Jake Gyllenhaal says Heath Ledger hated 'Brokeback Mountain' gay jokes: 'He was like, "No. This is about love."'

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

It’s been 15 years since Jake Gyllenhaal filmed the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed same-sex love story Brokeback Mountain — and it holds a special place in his heart.

In an interview on Sunday Today with Willie Geist, the actor, 38. talked about how the movie, which paired him with Heath Ledger – with whom he bonded off-screen as well (and became the godfather of the late Ledger’s daughter with Michelle Williams) – “defined” his career and gave him new professional opportunities.

Jake Gyllenhaal talks about <I>Brokeback Mountain</i> — 15 years after making the film. (Photo: Han Myung-Gu/WireImage)

“It opened tons of doors,” said Gyllenhaal, who is currently on the big screen in Spider-Man Far From Home. “It was crazy. It was amazing. It's defined my career in different ways.”

There have been countless jokes about the film matter, which were insensitive then (though totally normal material on late-night TV and beyond) and seem even more so now. Gyllenhaal said that Ledger, who died in 2008, was especially protective of the story and the dialogue, which of course included the famous “I wish I knew how to quit you” line.

“I see people who have joked with me or criticized me about lines I say in that movie — and that's the thing I loved about Heath,” Gyllenhaal said. “He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love.’ Like, that's it, man. Like, no.’”

(Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

On the 10th anniversary of Brokeback’s release, Gyllenhaal told Out that Ledger hated that “I wish I knew how to quit you” — a pivotal and poignant moment in the film — was turned into a meme and that the film became known as “the gay cowboy movie” because it diminished the story.

“He was extraordinarily serious about the political issues surrounding the movie when it came out,” Gyllenhaal said. “A lot of times people would want to have fun and joke about it, and he was vehement about being serious, to the point where he didn’t really want to hear about anything that was being made fun of.”

Gyllenhaal, who was in his mid-20s at the time, told Geist that quickly after wrapping the “little movie we made that meant so much to us,” he realized that it was “bigger than me” and that it really “hit a certain nerve.” He realized it had become “not ours anymore. It was the world’s.”

He said to be “26 years old and at the Academy Awards,” where both he and Ledger were nominated for supporting and lead actor, respectively, was, “Whoa.”

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