Heath Ledger declined to go to the one month cowboy camp that had been organized, as he had grown up on farms in Western Australia. Jake Gyllenhaal was required to attend, however, as he needed "roughing up".
When asked if he had any fears about playing a gay man, Heath Ledger replied that he was not afraid of the role, only that he wasn't mature enough to do it justice.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the godfather of co-stars Michelle Williams' and Heath Ledger's daughter Matilda Rose Ledger.
The poster for the film was deliberately styled to resemble another romantic epic, Titanic (1997).
According to reports, Heath Ledger nearly broke co-star Jake Gyllenhaal's nose while filming a kissing scene.
Writer Annie Proulx sent both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger an original, autographed copy of her story. When she signed the copy to Jake she wrote "To Jake..." but when she signed the copy she had intended to give to Heath she signed it "To Ennis". After writing out her personal message, she realized what she had done, and decided to let it be. At a private screening at Arclight in Hollywood, California, she reflected that Heath Ledger really was Ennis. She left the signed copy that way, because she had felt the actor embodied Ennis in every way she had imagined him.
Heath Ledger, uncertain about the role when he was first offered it, was encouraged by his then girlfriend, Naomi Watts, to take it, immediately after they both read the script. After reading the script, Ledger said he would have flown to Taiwan to meet with Ang Lee in order to be hired for the role.
Michelle Williams requested that her two male leads kiss in front of her to help her get to the right emotional place for her character, Alma. As she was involved with Ledger in real-life, too, she felt that such a thing would help with her portrayal. She had to goad both men as their first few attempts were far too half-hearted for her liking.
Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams met and fell in love on the set of this film. She gave birth to their daughter, Matilda, shortly before the film premiered. However, they broke up some time later.
According to Producer James Schamus, the movie cost so little to make, that it recouped its cost during its first week of limited release.
One of Daniel Day-Lewis' favorite films. He cites the reason for this as being Heath Ledger's performance. After Ledger's death, Day-Lewis dedicated his SAG award for There Will Be Blood (2007) to Ledger's memory, mentioning in particular the final scene in Ennis's trailer being "as moving as anything I have ever seen."
Ang Lee struggled continually with the sheep during the shoot. Apparently, sheep don't drink from running water, only ponds and dams. Ang tried all day to get them to drink from a stream, but they wouldn't oblige. He had to give up on the shot. Also, American sheep carry a bacteria or virus that Canadian sheeps don't possess. The film's scene where two herds of sheep become mixed-up, had some nightmarish real-life parallels, as the Canadian government had expressly warned them of dire consequences if they caused any disease to spread to the local animals from the south-of-the-border variety.
Afraid that Anne Hathaway's previous films The Princess Diaries (2001) and Ella Enchanted (2004) would work against her during auditions, the Casting Director introduced Anne to Ang Lee as a New York City Broadway actress. Ang Lee hadn't seen any of Anne's nor Michelle Williams's previous works before he auditioned, and subsequently cast them in the film.
Director Ang Lee gave Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal copies of the book, "Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest", by Will Fellows, a book that had been mentioned by both Annie Proulx and Diana Ossana as an excellent reference source, to help them understand their characters. Noting what he learned from his reading, Gyllenhaal said, "I don't think that these two characters even know what gay is."
Universal made the rare decision to release the film on DVD when it was still playing in theaters. It was also the first film to be released as a DVD and a download on the same day.
There was an audible gasp at the Academy Awards when presenter Jack Nicholson read out Crash (2004) as 2005's Best Film over this film, much fancied. Nicholson himself admitted to being shocked as he too had voted for Ang Lee's film.
Heath Ledger has a nude scene in which he jumps into a lake. Ang Lee intended to edit any actual frontal nudity out of the film, but a paparazzo took photos of Ledger with a digital camera. The photos appeared on the Internet and in some press publications. The scene is included in the Australian and European versions of the film. It features Ledger and a stunt double for Jake Gyllenhaal jumping into a lake from a rock.
Heath Ledger reckoned that the script for Brokeback Mountain (2005) was the best screenplay he'd ever read.
During its first weekend of release (playing in only five U.S. theaters), this set a record for the highest per-screen gross of any non-animated movie in history.
Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller pulled the film from his Jordan Commons entertainment complex in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, despite heavily advertising the film. He reneged on his obligations to show it two hours before the first scheduled showing when he learned of the homosexual content, claiming that the film represented a danger to family values. Focus Features threatened to sue, and announced that they would no longer do business with Miller.
In an article published in Variety in 2015, to mark the ten-year anniversary of the release of Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee said that he was unfamiliar with Anne Hathaway before her audition, and he was told by the casting director that "the next actress coming in to read was going to apologize for her clothes and make-up, but to just let her do that, and go into the reading." This was because Hathaway was auditioning for Brokeback Mountain during her lunch break from filming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) (also on the Universal lot), and, according to Lee, she read for the part of Lureen "wearing heavy make-up and dressed as a princess."
The shirts worn by the two actors, that feature prominently in the film, were sold on eBay in February 2006 for 101,100 dollars. The buyer, film historian and collector Tom Gregory, called them "the ruby slippers of our time". (Referring to The Wizard of Oz (1939).) In 2009, Gregory lent the shirts to The Gene Autry National Center of the American West, a Los Angeles museum that seeks "to explore the experiences and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West." Their exhibition of the shirts is part of their larger attempt to examine representations of the Western LGBT experience in history and fiction.
In March 2006, Randy Quaid filed a lawsuit against Focus Features, alleging that the company had misled him into thinking that the film was a low-budget, art-house film, with no prospect of making money. He saw this as a ruse to get him to lower his salary. At the time of the lawsuit, the film had earned more than 160 million dollars. Quaid dropped the lawsuit in May, seemingly after Focus agreed to pay him a bonus. Focus, however, denied that any such payment ever took place, and Focus spokeswoman Adriene Bowles was quoted as saying, "the circumstances of him dropping the suit are as mysterious as the circumstances under which he filed his claim."
Among the actors considered for the male leads were Josh Hartnett, Colin Farrell, Matt Damon, Billy Crudup, and Ben Affleck.
The song Jack plays on his harmonica is "He Was a Friend of Mine", the same song Willie Nelson sings during the closing credits.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was considered for the role of Ennis, having starred in Latter Days (2003) and Mysterious Skin (2004); and being closer in age to Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams.
On the night of the 2006 Academy Awards, Ang Lee candidly expressed disappointment backstage that the film failed to win Best Picture, even though he himself won Best Director. Lee added that he was especially sad Heath Ledger did not win Best Actor, as he was certain Ledger had delivered one of the great screen performances of all time.
Although Anne Hathaway learned how to barrel race, the insurance company insisted that a stunt double perform on film.
There were 75 visual effects shots created for the film by the Canadian house Buzz Image Group. Of these, fifteen were of CGI sheep. The film called for about 2,500 sheep, but only seven hundred were on-set, necessitating the additional woolly creations. Also created for the film, were sky replacements, set additions, erasures, and the hail in the hailstorm.
According to an interview that Heath Ledger gave to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea, there was a sequence that was filmed for the movie in which Jack and Ennis help some hippies get their car out of a river. According to Ledger, the scene took three days to shoot, and was disliked almost immediately by everyone involved. The scene was written by James Schamus as an attempt to show Jack and Ennis in a heroic situation, but it does not appear in Annie Proulx's original short story, the published screenplay, or the final cut of the movie.
According to an interview in Premiere Magazine, Mark Wahlberg stated that at one point, he and Joaquin Phoenix were considered for the two lead roles. Although Wahlberg considered it due to his brother-like relationship with Phoenix, the script was ultimately too sexually graphic for him.
Ang Lee was interviewed for a November 2010 New York Times article about Writer and Producer James Schamus. Lee remembered that after watching one of the first cuts of Brokeback Mountain (2005), Schamus ran into Lee in the theater bathroom; Schamus told Lee that the movie was running too long, and said, "that was great, but it was three hankies and two bladders. My goal is four hankies and one bladder."
Joseph Fiennes loved the project so much that he met with three different directors, attached at various times, about starring in the film.
The Guardian's November 2007 obituary for Costume Designer Marit Allen reported that she brought a book of Richard Avedon's 1950s and 60s photos of the American West with her to her first meeting about designing the clothes for this film, and she used that book to help decode what the obit called the men's "subtle dress codes". Interestingly, without having spoken to one another, several of the principal crew used the book as a reference. During production prep, the screenwriters had also suggested the book as a visual reference, and it was, in fact, used by the production design and make-up crews as well.
