Heath Ledger had a relative to draw on when it came to preparing for his portrayal of gay ranch hand Ennis Del Mar in the classic film Brokeback Mountain.
On the 10th anniversary of the film’s 2005 release, the film’s Oscar winning director Ang Lee recalled: ‘I think he told me that he learned from one of his uncles, who is also a very macho, homophobic gay, much like Ennis, and also a rancher.’
Lee also told Variety: ‘Heath came in and wanted to do it right away.’
Ledger and co-star Jake Gyllenhaal shared several intense love scenes in the film which seemed to be more daunting for the director than his leading men.
Said Lee: ‘I was pretty shy shooting sex scenes, so I designed a very complicated one-shot deal, with 13 points of focus. I made it technical so that no one would think about anything else except hitting their marks. Once we got past the first take, nobody was shy anymore. We tried to make it as real and compelling as possible, and they were very professional. Getting into the first take was hard, and it was the 13th take that I ended up using, which was the last take.’
Ledger would go on to earn an Academy Award nomination for best actor in 2006 but lost to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. Gyllenhaal was nominated for best supporting actor.
He died two years later at the age of 28 from an accidental prescription drug overdose and won the Oscar posthumously the next year for his performance in The Dark Knight.