Sometimes after a movie is made, it’s difficult to imagine any other actors playing the roles. That’s certainly true of Brokeback Mountain, but apparently at one point it seemed unlikely Heath Ledger would get the role of Ennis Del Mar, as he wasn’t considered ‘macho enough’ for the role of the taciturn ranch-hand.
The news comes from Oscar-winning screenwriter Diana Ossana, who was chatting about the film to mark its 10th Anniversary on the The Michelangelo Signorile Show. She said, “[Ennis] was the most difficult role to cast. 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 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…It was interesting. 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.”
Heath was right, at it would have seemed slightly odd if both Ennis and Jack looked like they spent all their lives in the gym and were almost a porn version of what ranchers are. But it’s certainly interesting to hear how things could have been.