Lee became attached to the project after previous attempts to adapt the short story into a film did not materialize. Focus Features
and River Road Entertainment
would jointly produce and distribute the film. After Ledger and Gyllenhaal's casting was announced in 2003, filming commenced in various locations in Alberta, Canada
in 2004. Brokeback Mountain
premiered at the 2005 Venice Film Festival
and was released to theaters on December 9 that year. Gustavo Santaolalla
scored the film's original soundtrack.
The film received universal acclaim, in particular for Lee's direction, the films screenplay, and the performances of the cast (especially of Ledger, Gyllenhaal, and Williams). Brokeback Mountain
was included on many film critics' 2005 top-ten lists. It was also commercially successful, and grossed $178 million worldwide against its $14 million budget. At the 78th Academy Awards
, Brokeback Mountain
was nominated for Best Picture
and won three awards for Best Director
, Best Adapted Screenplay
, and Original Score
. The film garnered seven nominations at the 63rd Golden Globe Awards
, and won four awards. At the 59th British Academy Film Awards
, Brokeback Mountain
was nominated for nine awards, winning Best Film
, Best Direction
, Best Adapted Screenplay
and Best Supporting Actor
was also the subject of controversies, such as its loss to Crash
for the Academy Award for Best Picture, censorship, and criticism from conservative media outlets. The sexuality of the main characters has been subject to discussion. Brokeback Mountain
has also been regarded as a turning point for the advancement of queer cinema
into the mainstream. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
by the Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In Wyoming in 1963, Ennis Del Mar
and Jack Twist
are hired by Joe Aguirre to herd his sheep through the summer on grazing pastures on Brokeback Mountain. After a night of heavy drinking, Jack makes a pass at a hesitant Ennis, and Ennis eventually positively responds to Jack's advances. Ennis tells Jack that it was a one-time incident, but they soon develop a passionate sexual and emotional relationship. Eventually, Jack and Ennis part ways; Ennis marries his longtime fiancée Alma Beers and has two daughters with her. Jack returns the next summer seeking work, but Aguirre, who had observed Jack and Ennis cavorting together on the mountain, refuses to hire him again due to his homosexuality.
Jack moves to Texas, where he meets rodeo
rider Lureen Newsome; they marry and have a son. After four years apart, Jack visits Ennis. Upon meeting, the two passionately kiss, which Alma inadvertently witnesses. Jack broaches the subject of creating a life with Ennis on a ranch, but Ennis refuses; he is unwilling to abandon his family, and is haunted by a childhood memory of his father showing him the body of a man who was tortured and killed for suspected homosexuality.
Ennis and Jack meet infrequently for fishing trips, while their respective marriages deteriorate. Lureen abandons the rodeo, going into business with her father, which in turn causes Jack to work in sales. Alma and Ennis divorce in 1975. Upon hearing about the divorce, Jack drives to Wyoming and tells Ennis that they should live together, but Ennis refuses to move away from his children. Upset, Jack finds solace with male prostitutes in Mexico.
Alma eventually confronts Ennis about the true nature of his relationship with Jack. The couple have an argument, causing Ennis to cease contact with Alma. Ennis goes on to have a short-lived romantic relationship with a waitress named Cassie. Jack and Lureen befriend another couple, Randall and Lashawn Malone, and it is implied that Jack and Randall have a brief affair. At the end of a fishing trip, Ennis tells Jack that he cannot take any more time off from work to meet him. The pair have an argument, in which they blame each other for their not being together. Ennis begins to cry and Jack embraces him.
Some time later, Ennis receives a postcard that he had sent to Jack, stamped with "Deceased". He calls Lureen, who says that Jack died in an accident after a car tire exploded in his face, though Ennis visualizes Jack's death as a violent murder. After Lureen tells him that Jack wanted to have his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis meets with Jack's parents in hopes of carrying out the request. Jack's father refuses, preferring to have the ashes interred in a family plot. Ennis goes to Jack's bedroom, where he finds his own shirt in the closet; Jack had kept it hanging with his shirt, stained with blood from a fight they had in the summer of 1963. Ennis holds the shirts to his face, inhales deeply, and silently weeps.
