At a press conference following a “Brokeback Mountain” screening in Palm Springs, Jake Gyllenhaal was asked whether his “people” had advised him against accepting the role of Jack Twist, a young rancher haunted and ultimately destroyed by his love that dare not drawl its name.
“Are you kidding?” he replied. “They told me I’d be crazy not to do it.”
The “people” in this case were at CAA, home of Gyllenhaal’s longtime agent, Kim Hodgert (percentary also reps “Brokeback’s” helmer Ang Lee and thesps Heath Ledger and Ann Hathaway), and his manager Evelyn O’Neill.
Hodgert confirms that Gyllenhaal’s reps were gung-ho for him to take the part, and asserts that “there was never any controversy. I didn’t have to fight him on it. We just said, ‘We want it, and Jake wants it.'”
Gyllenhaal’s interest dates back to 1998, when he took a meeting with one of the many directors who’d been attached to the screenplay prior to Lee. “But nothing came of it until one day Ang’s agent Tory Metzger announced that this was going to be his next movie, and I immediately called and said ‘What about Jake?’ Ang liked Jake, and Jake didn’t hesitate. We were all totally excited about it.”
To Hodgert, it was “a no-brainer” for a young and serious thesp like Gyllenhaal to sign on to something so “brilliantly written, very emotional, with beautifully drawn characters …We didn’t think of it a ‘gay cowboy movie.’ There just wasn’t that thought, that this was a big risk.”
Others, she concedes, might not be as sanguine about similar projects. “We did have to put up with a fair share of ribbing — some good-natured teasing, nothing mean-spirited. But all of us wanted this movie.
“Any movie is a risk if it’s not handled properly. But this one — so beautifully written, with a great director — this, we felt, was not a risk.”