Heath Ledger once stopped Brokeback Mountain becoming the butt of jokes at the Oscars, his former co-star Jake Gyllenhaal has revealed.
Gyllenhaal, who starred opposite Ledger in Ang Lee's 2005's film about two ranch-hands in 1960s Wyoming, says the late actor refused to let the celebrated gay drama become the subject of mockery during Hollywood's biggest night of the year, where it had been nominated for 'Best Picture'.
Speaking to Another Man, Gyllenhaal recalled: "I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about [Brokeback Mountain]," Gyllenhaal, 39, said.
"And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay… 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.
Brokeback Mountain would go on to controversially lose out to Crash in the Best Picture category, and Gyllenhaal agreed that Ledger’s position was "absolutely" smart in hindsight.
Gyllenhaal previously told The Sunday Times in 2019: "I see people who have joked with me or criticised me about lines I say in that movie — and that's the thing I loved about Heath.
"He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, 'No. This is about love.’ Like, that's it, man. Like, no'."
Ledger, who tragically died in January 2008 at the age of 28, was a vocal critic of the homophobia that was directed at Brokeback Mountain from some quarters.
Asked during a press junket for the film what he'd say to people who found the film's gay themes "disgusting", the then 26 year-old replied: "I think it's a real shame - I think it's immature, for one."
"I think it's an incredible shame that people go out of their way to voice their disgust or their negative opinions against the ways in which two people choose to love each other.
Heath Ledger's response to calling the relationship in "Brokeback Mountain" disgusting pic.twitter.com/CF71NGDvmD— Izzie (@Izzie177) January 17, 2018
"At least voice your opinions about how two people show hate and violence and anger towards one another."
Ledger, who was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, continued: "I also feel like [the film] will surprise people. It's obviously about two men in love and it's obviously 'gay-themed' and it's very easily labelled, but unfotunately people are quick in life to label stuff they're uncomfortable with.
"Get over the fact it's two men - that's the point... We're showing that love between two men is just as infectious and emotional and strong an pure as it is with heterosexual love.
"And if you can't understand it, just don't go see the movie. We don't care.
"Deal with it in your own private life. Don't voice it out. We don't want to know."