At the young age of 24, Jake Gyllenhaal took a risk with his acting career in a film that sparked controversies throughout Hollywood but received critical acclaim nonetheless. His career had just been on the rise with films like October Sky, The Good Girl, Donnie Darko, and The Day After Tomorrow.
According to IndieWire, several actors were approached for the film. But, with a sensitive concept at the time, most of them turned it down. Top brass like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt were offered a shot at it, but nothing ever came of it.
While it may have been a different story altogether casting heavyweight actors who were probably more famous than Gyllenhaal, the film bagged three Academy Awards and proved to the audience that it was not about the face.
Gus van Sant had been attached to the project initially. And knowing Matt Damon closely from his days working on Good Will Hunting, and Finding Forrester, he thought the actor could be roped in for it.
Ang Lee Replaced Gus van Sant in This $178M Controversial Romance
Under a lot of pressure to direct a film that could masterfully show an intimate love story between two men, director Gus van Sant in his conversation with IndieWire said that he wanted a cast that could make a strong impact.
“Nobody wanted to do it. 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.”
Hulk director Ang Lee came forward for the script after he heard about it from his friend right when he had plans to retire. He felt Brokeback Mountain (2005) lifted his spirits massively.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s Friendship Goes Way Back
Larry McMurtry, who did a fantastic job as a co-screenwriter allegedly believed that big actors were refusing because their representatives allegedly thought it would be harmful for their careers playing a queer.
Jake Gyllenhaal, on the ten-year anniversary of the film, said in an interview –
“I’d known Heath for a really long time before that movie. We were friends. We’d all hang out and learn to ride. Heath already knew how to ride really well, but we’d ride and hang out on the ranch outside of Los Angeles. It was really, really amazing.”
He continued –
“I knew it would be a difficult film to make. And something that would put people off. My closest family members, my godfathers, were a gay couple. So it was something I just inherently had no prejudice about.”
It has been almost 18 years since the film came out. Not only did Ang Lee get an Oscar for it, but it still teaches us what we need to change our mindset about.
Jake Gyllenhaal starred in Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant which was released on April 21, this year.