“I saw it unfold right in front of my eyes, from rehearsal all the way to filming,” he detailed, noting how the late actor was “always looking after” his costar and future partner Michelle Williams after she injured herself on set.
Lee went on to claim that Ledger and Gyllenhaal, 42, had their fair share of ups and downs while working together.
“When it came to Jake, Heath had a very different attitude towards their work. Sometimes there was friction — not quarreling, but a clash of styles,” the director alleged. “Sometimes I would mediate that, but they were both good in different ways. They would always make the effort to find a way through.”
According to Lee, the 10 Things I Hate About You star formed a deep understanding of his character Ennis Del Mar. “In his heart, I think Heath knew the character of Ennis. On a technical level, he took direction very well, but worked alone,” he continued. “He’s not someone you really needed to talk to a lot, because he was very independent. For me, if the result is right, then I’m happy. If it’s not, I could tell him, and he would work something else out.”
Lee added: “So Heath’s aura powers the whole story. He did a lot of preparation, mostly on his own. And he often surprised me with what he brought to his work.”
The critically acclaimed western explored the romantic relationship between two cowboys from 1963 to 1983. Brokeback Mountain, which won three Academy Awards, also starred Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris, Anne Hathaway, Williams, 42, and Randy Quaid.
Three years after the movie’s debut, Ledger died from an accidental drug overdose at age 28. Over the years, Gyllenhaal has paid tribute to his former costar and their friendship.
“You know, the relationship, I think between me and Heath while we were making this movie was something that was based on a profound love for a lot of people that we knew and were raised by in our lives and a deep respect for their love and their relationship,” the Source Code star told Vanity Fair in April 2020.
At the time, the California native recalled Ledger’s commitment to the story they were telling on screen.
“One of the things I really remember about the process after the movie came out was Heath never wanting to make a joke,” Gyllenhaal shared, referring to the impact Brokeback Mountain had for the LGBTQIA+ community. “Even as I think culturally, there were many jokes being made about the movie or poking fun at and things like that. And his consummate devotion to how serious and important the relationship between these two characters was.”