Later, Ennis's now 19-year-old daughter, Alma Jr., arrives at his trailer to tell him that she is engaged. She asks for his blessing and invites him to the wedding, to which he eventually agrees. Once Alma Jr. leaves, Ennis goes to the closet where his and Jack's shirts hang together, with a postcard of Brokeback Mountain tacked above them. With tears in his eyes, he stares at the ensemble for a moment before walking away, saying "Jack, I swear..."
Director Ang Lee
Screenwriter Diana Ossana
discovered Annie Proulx
's short story, Brokeback Mountain
, in October 1997, just days after its publication. She convinced writing partner Larry McMurty
to read it, who thought it was a "masterpiece". The pair asked Proulx if they could adapt it into a film screenplay; although she did not think that the story would work as a film, she agreed.
In a 1999 interview with The Missouri Review
, Proulx praised their screenplay.
Ossana said that convincing a director and production company to make the film was a challenging and nonstop process. Gus Van Sant
attempted to make the film, hoping to cast Matt Damon
and Joaquin Phoenix
as Ennis and Jack, respectively. Damon, who previously worked with Van Sant on Good Will Hunting
, told the director, "Gus, I did a gay movie (The Talented Mr. Ripley
), then a cowboy movie (All the Pretty Horses
). I can't follow it up with a gay-cowboy movie!"
Instead, Van Sant went on to make the biographical film Milk
, based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk
. Joel Schumacher
was also linked with the project at one point.
CEO James Schamus optioned
the film rights in 2001, but thought it was a risky project. At Ossana's request, Schamus showed the story and screenplay to director Ang Lee
Lee decided to make Hulk
instead; his experience of Hulk,
and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
from two years prior left him exhausted. In 2003, he considered retirement but Brokeback Mountain
came back to his mind and tempted him back into filmmaking.
Lee attempted to get the film made as an independent producer.
However, this did not work out, and before Lee would take a break after finishing Hulk
, he contacted Schamus about Brokeback Mountain
Schamus thought Brokeback Mountain
embraces the American West
without being a traditional Western,
and told Lee that he should consider directing it. Lee said, "Towards the end [of the script] ... I got tears in my eyes".
He was particularly drawn to the authentic rural American life and repression depicted in the story. Bill Pohlad
of River Road Entertainment, who had a two-year partnership with Focus Features, helped finance the film.
Casting director Avy Kaufman
said Lee was very decisive about the actors for the lead roles. In 2003, screenwriters Ossana and McMurty suggested Heath Ledger
(after being impressed by his performance in Monster's Ball
), but the film studio thought he was not masculine enough. Regardless, Kaufman sent the script to Ledger, who thought it was "beautiful" and put himself forward.
Gyllenhaal reacted to the script positively and signed on for the role; he also did not want to miss the opportunity working with Lee and friend Ledger. Gyllenhaal admired Ledger and described him as "way beyond his years as a human".
Other actors were considered for the leads but Lee said they were too afraid to take on the roles.
From the beginning, Ledger wanted to portray Ennis and not Jack. He opined that Ennis was more complex; a masculine and homophobic character. Ledger said, "The lack of words he [Ennis] had to express himself, his inability to love", made the role enjoyable.
Ledger, who grew up around horses, researched his character's personal traits, and learned to speak in Wyoming and Texas accents.
Lee gave Ledger and Gyllenhaal books about cowboys
who were gay or shared similar experiences as the characters depicted in Proulx's book.
Ledger and Gyllenhaal also went to a ranch on the outskirts of Los Angeles and learned to ride horses.
