Jake Gyllenhaal thinks Brokeback Mountain broke ‘stigma’ of straight actors playing LGBT+ roles

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain

Jake Gyllenhaal has said Brokeback Mountain helped break the “stigma” of straight actors playing LGBT+ roles.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the 40-year-old actor was asked if he thought there’d be a “different reaction” to two straight actors taking on the romantic leads today.

“I don’t know, maybe?” replied Gyllenhaal, who starred opposite Heath Ledger in the 2005 film.

“Part of the medicine of storytelling is that we were two straight guys playing these parts. There was a stigma about playing a part like that, you know, why would you do that?

“And I think it was very important to both of us to break that stigma.”

“But then again, I think that has led the way towards people saying that, you know, people of all different experiences should be playing more roles, that it shouldn’t be limited to a small group of people.

“And I believe that.”

Director Ang Lee’s lonesome western, Brokeback Mountain, went on to scoop eight Oscar nominations – winning three – as it smashed through expectations as one of the first queer-focused films to hit the mainstream.

Jake Gyllenhaal and his co-star, the late Heath Ledger, faced off against “homophobic banter” after starring in the film – with Ledger even having to shut down a homophobic joke Oscars organisers had planned for the ceremony.

“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about [Brokeback Mountain],” Gyllenhaal told Another Man last year.

“And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time: ‘Oh, okay, whatever. I’m always like: It’s all in good fun.’

“And Heath said: ‘It’s not a joke to me – I don’t want to make any jokes about it.'”

Gyllenhaal’s comments come amid never-ending debate on whether straight, cis actors should play LGBT+ roles.

British screenwriter Russell T Davies said he deliberately cast gay actors to play gay characters in It’s a Sin, saying this brought more “authenticity” to the show.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Alan Turning in 2014’s The Imitation Game, urged caution about actors having to “explain all their private moments” to play queer roles.

” I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public?” he told IndieWire.