In her book "The Sense and Sensibility (1995) Screenplay & Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen's Novel to Film", Emma Thompson writes that after a particularly difficult day filming a sequence that involved a flock of sheep, Ang Lee swore that he would never again use the animals on a movie set. This movie, however, is about two young men who meet while sheep herding.
By 2010, this film was on many critics' and publications' "Best of the Decade" lists, including Peter Travers, Entertainment Weekly, The London Times, The A.V. Club, Time Out New York, and The London Telegraph.
Anne Hathaway mentioned in a 2015 Out Magazine retrospective of the film that she was originally sent the script with the role of Alma Beers in mind, but after she read the screenplay she decided that she wanted to audition for the part of Lurleen Newsome instead.
The football game on television that causes some family friction during Jack's Thanksgiving dinner is actually a 1970s Canadian Football League game between the Montreal Alouettes and Edmonton Eskimos.
The artwork of Vilhelm Hammershøi (Danish Painter, 1864-1916) served as visual inspiration for the whitewashed interior of Jack's parents house in Lightning Flat, according to Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto.
Focus Features was able to recoup its 14 million dollar budget by selling the overseas rights to the film.
Brooklynn Proulx, the child actress who played Jenny at age 4, is not related to E. Annie Proulx, the author of the original short story on which this movie was based, even though they share a relatively uncommon last name.
During the filming of the Fourth of July scenes in Fort Macleod, the crew would get the extras pumped up by telling them to act like the Calgary Flames had just won the Stanley Cup.
Final editorial work of Geraldine Peroni, who died a few months before the movie's release.
Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal shared the screen as a couple one more time in Love & Other Drugs (2010).
The original short story by Annie Proulx was published in the October 13, 1997 issue of The New Yorker, without the italicized prologue which was included in the later version published in "Close Range", her collection of short stories. Diana Ossana, co-Screenwriter and a Producer on the film, read it, then asked her colleague Larry McMurtry to read the story. He refused, stating he doesn't read short fiction, because he can't write it. She persisted, however, and he ultimately agreed. McMurtry handled the marital dramas and the Western elements, while Ossana concentrated on the male relationship, McMurtry feeling that he was not up to the task of conveying that realistically. Some reports have it that Ang Lee barred Screenwriter McMurtry from the set of the movie. A spokeswoman for Focus Features, which produced it, commented: "Larry McMurtry rarely goes on sets, because he has very severe allergies." McMurtry was also in the midst of writing a novel, when filming began and ended. No one barred him from the set. Ossana was on-set during the entire filming.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The first film to win Best Director at the Academy Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, BAFTA Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Critics' Choice Awards.
Heath Ledger would go on to work with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the sister of co-star and friend, Jake Gyllenhaal, in The Dark Knight (2008).
Sienna Miller was scheduled to audition for the role of Lureen Twist, but was unable to attend her audition due to a "terrible cough".
Was selected for preservation in the National Film Registy, by the Library of Congress, in 2018 for being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Heath Ledger and Anne Hathaway; and three Oscar nominees: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Randy Quaid.
After playing an LGBT character in this film, Heath Ledger went on to play the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). The same thing later happened to Jared Leto, who played an LGBT character in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and then later played the Joker in Suicide Squad (2016).
Heath Ledger and Anne Hathaway went on to star in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. Ledger played the The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), and Anne Hathaway played Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
The only film that year to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress Oscars.
DIRECTOR_TRADEMARK(Ang Lee): [outdoor settings]: Ennis and Jack escorting the sheep, and camping in a mountain terrain.
In the first scene of Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) bull riding, the stunt man is clearly wearing a bull riding safety vest under his shirt. These vests were not worn by bull riders for many years.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist) and David Harbour (Randall Malone) work together again in "End of Watch" (2012).
Randy Quaid's younger brother Dennis Quaid stars in The Day After Tomorrow (2004) along with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Larry McMurtry also wrote the novels Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove. Terms of Endearment was turned into a film that featured Jack Nicholson. Heath Ledger later succeeded Nicholson as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Linda Cardellini later appeared in Comanche Moon, a prequel to Lonesome Dove, in which her character was previously played by Anjelica Huston, who had had a relationship with Nicholson for several years.