Gyllenhaal later said:
That what ties these two characters together is not just a love, but a loneliness. I think primarily it was deep loneliness. And what I always say about that movie [Brokeback Mountain], which I think maybe over time is more understood, is that this is about two people desperately looking for love. To be loved. And who were probably capable of it. And they just found it with someone of the same sex. And that does not dismiss the fact that it is about, really, primarily, the first kind of very profound gay love story. Hopefully it can create an equality of an idea: that is, it's possible that you can find love anywhere. That intimacy exists in so many places that convention and society won't always allow us to see. And we won't allow ourselves to see, because of what criticism — and danger, really — it might provoke.
Lee interviewed between 20 and 30 actresses for the roles of Alma and Lureen. Michelle Williams
was one of the first to audition for the role of Alma, and Lee thought she was perfect for the part. Anne Hathaway
, who was filming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
at the time, showed up to the audition during her lunch break. She was wearing a ball gown
and hairpiece "that was way over the top", but she still felt focused for the audition.
At first, Lee did not think she was an obvious choice, but he was convinced with her audition and cast her as Lureen. Hathaway lied to Lee about her knowledge of horse riding in order to cast her.
She took lessons for two months to prepare.
Lee was happy with Ledger and Gyllenhaal portraying Ennis and Jack, respectively, because he thought their "young innocence" will help carry a love story until the end. Lee added, "I think these two are among the best in their age group [...] Jake plays the opposite of Heath and it creates a very good couple in terms of a romantic love story. The chemistry, I think, is great."
Once all four leads were cast, Lee remembered being impressed with their maturity despite their young age; "It really scared me how good they were".
Brokeback Mountain was filmed in Alberta, Canada
Initially, Alberta's environmental department prohibited the crew from bringing domestic sheep into the Rockies, due to a risk of disease harming the local wildlife. The authorities eventually gave permission for them to shoot on one mountain, as long as they transported the domestic sheep in and out, every day. A biologist was hired to supervise this process.
Lee prefers working with cinematographers
who are open minded, eager to learn, and able to show an interest in the story and content before talking about the visuals.
Therefore, he selected Rodrigo Prieto
for the job; saying, "I think he’s versatile, and I wanted somebody who could shoot quickly [...] he was able to give me the tranquil, almost passive look I wanted for Brokeback. I believe a talent’s a talent".
Ledger and Gyllenhaal, who were friends before Brokeback Mountain
, were mostly unconcerned with the intimate scenes.
The first sex scene between Ennis and Jack took 13 takes to meet Lee's expectation. The director would keep his distance from them during filming, allowing the actors to be free and spontaneous. Lee said, "I don't talk too much [to them] except for technical notes. So they [the intimate scenes] are a lot easier to deal with".
Ledger was observant of Lee's directing style, saying, "There’s two sides to Ang’s direction — there’s the pre-production, which is incredibly thorough and private, and then there’s the shooting side, when he just doesn’t say anything at all."
Ledger said that this helped him try harder during takes
Gyllenhaal echoed Ledger's sentiment; "He just totally disconnects from you while you're shooting", but praised Lee's directorial skills.
In regards to acting, Ledger was sometimes disrupted by Gyllenhaal's acting style; Gyllenhaal tended to improvise
whereas Ledger preferred to be highly-prepared.
The director allowed Ledger to see his performance on the camera monitor so that he could improve.
During the last scenes where Ennis meets Jack's parents, production designer Judy Becker
was tasked in finding a suitable house. Lee took inspiration from painters Andrew Wyeth
and Vilhelm Hammershoi
for the white interior walls. Using two cameras, Lee would capture the actors from both angles, and then change lenses and repeat. "When you edit it together, you can apply certain emphasis to certain reactions, emotions", Lee said.
Ossana remembers that the last scenes were emotional for Ledger and personally affected him. The actors who played Jack's parents, Roberta Maxwell
and Peter McRobbie
, said Ledger was very quiet and gave a "powerful performance".
