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Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee recalls a striking scene from Heath Ledger in the touching neo-Western film and heaps praise on the late actor.
Director Ang Lee recalls a striking scene from Heath Ledger from Brokeback Mountain. The late actor has won acclaim for numerous roles throughout his career and is best known as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film The Dark Knight. Outside of his Batman villain role, Ledger has been recognized for his work in several projects, including 10 Things I Hate About You and Brokeback Mountain. Directed by Lee and adapted from a short story by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain stars Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as ranch hand and rodeo cowboy who develop a deep attraction for each other in 1963.
In Brokeback Mountain, Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) meet while working sheep ranching on the titular mountain in 1963 and form an intimate relationship. As the couple finish work and go their separate ways, Ennis bonds with his sweetheart Alma (Michelle Williams), but Jack and Ennis’ ongoing relationship strains the marriage. Eventually, Alma leaves Ennis, and he has a brief fling with Cassie Cartwright (Linda Cardellini), after which he tells Jack they can’t see each other again. While speaking with Empire, Lee describes one of Ledger’s most memorable scenes, praising the late actor’s deep understanding of his character and “gift from God.” See what the director has to say below:
“Ennis is alone, eating a slice of apple pie. Linda [Cardellini] acts with all her heart, she is in tears, confronting Ennis: ‘Why did you do that?’ But she doesn’t get a word from him. During the whole scene, Heath does nothing: he just eats the apple pie. But watching the dailies, the team was also crying, saying, “Leave the guy alone!” I both understood and cherished Heath’s calmness, the subtlety of the moment and the way he carried himself in this scene. We are all very lucky to have been able to make films with an actor of this caliber. He had a gift from God. In his heart, I think Heath knew the character of Ennis deeply.
Heath Ledger enjoys Brokeback Mountain
Although the Brokeback Mountain dinner scene that Lee describes between Ennis and Cassie seems like a small moment in the epic film’s grand scheme, it quietly establishes the film’s emotional climax. Ennis’ relationship with Cassie comes after his conflicting loves and desires come to a head and leave him without his wife, children, or the ability to act on his feelings for Jack in any meaningful way. The void presented by Ledger in the restaurant scene perfectly reflects all that Ennis lost, proving Lee’s point that “Heath knew Ennis’ character deeply.”
Both Ledger and Gyllenhaal are committed to putting on raw, honest performances as a loving couple on Brokeback Mountain, with Gyllenhaal previously saying the two were inspired by “a deep love for a lot of people we know who have been brought up by in our lives. While the film was the subject of many homophobic “jokes” when it was released in 2005 due to its focus on the love between two men, Gyllenhaal said Ledger’s “consummate devotion” to his role and history had helped set the example. Indeed, Ledger declined to present an award at the 2006 Oscars due to planned ceremony jokes about the film.
Ledger has repeatedly proven his deep respect and appreciation for Brokeback Mountain in the three years between the film’s release and his death in 2008, leaving behind a worthy legacy as part of the groundbreaking film. The actor is known for many iconic roles, but Brokeback Mountain remains one of his most impressive and moving performances, earning him an Oscar nomination. LGBTQ+ representation in film has come a long way since 2005, and Ledger proved he was ahead of his time with his dedication to playing Ennis with such care and empathy in Brokeback Mountain.
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Brokeback Mountain director recalls Heath Ledger’s striking scene | Pretty Reel