Jake Gyllenhaal Opens Up About How Heath Ledger’s Death Changed His Career

Jake Gyllenhaal on Heath Ledger's Death,
Courtesy of Focus Features

Jake Gyllenhaal recently visited NPR’s “Fresh Air” to discuss his new boxing movie “Southpaw,” but the conversation soon turned to the death of his “Brokeback Mountain” co-star Heath Ledger, prompting the actor to explain how that loss has changed his perspective on Hollywood.

Gyllenhaal and Ledger starred as repressed and long-separated lovers in the 2005 romantic drama. Ledger died in 2008, and after listening to a clip from the film, Gyllenhaal admitted that hearing the scene stirred up some memories of working on the picture.

“It brings me back to thinking about doing that scene with Heath, and the honor it was to work with him, and the beauty of his work. And I miss him as a human being, and I miss working with him. And what an unfortunate thing it is that we won’t be able to see the beauty of his expression,” Gyllenhaal said.

“He was incredibly special, and that doesn’t even come close to encapsulating who he is — who he was,” Gyllenhaal added, revealing that losing such a close friend of a similar age helped shift his priorities.

“I think that’s why I like to go off and I like to try and get into worlds that will wake me up… I’m trying to be present where I am. I’m trying to have relationships that are as real as they possibly can be on a movie set [and] be close to people because I know that it’s precious. And I know that not only can this career end in a very short period of time and this or that can happen, but also that life is precious,” he noted. “And I think losing Heath — and being a part of a family that was something like that movie we all made together — makes you see that, makes you appreciate that and hopefully moves you away from the things that really don’t matter to the things that do.”

Gyllenhaal also recalled the reactions he and Ledger received for being straight actors playing gay roles after they were cast: “It was fascinating, particularly because I don’t think we knew what a success the movie would be, what it would become. It was an intimate and really scary thing for me and Heath, in particular, to dive into. It was uncomfortable for both of us in some of the scenes, and yet we both deeply believed in what the movie was saying.”

“Southpaw” hits theaters on July 24.

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  1. JoAnn Ackal says:

    I read where Heath Ledger almost broke Jake Glen Hall’s nose in one kissing scene. That tells me it was against Heath ‘ s heterosexual nature. Creatively, I think he was willing to go as far as he was required of the director.

  2. Bill B. says:

    I just watched this recently for the first time since I saw in a theater. It’s still a very fine movie and Ledger is great in it. Gyllenhaal is fine too, but he has advanced as an actor since then. If I remember correctly, he is the Godfather of Ledger’s daughter, so they must have been very close.

  3. GKN says:

    Brilliant film. The best ever done on the subject, because both of them were real, not stereotypes.

  4. The Memetrix says:

    Reblogged this on The Memetrix and commented:
    Jake honey, you “open up” about Heath’s death about once a year.

    • Matt says:

      It’s not Jake, it’s the interviewers that keep asking him about it. Constantly. They won’t let it go because they know they’ll get internet clicks everytime they ask him, hoping he’ll comment something different which he never does because you can tell he doesn’t want to talk about it. He just puts up with the questions about Heath every freaking year. This is literally the 4th time he had to talk about Brokeback Mountain well promoting Southpaw. It’s ridiculous. Lay off the guy! (Not you, the interviwers who keep asking the same damn question)

  5. 7/23/15 8:15pm Variety Jake Gyllenhaal
    Sometimes it takes a long time to realize what is important and how it can be taken away in an instant.. Heath Ledger’s passing had a profound effect on Jake and I believe this was the first he has spoken about how it affected him.

  6. Jimmy Green says:

    Both of these actors were VERY courageous to take that role. The result was magnificent.

  7. tlsnyder42 says:

    BM was laughable, with a couple over-the-top scenes that seemed rather silly and, ultimately, stupid. The smoldering looks at the beginning between the two actors were like a cheap romantic melodrama.

  8. Alex says:

    Two amazing, great actors. I’ve followed Gyllenhaal’s career since Donne Darko, and Heath Ledger was a very strong presence on the screen. He looked brilliant, a combination of power, talent and vulnerability. He was a terrific, unique actor.

  9. Joe says:

    Gyllie isn’t doing himself any favors with another prattling, hypercritical interview. Get some writers or just smile sweetly for the cameras.

    • KD. says:

      Terry Gross was in charge of the interview; you must know her drill. It’s hard for any ol’ “Joe” to police the content and tone, of how another person mourns a colleague he bonded with. And any “favors” Gyllenhaal is indebted toward YOU, “Joe”, must be considered within the agenda of your own implicit wishes and demands from said actor. Chances are, there is a profound disconnect working at cross-purposes. You know the drill only from YOUR end.

    • Guest says:


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