...in the old-school way, people really used to spend their time together. They became a family. And that’s what Ang created on the movie. It’s why we are all still close — not just bonded by the success of the film, but bonded by the experience. It was an intimate project in that way. We’d wake up and make breakfast for each other, and hang out.
—Gyllenhaal on the film's experience
Executive producer Michael Hausman rented Airstream
trailers for the cast and crew to sleep in. He created an on-set atmosphere which mimicked a summer camp, where people could bond and feel close. Hausman recalled that they would sit around the fireplaces, cook food and go fishing on the creek.
The production was not without commotion; the cast suffered several injuries during filming. Williams sprained her knee in the early days of filming, therefore, her character's movements were altered to be either sitting or standing most of the time. Ledger also injured his hand when he punched a wall for a scene.
During a kissing scene, Ledger almost broke Gyllenhaal's nose.
The American Humane
raised concerns that animals were treated improperly during filming, alleging that sheep were handled roughly and that an elk appeared to have been "shot on cue." They learned that the elk was shot with anesthetic
, violating standard guidelines for animal handling in the film industry.
scored the film's soundtrack, which consists of seventeen tracks as well as songs from Bob Dylan
and Roger Miller
. The album was released on October 25, 2005.
Based on the story and one conversation with the director, Santaolalla was able to score the music before filming began.
He said, "I mean if you are connected to the story and to the director, it makes a lot of sense because somehow you know, the music then becomes a part of the fabric of that film from the very beginning."
He also used a real orchestra and played his own guitar.
The film received a limited release
in the United States on December 9, 2005,
and grossed $547,425 in its first weekend.
Over the Christmas weekend, and beginning of January 2006, the film expanded into more domestic theaters. On January 20, the film opened in 1,194 theaters, then 1,652 theaters on January 27, and 2,089 theaters on February 3, its widest release.
was released in one theater in London on December 30 and received a wider release in the United Kingdom on January 6, 2006.
The film was released in France on January 18, to 155 theaters, expanding to 290 by the third week. In its first week of release, Brokeback Mountain
was in third place at the French box office. In Italy, the film grossed more than €890,000 in three days and was the fourth highest-grossing film in its first week.
The film was released in Australia on January 26, where it ranked fourth place at the weekend box office. Brokeback Mountain
was released in many other countries during the first three months of 2006.
During its first week of release in Hong Kong, Brokeback Mountain
was ranked first place at the box office, earning more than US$473,868 ($22,565 per theater).
The film opened in Lee's native Taiwan on January 20. The film grossed $83 million in North America and $95 million internationally, for a worldwide $178 million. It is the highest-grossing release for Focus Features.
The film has been given different titles in accordance to different languages and regions. For the film's release in French and Italian, it was titled Le Secret de Brokeback Mountain
and I segreti di Brokeback Mountain
(The Secret(s) of Brokeback Mountain
In Canadian French
, the title is Souvenirs de Brokeback Mountain
(Memories of Brokeback Mountain
The film received two Spanish titles: Brokeback Mountain: En terreno vedado
(In a forbidden terrain
) for its release in Spain
and Secreto en la Montaña
(Secret in the mountain
) for its release in Latin America
, the title was Túl a barátságon
I think they are genuinely happy to see a Chinese director win an Academy Award with good artistic value. I think that pride is genuine, so I would not think that's hypocritical at all [..] I don't know how to describe it, it's just something else. So what can I say?
—Ang Lee, responding to being celebrated in China for winning the Best Director Academy Award, although the film was not released there.
The film was met with mixed responses in some regions, particularly China and Islamic nations of western Asia. According to reports, the film was not shown in theaters in China, though it was freely available in bootleg DVD
. The Chinese government said the audience would have been too small; the foreign media accused the government of censorship
The word "brokeback" (Chinese
: 断背; pinyin
) also entered the Chinese lexicon
as a slang
The film was dubbed "the gay cowboy movie" by the press, a term that was propelled into the American vernacular.
