up for awards after the film won Venice's
Golden Lion top prize, Gyllenhaal provides the story's more obvious emotional centre.
Both men pursue conventional lives by marrying and having children. The softer
Gyllenhaal has one toe of his boot peeking out of the closet. He seeks paid male
companionship south of the border and has other dalliances. The tension of
desire stays coiled in Heath Ledger's jaw throughout the movie.
The pair's passion evolves into a "Same Time, Next Year" rendezvous in the
woods. It's a furlough from society's expectations on the pretence of a fishing trip.
"I don't believe necessarily that these two characters are gay," Gyllenhaal says.
"They have a homosexual relationship but I don't know if they're gay."
Reminded that Jack constantly seeks relationships with men, the actor backs off.
"I think that's true in the story but that's not how I thought about it," he
continues. "I think he's just somebody who's dying for that same connection,
like when we look for somebody who looks likes the person we just broke up with
when they've broken our heart. He's looking for someone who feels the same,
like when Ennis turns his wife around and has sex like he would with Jack."
Gyllenhaal stares out at the smog draping Toronto in a dying summer heat
wave. "You could argue that my character is openly gay. I feel like he's having a
more literal response to the love affair."
Asked if perhaps everyone is bisexual on some level, Gyllenhaal responds, "I don't
think so. I think that relationships are relative and sexuality is relative.
Everybody has different interests and perversions. Everybody's different. I
think what this movie does is deconstruct any idea of sameness. What's
similar in all of us is that we're different."
Brokeback Mountain is 11 years old this week and is still available on DVD from Amazon.
Matt Rauscher's review of Brokeback Mountain