Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and More A-Listers Who Turned Down Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal

Universal Studios

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger starring in Brokeback Mountain, but that was almost the case.

After the release of the 2005 movie, which followed the secret love story of Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Ledger), it went on to earn eight Oscar nominations and three Academy Award wins. One of those wins was for Best Director, awarded to Ang Lee. But before Lee sat in the director’s chair on the film, there were other candidates up for the role.

One of those candidates was director Gus Van Sant, who is now sharing how different the cast of the movie might’ve been.

“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant told IndieWire in an interview, published Wednesday. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out.”

So which actors turned down roles in the movie?

“I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe,” Van Sant revealed. “They all said no.”

Diana Ossana, a producer and screenwriter on Brokeback Mountain, also confirmed to IndieWire, “Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons.”

Reflecting on that time and the casting process, Van Sant told the outlet, “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 added, “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.”

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