Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal "Clashed" on "Brokeback Mountain" Set, Director Says

Ang Lee shared his memories of working with the actors on the 2005 romantic drama in a new essay.

Brokeback Mountain was one of the most acclaimed movies of 2005, and the roles of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist remain two of the most memorable performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. The actors starred opposite each other as two cowboys having a decades-long affair in the film adapted from a short story of the same name. In a new essay for Empire magazine, director Ang Lee looked back on his time working with Ledger, who died in 2008, for the publication's Greatest Actors Issue. The filmmaker opened up about the "friction" that existed between the two leading men and how they were able to work through it. Read on to find out more about the stars' relationship and why they initially clashed.

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Lee said Ledger and Gyllenhaal had a "clash of styles."

Heath Ledger, Ang Lee, and Jake Gyllenhaal at the 2006 Directors Guild of America Awards
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

In his piece for Empire, Lee said that Ledger and Gyllenhaal sometimes had to work through their differences.

"When it came to Jake, Heath had a very different attitude towards their work," Lee shared. "Sometimes there was friction—not quarreling, but a clash of styles. Sometimes I would mediate that, but they were both good in different ways. They would always make the effort to find a way through."

Their personalities were polar opposites.

Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain"
Focus Features

In 2009, Entertainment Weekly published a story in which various people who had worked with Ledger reflected on his career. Brokeback Mountain's cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, also noted how Gyllenhaal and Ledger contrasted each other.

"Heath was definitely moody compared to Jake, who is very bubbly and jokes around," Prieto said. "There were some very emotional scenes, and Heath would struggle to get it exactly right. It didn't come easily. I think there was an insecurity about his ability as an actor."

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Despite this, they became good friends.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger presenting at the 2006 SAG Awards
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Aside from the "friction" Lee says they had on set, the two stars liked and respected each other. In 2005, MovieWeb asked Ledger how it was working with Gyllenhaal. "Wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better person," he responded. "He comes from a beautiful family, and he's a wonderful actor."

Speaking to Vanity Fair earlier this year, Gyllenhaal explained of working with Ledger, "There were many jokes being made about the movie, or poking fun at, things like that. And [Ledger's] consummate devotion to how serious and important the relationship between these two characters was—it showed me how devoted he was as an actor and how devoted we both were to the story and the movie."

In 2016, Gyllenhaal told People of Ledger's death, "Personally, it affected me in ways I can't necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly."

Lee shared other memories of Ledger.

Heath Ledger at the premiere of "The Four Feathers" in 2002
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Lee had the highest praise for Ledger in his Empire essay. The director wrote about Ledger's quiet performance and what he was able to get across, even in scenes in which he didn't have many lines.

"Heath Ledger was a brilliant young actor. God only knows what he would have achieved later in life. He had so much talent—I'm sure he would have been a great director," Lee said. Later in the article, he added, "We are all very lucky we were able to make movies with an actor of that calibre. He had a God-given gift."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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