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Brokeback Mountain execs say leading men in Hollywood weren't interested

Casting was a nightmare, apparently.

IT WAS NOMINATED for eight Academy Awards at the 2006 Oscars, but according to Brokeback Mountain producers, a number of the industry’s most acclaimed actors declined offers to take part in the film.


Indeed, it was this reluctance which caused Gus Van Sant to step down as director – a position which was ultimately taken up by Ang Lee.

Speaking to IndieWire, Van Sant explains that lack of interest from Hollywood’s leading men made his vision exceptionally difficult to realise.

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.

LA Premiere of Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot Source: Richard Shotwell/PA Images

So, who did Van Sant envision in the roles which ultimately went to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal?

I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.

Brokeback Mountain producer and screenwriter, Diana Ossana, confirmed that a combination of reasons caused casting difficulties.


Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons.

Reflecting on a project which went on to secure awards at the Venice Film Festival, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Critics’ Choice Awards in addition to three Oscars, Van Sant accepts his approach to the film may have been slightly off-kilter.

Acknowledging that he focused too intensely on the actors who might potentially play Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Van Sant believes he should have directed his attention towards the industry’s underdogs.

What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.

13 years on from the release of a film which secured 71 awards and was nominated for a further 52, Van Sant says it just wasn’t meant to be.

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.

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