Fearing for their careers, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon all turned down ‘Brokeback Mountain’
The gay romance movie 'Brokeback Mountain' that catapulted Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal to stardom was initially offered to A-list stars who had turned down the roles.
'Brokeback Mountain' was the film that elevated Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal to stardom. But now it has been revealed that Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Ryan Phillippe were initially offered the roles which depicted gay romance but all these stars turned it down.
Gus Van Sant, the director who has frequently collaborated with Damon, was approached to direct Ang Lee's groundbreaking 'Brokeback Mountain.' In a recent interview with IndieWire, the 65-year-old director recalled how his vision for the film was different and also revealed how “Nobody wanted to do it.”
"I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no,” he added. The film was ultimately directed by Lee.
The film's producer, Diana Ossana, confirmed that it was a "hurdle" to cast the role of Ennis, an introverted farmhand, the character was played by Ledger eventually. Ledger, who died in 2008, and Gyllenhaal were both nominated for best actor, and their work on the film earned them high acclaim dismissing the belief that playing gay would damage a leading man’s career. Ang Lee won the best director Oscar, one of three Academy awards the film took home in 2006.
The director of 'My Own Private Idaho' worked on the film, based on a short story by the writer Annie Proulx, before Lee took over. When the interviewer asked him if his version might have been less commercial than the finished product, Van Sant said: “It probably wouldn’t have been.”
Looking back on the lack of enthusiasm from the A-listers surrounding the film’s casting process at the time, Van Sant said; “What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.”
He added; “I was not ready. I’m not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”
The director also shared that one of his producer friends offered him 'Call Me By Your Name,' which later went to Luca Guadagnino. “I think in that case in particular…I don’t think it would have panned out the way it did if I had directed it. I think it was great,” he said. “I like the film. I think the sentimentality and the ending of the film was something that probably wasn’t in the book in the same way. It maybe was in the book, but I think that he got something really great that I think is very… I’m not sure I would have ended up in the same place, so it probably wouldn’t have done as well.”
Van Sant was interviewing to promote 'Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,' starring his 'To Die For' star Joaquin Phoenix. The film follows the life of eccentric Portland cartoonist John Callahan and is currently in theatres.