Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Ryan Phillippe and Matt Damon were approached to star in the 2005 iconic gay romance Brokeback Mountain but turned it down, American filmmaker Gus Van Sant revealed to entertainment portal Indie Wire.
Van Sant, who was originally set to direct the film, told the publication that he wanted to cast the top names of the time but but the “usual suspects” turned him down. “Nobody wanted to do it,” he told Indie Wire. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.”
The film was eventually directed by Ang Lee and starred Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams. It went on to win three Academy Awards, including Best Director. Ledger and Gyllenhaal were nominated for Oscars for their performances as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two sheep herders in Wyoming who fall in love over a summer.
The film’s producer and co-writer Diana Ossana, confirmed Van Sant’s statement and said that Ennis’s character (Ledger) was the hardest to cast.
The film is based on Annie Proulx’s 1997 New Yorker short story of the same name. “What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors,” Van Sant said. “I was not ready. I’m not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”
Van Sant, who is considered to be one of the front-runners in the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s, has made the films Milk (2008), My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Elephant (2003).