×

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ Says Gus Van Sant

“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” director Gus Van Sant revealed in an interview with IndieWire that both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio passed on “Brokeback Mountain,” the gay love story that snagged eight Academy Award nominations in 2006 — the most of any film that year.

Van Sant, who was approached to direct the film that was ultimately helmed by Ang Lee, recalled the lack of interest from actors in portraying the roles that earned Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger widespread acclaim and accolades.

“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant said. “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.”

Diana Ossana, who produced the film with James Schamus for Focus Features, confirmed Van Sant’s casting revelations in an email sent to IndieWire.

“Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons,” she wrote. Ossana also adapted the script with Larry McMurtry from a short story by Annie Proulx.

Of the two leading men, Ledger’s role was the more difficult to fill, according to Ossana. “Casting Ennis in particular was the ultimate hurdle,” she said.

Looking back on the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the film’s casting process at the time, Van Sant said, “What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.”

He continued, “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.”

The “My Own Private Idaho” director also shared that one of his producer friends offered him “Call Me By Your Name,” which later went to Luca Guadagnino. “I think in that case in particular…I don’t think it would have panned out the way it did if I had directed it. I think it was great,” he said. “I like the film. I think the sentimentality and the ending of the film was something that probably wasn’t in the book in the same way. It maybe was in the book, but I think that he got something really great that I think is very… I’m not sure I would have ended up in the same place, so it probably wouldn’t have done as well.”

“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is in theaters now.

More Film

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    2018 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Winners

    Members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. are meeting today to vote on the year’s best cinema accomplishments. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “Boyhood,” “Her”/”Gravity” and “Amour.” List of winners below. Check back throughout the morning for updates. Best Film: Best Director: Best Actor: Related [...]

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

    Box Office: 'Ralph Breaks the Internet' Narrowly Defeats 'Grinch' in Sleepy Pre-Holiday Weekend

    Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” topped a quiet weekend at the domestic box office, marking the third straight win for the animated sequel. It earned $16.2 million in its third week of release, generating $140 million since it opened over Thanksgiving. Another cartooned adventure almost gave “Ralph” a run for its money. Illumination and Universal’s [...]

  • John KrasinskiVariety Actors on Actors, Day

    John Krasinski on 'A Quiet Place': Casting A Deaf Actress Was 'Non-Negotiable'

    John Krasinski’s debut feature “A Quiet Place” tells the story of a family with a deaf child, and the “Jack Ryan” star wanted to make sure he included a deaf actor in the film. “It was a non-negotiable thing for me,” Krasinski told Rosamund Pike of the casting during their conversation for Variety‘s “Actors on [...]

  • Rosamund Pike John Krasinski

    John Krasinski and Rosamond Pike on Vulnerability and Decompressing After Tense Scenes

    John Krasinski and Rosamund Pike sat down for a conversation for Variety’s Actors on Actors. For more, click here.  In “Gone Girl,” Rosamund Pike proved she could put herself through anything. The British actress, a well-loved supporting player in “Pride & Prejudice” and “An Education,” took the lead and scored her first Oscar nomination. Four years later, [...]

  • Aquaman

    'Aquaman' Rules Overseas Box Office With $94 Million in China

    “Aquaman” launched with a massive $93.6 million in China, marking the best start for a Warner Bros. title in that territory. The superhero adventure — directed by James Wan and starring Jason Momoa as the king of the seven seas — isn’t opening in North America for another two weeks, but the studio wanted to [...]

  • (L to R) MAHERSHALA ALI and

    Scores from 'Green Book,' 'Solo,' Others Disqualified from Oscar Race (EXCLUSIVE)

    First-round voting is underway for Oscar’s Original Song and Original Score categories, but Academy music-branch voters are discovering that four talked-about scores are missing from the eligibility list. Music for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Green Book,” “Mandy” and “The Other Side of the Wind” has been disqualified for various reasons, Variety has learned. More [...]

  • Zack Mulligan and Keire Johnson appear

    'Minding the Gap' Wins Top Award From International Documentary Association

    Bing Liu’s skateboarding movie “Minding The Gap” has won the International Documentary Association’s award for top feature of 2018. Floyd Russ’s “Zion” was awarded best short. Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country” won for best limited series and HBO’s “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls” took the ABC News VideoSource Award. PBS’ “POV” won for best curated [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content