– by Anthony Esteves

Before 2005, Brokeback Mountain was a short story written by Annie Proulx. It was featured in The New Yorker on October 13th, 1997 and went on to win the National Magazine Award for Fiction in ’98. In the same year, Proulx received a third-place O. Henry award for the story and went on to create a slightly expanded version of the story that was published in her 1999 Close Range: Wyoming Stories, a collection of her short stories. That collection became a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Originally, Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) had been tapped to direct the film adaptation but had a difficult time finding two big stars to play the Enis Del Mar and Jack Twist characters, two cowboys who embark on an emotional relationship from 1963 to 1983. However, as he explained to IndieWire, every actor Van Sant had asked for turned him down. Two of those actors were Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Nobody wanted to do it. 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.”

Eventually, Van Sant left the production to direct Milk, starring Sean Penn as the gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. Stepping into the director’s chair for Brokeback Mountain would be Ang Lee, who cast Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as the main characters in a script written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurty. Van Sant went on to explain:

“What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors. 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.”

Related – First Look At Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt In Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Brokeback Mountain went on to receive critical acclaim, becoming one of the most groundbreaking and successful LGBTQ movies of all time and earning eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nods for Ledger and Gyllenhaal, respectively. It went on to win the awards for Best Director (Lee), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ossana and McMurty) and Best Original Score (Gustavo Santaolalla).

Pitt and DiCaprio are currently working together on the Quentin Tarantino project Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is slated for a July 26th, 2019 release.

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Source: IndieWire.