Jake Gyllenhaal Describes "Brokeback Mountain" Director Ang Lee’s Style: “There’s an odd benevolence to him and his process, in the same way that his movies are benevolent. It’s empowering because you feel like, ‘Okay I’ve given all I can. There are scenes I’ve seen and I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I gave so much more, but he pulled it back.’ And that was him balancing his film. I just learned a lot as an actor in a director, especially in particular an auteur’s movie. It’s just another tool on my tool belt.”
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Positive Feedback from Writer Annie Proulx: “Annie Proulx wrote me a note very recently that has made - no matter what happens and how people respond to the film - has made the entire movie, making it totally worth it. She wrote me a note with a limited edition copy of ‘Close Range,’ which is the book that ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ the short story, is in. And in it she said that Jack Twist refers to, ‘twist’ refers to the strength of thighs and butt muscles that a bull rider has to have in order to stay on the bull. I had never really thought of it that way. It’s so funny. It’s so clearly in your face the whole time and you never really know what that is. I thought, ‘Yeah, there’s a real endurance.’
Everybody joked when we were filming ‘Jarhead’ even, that I had this sort of like ridiculous kind of strength that I didn’t even know, because I didn’t really know how tight I was holding onto people. There were times when I would like choke people…if I was holding on to them. Once Lucas Black, he punched me in the face because I was choking him and I didn’t even know. But there is like a strength in nature, like holding on to that goal, whatever that might be, to me is something I really relate to. And wanting things to progress and whatever the response is definitely something that I related to in Jack Twist. I really fell into [that], always pushing Ennis [Heath Ledger’s character] to say how he felt or to try and communicate something, even if it’s imperfect. I never really knew at the time that that’s… When I read the script for the first time, I thought, ‘Oh Ang will probably want me to play the Ennis part’ because I’ve played much more isolated characters before, and that’s a very obvious, very actorly way of thinking about it. Because, actually, Heath and I as people are really more of the characters that we play.”
Gyllenhaal can’t recall the specifics of the note Proulx passed to him however he is very proud of her reaction to the finished film. Gyllenhaal hadn’t had any contact with Proulx until the moment she gave him the note in the book. “She just wrote a long note to me in the book, a beautiful, beautiful note, and if I could actually quote that then it would be pretty awesome. But the thing that I relate to in the character was that one thing, and it honored me that she felt very proud of the movie.”
Jake Gyllenhaal on His Approach to the Love Scenes with Heath Ledger: “When this came up, to tell you the truth, I questioned… I was like, ‘I wonder if Heath can pull this off?’ This is a very, very intense [role]. It’s the most critical role in a lot of ways in this film, to really push you through to the end and show that this relationship is really something meaningful. I thought, ‘Could he?’ Then we started to work together and I was just [convinced].
We talked a lot. Heath would say stuff to me like, ‘I really think this character is very sensitive to light and I think he’s very sensitive to sound. He doesn’t really like being around any place that’s too noisy.’ We would talk a lot about that. And then when it came to doing love scenes and stuff like that, the best metaphor I can give is that it felt like we were both like, ‘Are you ready? Yeah. Let’s go,’ and we dove off the boat into the deep end. It’s like when you’re terrified of the water, you see a little kid thrown in the water and they’re trying to get back to the boat as fast as they can. That’s what it was like. But at the same time when we were there we really went for it.
We knew we had to consummate this somehow. It couldn’t just be a story about friendship because there’s a part of two people connecting intimately, sexually, that drives that intimacy through the years. In my opinion when you see the movie, as soon as that happens, you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m here now. I’m ready to see what’s going to happen.’ Or, ‘I’m out of here. I’ll see you later.’ But either way it does knock you into something. We knew that it was going to have to do that and we were going to have to commit to it. There was a high five and jump in. I think at the time too, it was just – I don’t really remember it very well…”