It’s difficult to imagine anyone but Heath Ledger in the role of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain.
But it almost happened.
Diana Ossana, who won a screenwriting Oscar for the film she wrote with Larry McMurtry, said this week that there was some resistance to casting the late Aussie actor whose film credits at that time included The Patriot, A Knight’s Tale and Monster’s Ball.
‘[Ennis] was the most difficult role to cast,’ Ossana said on The Michelangelo Signorile Show. ‘And that seemed to be the perpetual problem as we went on. And even a little bit for [director] Ang [Lee].
‘Another actor had committed [to the role of Ennis] and we had suggested Heath. But the studio [Focus Features] didn’t feel he was macho enough. I thought that was a rather odd comment. But we just sort of stuck with it. And when that [other] actor backed out — and he did, after three months — I called Heath’s agent.’
Ossana has never revealed the identity of the actor originally cast as Ennis but, she says, ‘I plan to write a book about it all someday.’
Ledger was passionate about the role of a man who falls deeply in love with a fellow ranch hand (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) during the time they worked together in isolated conditions.
‘It was interesting,’ Ossana said. ‘Early on, Ang had wanted both the boys to be lifting weights and get all buff. Heath said, “You know, I’m the ranch hand [in the film]. I wouldn’t have time to be lifting weights. I’m kind of scrawny and young.” He said, “I’m not going to do that.” So he didn’t.’