Heath Ledger Based His “Brokeback Mountain” Character On His “Macho, Homophobic Gay” Uncle


Ang Lee

Celebrating the ten year anniversary of Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee chatted with Variety about making of the movie and his gratitude for its continued legacy as the most commercially successful LGBT-themed movie of all time.

Related: Brokeback Mountain Screenwriters Team Up For Heartbreaking Gay Film Based On True Story

He also discussed how the late Heath Ledger based his tragic character Ennis Del Mar on his own uncle. “Heath came in and wanted to do it right away, ” Lee said, “[Heath] 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.”

Ledger’s performance’s earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (let’s face it, he should have won), and it remains one of the most painful, and beautiful to watch in modern cinema; it’s no surprise it had roots in his personal reality.


Lee also disclosed how the graphic, now legendary sex scenes were slightly awkward to film at first, but how the actors and crew quickly shed their discomfort.

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.


Amazing how much has changed for the LGBT community in the past decade, but also how relevant and groundbreaking Brokeback remains in 2015.

If only Ennis and Jack had been around for Friday’s SCOTUS ruling.