Ang Lee just revealed there was tension between Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger during Brokeback Mountain

A still from the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain showing actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger dressed in their cowboy outfits with Ledger standing close to Gyllenhaal with his arm around him

Ang Lee, director of iconic queer film Brokeback Mountain, has revealed that there was “friction” between its two lead actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.

In a new interview for Empire’s Greatest Actors issue, Lee shared his memories of working with the late Ledger on the set of the gay Western romance, which tells the story of two male cowboys (Gyllenhaal and Ledger) who develop a complicated emotional and sexual relationship.

Lee was highly complimentary of Ledger, though he told Empire that the actor’s methods would occasionally result in a clash with Gyllenhaal.

“When it came to Jake, Heath had a very different attitude towards their work,” Lee explained.

“Sometimes there was friction – not quarrelling, 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.”

Lee also expressed how much he enjoyed seeing the actors develop a natural chemistry while shooting the film.

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“One aspect I cherish was getting to witness Heath and Jake [Gyllenhaal] develop that relationship between their characters,” he continued.

“I saw it unfold right in front of my eyes, from rehearsal all the way to filming”.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger share a joke at the Venice Film Festival’s world premiere of Brokeback Mountain. (Getty/Franco Origlia)

Lee also complimented Ledger’s commitment to his character in Brokeback Mountain.

“In his heart, I think Heath knew the character of Ennis deeply. On a technical level, he took direction very well, but worked alone. He’s not someone you really needed to talk to a lot, because he was very independent. For me, if the result is right, then I’m happy. If it’s not, I could tell him, and he would work something else out.”

He told Empire that Ledger’s skilful portryal of Ennis, a macho but “repressed” gay man, had given much-needed depth to the character.

“Often there is no vocabulary to express his feelings. So Heath’s aura powers the whole story. He did a lot of preparation, mostly on his own. And he often surprised me with what he brought to his work.”

Lee also reflected on Ledger’s acting prowess, calling his performance in Brokeback Mountain a “God-given gift”.

“We are all very lucky we were able to make movies with an actor of that calibre.”

Ledger went on to play the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) before he passed away in the same year.