I have known about this film for about 5 years now. But it seems to be getting there.
Hollywood to break last taboo with gay cowboys
Stars set to play in Ang Lee Western based on Annie Proulx story of ranch hand's relationship with rodeo rider
Paul Harris in New York
Sunday January 18, 2004
It could be the moment one of Hollywood's last great taboos is broken: a sex scene between two hot young male actors. Finally, it seems, gay relationships are about to go mainstream at the movies.
Heath Ledger, star of A Knight's Tale, and Jake Gyllenhaal, best known from the arthouse hit Donnie Darko, are lined up to play star-crossed lovers in director Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a frank portrayal of physical and emotional bonds between men.
It is a story of two cowboys who spend a summer on the range in 1963. Under the open skies of Wyoming, the pair fall into a tempestuous love affair and forge a relationship that lasts the rest of their lives. Though major Hollywood stars such as Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas have played gay roles in the past, none has done so with such frank intimacy.
When Hanks played a gay man dying of Aids in the 1993 film Philadelphia, the movie was about his illness, not his sex life. There was hardly any physical interaction between Hanks and Banderas, his nominal partner.
Brokeback Mountain will be different. 'If what we are hearing about this film is true, this is a significant and groundbreaking step for Hollywood in terms of mainstream movies,' said Nick Adams, entertainment and media manager at US gay rights group GLAAD.
Though the casting of Gyllenhaal and Ledger has not been announced, sources say they are in talks about taking the lead roles - Jack Twist, who becomes a rodeo cowboy after the fateful summer, and Ennis Del Mar, a ranch hand.
The film is based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx, who has carved a niche for herself writing haunting and evocative stories set in rural America.
Her bestselling novel The Shipping News was also made into a film. Her story Brokeback Mountain appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1997 and quickly won the attention of scriptwriters. But until Lee took the project forward, seeking a follow-up to last summer's blockbuster The Hulk, the film seemed destined never to be made. Its long dormancy was almost certainly due to its controversial subject matter. The story revolves around the two men's attraction to each other, despite going off to marry wives and father children even as they continue their clandestine affair.
The sex scenes take place in tents and on staircases, and they pull no punches. If Lee is true to the story and original script, then it will be a Hollywood first. 'This film will be the first to focus on the physical nature of our relationships,' said Adams.
Hollywood is notorious for skipping over or playing down gay themes. Ron Howard, director of the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind, was criticised for ignoring the alleged gay relationships of its real-life hero, mathematician John Nash.
Last year saw a breakthrough in the US media, with hit TV shows such as makeover programme Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and sitcom It's All Relative featuring gay content that attracted straight viewers. 'In terms of film and cinema, there aren't that many thresholds to cross now for gay men,' said Timothy Shary, professor of screen studies at Clark University.
Some point out that there are still areas where gay sex is not treated frankly. A forthcoming television show called The L Word, about a group of glamorous lesbians in Los Angeles, seems to pander mainly to male fantasy than reality. 'Treatment of lesbianism still has a way to go. That show seems not to be orientated towards healthy lesbian relationships, but more about what men fantasise about,' Shary said.
Production of Brokeback Mountain is set to start this summer. Adams said: 'I think mainstream America is ready for it.'