It’s one of the most beloved gay films in history, but Brokeback Mountain initially had a battle on its hands when it came to finding two male leads to play star-crossed cowboy lovers Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar.
Producers have previously revealed how actors including Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix rejected the roles – which eventually went to Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger – and now two more Hollywood heavyweights who turned down the movie been revealed.
According to filmmaker Gus Van Sant, who was originally approached to helm Brokeback Mountain before eventual director Ang Lee was brought onboard, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio also said no to the film, which went on to recieve eight Academy Award nominations, winning three of them.
“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant told 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.
“They all said no.”
Van Sant’s claims were backed up by Brokeback Mountain producer Diana Ossanna, who herself revealed earlier this year that one unnamed actor had been committed to the film for a full six months before backing out.
“Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons,” Ossana confirmed to IndieWire.
Hollywood’s leading men might have been reluctant to sign up for Brokeback Mountain, but Van Sant says were he to go back in time, he’d worry less about landing the biggest names.
“What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors,” he said.
“I was not ready. I’m not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”