The film was also released in Turkey
In the Middle East, distribution of the film became a political issue. Homosexuality is considered a crime in most Islamic nations and is taboo
in the few countries where it is legal. Lebanon
was the only Arab country to show the film, although in a censored format. The film was officially banned from screenings in the United Arab Emirates
; however, the DVD of the film was permitted to be rented from stores such as Blockbuster Video
On December 8, 2008, the Italian state-owned television channel Rai Due
aired a censored version of the film, removing all the scenes with homoerotic references. Viewers protested, saying the deletions made the plot hard to follow. The Arcigay
organisation accused the channel of homophobic censorship.
The state-owned television network RAI
said the Italian film distributor had mistakenly censored the film. RAI showed an uncensored version of the film on March 17, 2009.
was the first major film to be released simultaneously on both DVD and digital download via the Internet.
It was released in the United States on April 4, 2006.
More than 1 million copies of the DVD were sold in the first week, and it was the third biggest seller of the week behind Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
and King Kong.
Although the ranking fluctuated daily, by late March and early April 2006, Brokeback Mountain
had been the top-selling DVD on Amazon.com
for several days running.
The DVD in Europe
was released in the UK on April 24, 2006.
This was followed by France in July, and Poland in September, a considerable time after the theater release in both countries.Brokeback Mountain
was re-released in a collector's edition on January 23, 2007.
On the same day, it was also released in HD DVD
The film was released on Blu-ray
in the UK on August 13, 2007, and in the U.S. on March 10, 2009.
The Blu-ray contains special features including interviews with the screenwriters, director and a short documentary about composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
was released to critical acclaim.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes
, the film holds an approval rating of 87% based on 246 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A beautifully epic Western, Brokeback Mountain'
s love story is imbued with heartbreaking universality, helped by moving performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal."
, the film has a rating of 87/100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."
David Ansen of Newsweek
gave the film a positive review, praising the faithful screenplay. He adds, "There's neither coyness nor self-importance in Brokeback Mountain
—just close, compassionate observation, deeply committed performances, a bone-deep feeling for hardscrabble Western lives. Few films have captured so acutely the desolation of frustrated, repressed passion."
Writing for The Guardian
, Peter Bradshaw
praised Ledger and Gyllenhaal for their complementary performances. Bradshaw thought the film was "extremely moving, tragic even, and sensitive towards the feelings of the simple wives who attempt to understand their troubled husbands." Ann Hornaday
of The Washington Post
was equally positive, opining that the two lead actors' performances was unforgettable. In particular, she thought Ledger was impressive in his portrayal of a reserved and emotionally affected Ennis. Hornaday also praised the costumes and sets, writing "The Wyoming vistas are flawlessly manicured, Ledger and Gyllenhaal perfectly costumed and coiffed; even Ennis and Alma's sad little apartment over a laundromat seems to have been designed to death."
gave the Brokeback Mountain
a maximum rating of four stars in his review. Ebert was impressed with the level of attention to the characters, and thought that the film was as observant as the work by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman
Writing for The Sydney Morning Herald
, Sandra Hall praised the screenplay and called Ledger and Gyllenhaal "finely tuned". Noting that it is a slow film, Hall thought the filmmakers had adapted Proulx's story without missing any nuances. USA Today'
s Mike Clark, observed that Brokeback Mountain
was directed and photographed with restraint, and praised its old-fashioned quality, and "unassuming but people-oriented" nature.
The film also received a positive reaction from Christianity Today
; the reviewer gave the film 3 out of 4 stars.
In a mixed review, Ed Gonzalez of Slant
magazine thought the film was too long,
and the critic from Time
magazine felt that the story became less intense towards the end.
