Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger starred in the 2005 Oscar-winning film together

By Maria Pasquini
July 26, 2019 01:07 PM
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Although some jokes were made about the homosexual love story at the heart of Brokeback Mountain at the time it was released in 2005, Heath Ledger never wanted any part in them.

In a sneak preview of this week’s episode of Sunday Today, Jake Gyllenhaal shared a poignant memory of his late co-star, who died in 2008 from an accidental drug overdose.

“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. He would never joke,” Gyllenhaal, 38, shared.

“Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever he was like, ‘No. This about love.’ Like, that’s it, man. Like, no,” he added.

(L-R) Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger

Reflecting on how much the classic romance impacted his career, Gyllenhaal shared that the movie was unlike any other he had worked on.

“When we did Brokeback Mountain, I was like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ This is a level of focus and attention that hits a certain nerve and you’re like, ‘This is bigger than me,’ ” he explained. “I understand what it is but this little movie we made that meant so much to us has now become not ours anymore. It’s the world’s.”

Gyllenhaal went on to explain that in addition to earning him his first Academy Award nomination, the movie “opened tons of doors” for him.

“It was amazing. It was crazy,” he said.

(L-R) Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal

Gyllenhaal has been open in the past about the deep impact Ledger’s death had on him.

“Personally, it affected me in ways I can’t necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly,” Gyllenhaal told PEOPLE in 2016. “In terms of professionally, I think I was at an age where mortality was not always clear to me.”

Gyllenhaal had just turned 27 at the time of Ledger’s death, and had not lost many friends at that point in his life.

“it [gave me] the experience of, ‘This is fleeting.’ And none of the attention or synthesized love that comes from the success of a film really matters at all,” he shared. “What matters is the relationships you make when you make a film, and the people you learn from when you’re preparing for a film. That changed a lot for me.”