JAKE GYLLENHAAL on 'BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
November 6, 2005
Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain is the story of Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger), a pair of ranch hands who develop an intimate relationship during the summer of 1963. Although the two eventually go on to have families of their own, they continue to live a secret life with each other and reunite whenever circumstances permit.
Brokeback Mountain is directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and features a supporting cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Randy Quaid, and Anna Faris. In this interview, Jake Gyllenhaal talks about the making of the movie and offers some insight into the relationship between Jack and Ennis.
MEDIA: Considering your roles in Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead, would you say you have a certain longing for loneliness?
JAKE: I don't know if it's a longing for it, it's just something that I relate to. I didn't realize, either, that it was going to be that lonely until we got out there. Both Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain...The topography of both the areas was desert and flatland and then huge mountains. It was nothing but nature around, and your own mind. So I don't know if I really understood that that's what it was going to be. When you read the script, you're like, "Oh cool. I get to ride horses!"--and then you're like alone for three months.
Despite the loneliness, your character is quite gregarious, especially compared to Heath's character, Ennis.
Yeah. I think there's a part of him that wants to progress and wants to change and wants things to move forward, and is constantly kind of pushing Ennis to come out of his shell. But it's that dance between the two of them that I think makes the two of them fall in love. If Ennis were to completely come out of his shell, would the two of them still be in the relationship that they're in throughout the film? I don't know. But yeah, that is a big part...It was a struggle to keep that up while you're feeling lonely.
You mentioned earlier this year that the experience of making Jarhead changed your perspective of the military. Did the experience of making Brokeback Mountain change your perspective on anything in particular?
You know, it's very hard to make this experience into a literal one, or the movie into a literal one. I think it's about the struggles of two people dealing with intimacy, ultimately. But what I learned from the movie was that you don't have this ideal idea of love, like this thing that you see in movies all the time...We don't usually talk about that in movies, and when we do, it's with a guy and a girl. But this was like putting it in an environment where we had never seen it before. If I learned anything, I think it's [that] working with Ang Lee, there's a real benevolence in everything he does. I think you walk out of this film feeling kind of devastated in a lot of ways, but also feeling a real sense of benevolence. And I think the process of making the film produced that, too.
How did you and Heath approach the intimate scenes together? (Did you have a shot of vodka?)
[laughs] Uh...Heath did, I think, but not me. We talked about it, we joked about it, we would poke fun while we were doing it. Actually, I don't really remember as much as I would like to for [an interview], unfortunately. It's like one of those things where you don't make it into the biggest deal. I mean, it was really important for me to portray a Marine in the right way [in Jarhead]. But if I thought about all the soldiers that I was trying to play, I think it would put too much of a pressure on me, just in the same way it would have put too much of a pressure on the [Brokeback Mountain] scene if we were like, "What do we have to do? Oh my god, we have to do this! [gasps]" To me, the physical stuff was easy. It's a choreography. It's a dance. That's how we did it...So for me, it was just getting the steps right for the camera.
What about the love scenes with Anne Hathaway? Same approach?
[laughs] Now it gets more complicated! That was, uh...She's a very beautiful girl. That's all I can say. She's a very, very beautiful girl.
What contributed to your onscreen chemistry with Heath?
There are so many complications to this, and describing exactly what it is. For Heath and I, I think it's a friendship and a trust that, as actors, we were going to go someplace that we both were afraid of, and we knew that we were. And we just trusted each other. And I think in that trust, there was a chemistry and there was a real connection. And just being straight, we didn't have that complication that you usually have when you're working with someone who's a female...He was a great guy, and we were just kind of friends from the beginning, and we both admired what it took to play both the characters we were playing. And we knew, at a certain point, we only had each other. Because we never knew how people were going to respond to the movie, we kind of just joined up and said, "F*ck 'em, let's go for it." And we did. And I think you probably see that. And that's a lot of the chemistry...And at a certain point, it's pretty mundane and pretty cold on a set no matter what you're doing or who you're doing it with.
How do Ennis and Jack compare in terms of balancing their secret life with their public lives?
I think Ennis is balancing things much more than Jack is. I think the world Jack lives in is a kind of interesting world of a different type of denial. And he and his wife are not necessarily the most communicative people. You don't really spend a lot of time seeing how much the two of them really love each other, as you do with Ennis and [his wife].
Do you feel these characters are concerned about what others think of them? And if so, do you relate to that?
Oh, I think Jack, in particular, is someone who cares a lot about what other people think of him. And I do think that there is a big part of that that I can relate to. But I made this movie almost two years ago now, and I feel like I've really changed since then, and am changing.
How would you describe Brokeback Mountain as a concept?
Ang says a really beautiful thing about the film. He says that Brokeback Mountain is a place where the two of them get to go where nobody is judging them, and nobody's worried about pretending to be something they're not, and that we all have our Brokeback Mountain. And if you're in love with somebody now or you're married to somebody now, and you're in a relationship of any kind, and if you bring them to that place and you're still in love with them, then you're truly in love.