Conservative radio host Michael Medved
described it as "extremely well done", but felt the film was pushing the gay agenda
Several conservative political pundits
, including commentators Bill O'Reilly
, John Gibson
, and Cal Thomas
, shared Medved's view of the "agenda". Gibson made jokes about the film on his Fox News Radio
program for months after its release. After the death of Ledger in 2008, Gibson was criticized for mocking the deceased actor, and later apologized.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh
has referred to the film as "Bareback
Mountain" and "Humpback Mountain". Don Imus
referred to the film as "Fudgepack Mountain".
Several conservative Christian
groups, such as Concerned Women for America
(CWA) and Focus on the Family
, criticized the film for its subject matter. Following the success of Brokeback Mountain
, and Transamerica
at the 2006 Golden Globes Awards
, Janice Crouse, a CWA member, cited these films as examples of how "the media elites are proving that their pet projects are more important than profit", and suggested they were not popular enough to warrant critical acclaim.
Film critic Gene Shalit
of The Today Show
, described the character of Jack Twist as a "sexual predator
" who "tracks Ennis down and coaxes him into sporadic trysts."
media group GLAAD
said that Shalit's characterization of Twist was like calling Jack in Titanic
a sexual predator due to his romantic pursuit of Rose.
Shalit's openly gay son, Peter Shalit, wrote an open letter to GLAAD: "He [Gene] may have had an unpopular opinion of a movie that is important to the gay community, but he defamed
no one, and he is not a homophobe
Gene Shalit later apologized for his review; "I did not intend to use a word that many in the gay community consider incendiary... I certainly had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone in the gay community or on the community itself. I regret any emotional hurt that may have resulted from my review of Brokeback Mountain
Some commentators accused the filmmakers for hiding content about the film in advertising and in public events, such as press conferences and award ceremonies. New York Daily News
writer Wayman Wong, Dave Cullen and Daniel Mendelsohn
argued that the director, cast, and publicists
avoided using the word gay
to describe the story, and noted that the film's trailer
did not show a kiss between the two men but showed a heterosexual love scene.
The film's significance has been attributed to its portrayal of a same-sex relationship focused solely on the characters; it does not refer to the history of the LGBT social movements
It emphasizes the tragic love story aspect, and many critics have compared Ennis and Jack's drama to classic and modern romances such as Romeo and Juliet
, often using the term star-crossed lovers.
Proulx praised the film as "huge and powerful, adding, "I may be the first writer in America to have a piece of writing make its way to the screen whole and entire. [...] I was astonished that the characters of Jack and Ennis came surging into my mind again".
Critics' lists of 2005
appeared on numerous American critics' lists as one of their favorite films of 2005.
- 1st – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
- 1st – Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
- 1st – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
- 1st – Ruthie Stein, San Francisco Chronicle
- 1st – Scott Tobias, The A.V. Club
- 2nd – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 2nd – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
- 2nd – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
- 2nd – Desson Thompson, The Washington Post
- 2nd – Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
- 2nd – Mike Clark and Claudia Puig, USA Today
- 3rd – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
- 3rd – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
- 3rd – Shawn Levy, Portland Oregonian
- 3rd – William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- 4th – David Ansen, Newsweek
- 4th – Keith Phipps, The A.V. Club
- 4th – Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
- 5th – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
- 5th – Mike Russell, Portland Oregonian
- 5th – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
- 6th – Alison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune
- 6th – Ella Taylor, L.A. Weekly
- 7th – Nathan Rabin, The A.V. Club
- 7th – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
- 7th – Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper
- 8th – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
- 10th – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times
- Top 9 (listed alphabetically) - New York Film Critics Online
On January 6, 2006, Utah Jazz
owner Larry H. Miller
removed the film from theaters at the Jordan Commons entertainment complex in Sandy, Utah
. Miller said the film's content had no resemblance of a traditional family, which he believed is "dangerous".
Focus Features threatened legal action and announced it would no longer do business with him.
On March 23, 2006, Randy Quaid
, who portrayed Joe Aguirre in the film, filed a lawsuit against Focus Features for misrepresenting Brokeback Mountain
as "a low-budget, art house film
with no prospect of making any money", in order to secure his role for a cheaper rate.
