Brokeback Mountain creator ‘wishes she’d never written it’

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

Annie Proulx, who wrote the short story that inspired the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountainsays she wishes she’d never written it because so many people miss the point of it.

Ang Lee’s adaptation of Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain broke new ground when it was released in 2005, winning Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score among other accolades.

It’s been credited with ushering in a new age of queer cinema, however for Proulx, “it’s just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation”.

Proulx told the Paris Review she is regularly sent rewrites of her original story “including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack [Jake Gyllenhaal’s character] is killed”. She says it “drives [her] wild”.

“I wish I’d never written the story,” she said. Before the film it was all right….They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis [Heath Ledger].

“It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality.”

She hit back at the fanfic writers, saying: “That’s not the story I wrote. Those are not [your] characters. The characters belong to me by law.”

Brokeback Mountain author wrote opera version herself to stop ‘idiots from messing with it’.

Annie Proulx worked with Charles Wuorinen on an opera adaptation of Brokeback Mountain which premiered in 2014 in Madrid. She wrote the libretto (book) for the show.

Discussing her decision to take this role, she said: “I figured one of these idiots who loves happy endings would come along and start messing with it. I want to keep the story as it is.”

In one final blow to our collective serotonin, she added: “It’s a strong story and it shouldn’t be mangled into everybody lives happily ever after.”

Jake Gyllenhaal takes the opposite view when it comes to who owns the characters. He called the film “bigger than me”, telling the Today Show: “It has become not ours anymore. It’s the world’s.”

During lockdown, writer Gaby Dunn reimagined the story with an all-trans cast for New York’s annual LGBT+ film festival.

In 2018, the film was inducted to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. Films chosen for inclusion are deemed worthy of preservation for future generations for their “cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage”.

In his book, Out at the Movies, film critic Steven Paul Davies said: “Thanks to Brokeback, film financiers will continue to back scripts that don’t simply rely on gay stereotypes… and that will certainly be progress.”

The short story is available as part of a collection by Annie Proulx entitled Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and Other Stories and is available here. While the film adaption by Ang Lee is available to rent or buy here.

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