Jake Gyllenhaal spoke in a recent interview about breaking down the stigma around playing an LGBTQ+ character in Brokeback Mountain.
“I don't know. Maybe?” Gyllenhaal said. “Part of the medicine of storytelling is that we were two straight guys playing these parts. There was a stigma about playing a part like that, you know, why would you do that? And I think it was very important to both of us to break that stigma.”
He added: “But then again, I think that has led the way towards people saying, you know, people of all different experiences should be playing more roles, that it shouldn't be limited to a small group of people. And I believe that.”
Brokeback Mountain received eight Oscar nominations and won three of those, including a best director win for Ang Lee. It’s also hailed as one of the first openly queer films to reach the mainstream.
In 2009, Gyllenhaal said his co-star the late Heath Ledger wouldn’t let people mock Brokeback Mountain.
“I see people who have joked with me or criticized me about lines I say in that movie — and that’s the thing I loved about Heath,” Gyllenhaal said in an interview with Today. “He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love. Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.’”
Gyllenhaal’s recent comments come as a discussion continues to take place in Hollywood over the past few years on whether LGBTQ+ characters should be played by non-LGBTQ+ actors.
A recent example is Ewan McGregor’s Emmy Award-winning performance as Roy Halston in Ryan Murphy’s Halston on Netflix.
McGregor told The Hollywood Reporter, “If it had been a story about Halston's sexuality more, then maybe it's right that gay actors should play that role. But in this case — and I don't want to sound like I'm worming out of this, because it's something I did think a lot about — I suppose ultimately I felt like it was just one part of who he was.”
Last week, actor and comedian Billy Eichner revealed that his upcoming project with Universal Studios — the first major studio film to be led and co-written by an out gay man — would feature an all LGBTQ+ main cast. Eichner said some would even play the non-LGBTQ+ characters in the film.