On May 4, Quaid's publicist said he dropped the lawsuit as the company agreed to pay him a settlement; the company denies this however.
garnered awards and nominations in a variety of categories, including for its directing, screenplay, acting, original score, and cinematography. At the 78th Academy Awards
, Brokeback Mountain
was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture
and won three awards for Best Director
, Best Adapted Screenplay
, and Original Score
The film garnered seven nominations at the 63rd Golden Globe Awards
, winning four for Best Motion Picture – Drama
, Best Director
, Best Song
, and Best Screenplay
At the 59th British Academy Film Awards
, Brokeback Mountain
was nominated for nine awards, winning in the categories of Best Film
, Best Direction
, Best Adapted Screenplay
and Best Supporting Actor
for Jake Gyllenhaal.
After Brokeback Mountain
lost the Academy Award for Best Picture to Crash,
some critics accused the Academy of homophobia and for making a non-groundbreaking choice.
Commentators including Kenneth Turan
and Nikki Finke
derided the Academy's decision,
but Roger Ebert defended the decision to award Crash
Best Picture, arguing that the better film won.
Ebert questioned why critics were not acknowledging other nominees and appeared to be only criticizing Crash
because it won over Brokeback Mountain
Proulx wrote an essay expressing disappointment in the film not winning Best Picture. She also opined that Philip Seymour Hoffman
's performance in Capote
required less effort than that required of the actors in Brokeback Mountain.
Following the loss, more than 800 supporters raised up to $26,000 to place an advertisement in the Daily Variety
The advert thanked the filmmakers "for transforming countless lives through the most honored film of the year."
Discussion on characters' sexuality Critics and the cast and crew disagreed as to whether the film's two protagonists were homosexual
, or should be free of any sexual orientation classification. The film was frequently referred to in the media as the "gay cowboy movie", but a number of reviewers noted that both Jack and Ennis were bisexual.
Sex researcher Fritz Klein
said that the film was "a nice film with two main characters who were bisexual" and suggested that the character of Jack is more "toward the gay side" of the spectrum and Ennis is "a bit more toward the straight side".
Gyllenhaal concluded that Ennis and Jack were straight men who "develop this love, this bond," saying in a Details
interview: "I approached the story believing that these are actually two straight guys who fall in love."
Ledger told Time
magazine in 2005: "I don't think Ennis could be labeled as gay. Without Jack Twist, I don't know that he ever would have come out. I think the whole point was that it was two souls that fell in love with each other."
Others said they felt the characters' sexuality was meant to be ambiguous. Clarence Patton and Christopher Murray of New York's Gay City News
wrote that Ennis and Jack's experiences were metaphors for "many men who do not identify as gay or even queer, but who nevertheless have sex with other men
". Entertainment Weekly
wrote that "everyone called it 'The Gay Cowboy Movie' until they saw it. In the end, Ang Lee's 2005 love story wasn't gay or straight, just human."
Tom Ciorciari of EFilmCritic.com wrote: "We later see Jack eagerly engage Lureen sexually, with no explanation as to whether he is bisexual, so in need of physical intimacy that anyone, regardless of gender
, will do, or merely very adept at faking it."
LGBT non-fiction author Eric Marcus
dismissed "talk of Ennis and Jack being anything but gay as box office-influenced political correctness intended to steer straight audiences to the film". Roger Ebert believed that both characters were gay, but doubted it themselves: "Jack is able to accept a little more willingly that he is inescapably gay."
Producer James Schamus
said, "I suppose movies can be Rorschach tests
for all of us, but damn if these characters aren't gay to me." Brokeback Mountain
author Annie Proulx said, "how different readers take the story is a reflection of their own personal values, attitudes, hang-ups."
When Ledger and Gyllenhaal were asked if they feared being cast in controversial roles, Ledger stated that he was not afraid of the role, but rather he was concerned that he would not be mature enough as an actor to do the story justice. Gyllenhaal has stated that he is proud of the film and his role, regardless of what the reactions would be. He thinks rumors of him being bisexual are flattering, stating: "I'm open to whatever people want to call me. I've never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don't think I would be afraid of it if it happened."
Lee described himself as shy upon shooting the first sex scene and found it initially, technically difficult but praised Ledger and Gyllenhaal for their professionalism.
Ledger's performance was described by Luke Davies
as a difficult and empowering portrayal given the environment of the film: "In Brokeback Mountain
the vulnerability, the potential for danger, is so great – a world so masculine it might destroy you for any aberration – that [Ledger's] real brilliance was to bring to the screen a character, Ennis Del Mar, so fundamentally shut down that he is like a bible of unrequited desires, stifled yearnings, lost potential."
Author Jim Kitses quoted Diana Ossana's acknowledgement of how the film "subverts the myth of the American West and its iconic heroes."
He commented: "What drives the emotional attack of the film is the inadequacy of its characters to articulate and understand, let alone control, the experience that strikes them like a storm. American cowboys—of all people—have no business falling in love with each other. Practical and conservative types of a rough and ready manhood are by no means ready for man-love."
Legacy and impact
was lauded as a landmark in LGBT cinema
and credited for influencing several films and television shows featuring LGBT themes and characters.
In Out at the Movies
, Steven Paul Davies explains that as a result of the film's success, "most major film studios have been clamouring to get behind new, gay-themed projects... thanks to Brokeback
, film financiers will continue to back scripts that don't simply rely on gay stereotypes...and that will certainly be progress." Davies cites Milk
, and I Love You Phillip Morris
as examples of such films.
In 2018, Brokeback Mountain
was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
by the Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The pair of shirts worn by Ledger's and Gyllenhaal's characters were sold on eBay
on February 20, 2006, for US$101,100.51. The shirts were sold to benefit children's charity Variety
The buyer, Tom Gregory
, film historian and collector, described the shirts as "the ruby slippers
of our time," referring to an artifact from The Wizard of Oz
In 2009, Gregory loaned the shirts to the Autry National Center
in Los Angeles for its series, Out West,
which explored the history of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people in the Old West
. The series included a gallery tour, panel discussions, lectures and performances, with events held in four installments over the course of 12 months. According to the Autry, the series was the "first of its kind" for a western heritage museum.
A book, Beyond Brokeback: The Impact of a Film
(2007) is a collection of personal stories of how people were influenced by the story and film, compiled from members of the Ultimate Brokeback Forum website. In an associated Out West
series program, the Autry screened Brokeback Mountain
in December 2010 to commemorate the film's fifth anniversary and held a staged reading of Beyond Brokeback
by historian and Out West
organizer Gregory Hinton. Beyond Brokeback
has been presented as a staged reading at other venues, such as Roosevelt University
, on November 13, 2011, together with a panel discussion and screening of the film.
An American opera, Brokeback Mountain,
was composed by Charles Wuorinen
with a libretto
by Annie Proulx. Written in English, it premiered at the Teatro Real
on January 28, 2014. It was championed by impresario Gerard Mortier
, who had commissioned it.
Several years after the film's release, Proulx said she regrets writing the story. She said that people have sent her too much fan fiction
presenting alternative plots.
Some authors, mostly men claiming to "understand men better than I do", often send their works.
[The film] is the source of constant irritation in my private life. There are countless people out there who think the story is open range to explore their fantasies and to correct what they see as an unbearably disappointing story [...] They constantly send ghastly manuscripts and pornish
rewrites of the story to me, expecting me to reply with praise and applause for "fixing" the story. They certainly don't get the message that if you can't fix it you've got to stand it. Most of these "fix-it" tales have the character Ennis finding a husky boyfriend and living happily ever after, or discovering the character Jack is not really dead after all, or having the two men's children meet and marry, etc., etc.
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Last edited on 13 May 2021, at 00:01
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