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 » Decades of stars  |  Modern movie-making  |  Quiz: Fan types

'Gay cowboy movie' shatters stereotypes

'A love story that just happens to take place between two men'

From Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

Brokeback
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain."

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E. Annie Proulx
Jake Gyllenhaal
Ang Lee

TORONTO, Ontario (CNN) -- Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger weren't drawn to "Brokeback Mountain," the story of two cowboys involved in a homosexual relationship, by the movie's risky subject matter or the controversy it may raise.

In fact, said Gyllenhaal, those aspects of the script worked against his decision to do the film.

"I read the story and heard about it as 'the gay cowboy movie' and I immediately responded against that," he said at a press conference for the film at the Toronto Film Festival Saturday.

"[But] as soon as I heard [director] Ang [Lee] was attached, I knew it would be a different type of movie that would go beyond the confines of two guys and their sexuality towards the more difficult topic of love."

Ledger agreed.

"First and foremost, when I read the script it was one of the most beautiful stories I'd ever read," he said. "It's really refreshing to come across something like that."

So far, viewers have agreed. "Brokeback Mountain," based on a story by "Shipping News" author E. Annie Proulx, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival Saturday, that festival's top award, and has earned acclaim at Toronto. The film is slated for U.S. release December 9.

The film, which begins in the early '60s, concerns two young men, Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), who are hired to tend sheep for a summer in Wyoming and find themselves attracted to each other. They continue to meet with each other over the years, even after their lives have gone in different directions.

Asked a question about the U.S. gay marriage controversy, the two actors said they hope the film shows a gay relationship in a matter-of-fact, unsensational light and that it contributes to tolerance.

"If it does shed light on the idea that there's real love involved ... it's great," said Gyllenhaal. "When two people love each other, they love each other. And people should hold on to it as hard as they can, whether it's homosexual or heterosexual."

Gyllenhaal added said the actors' own friendship -- and the quality of the script, by novelist Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove") and Diana Ossana -- helped them do the love scenes.

"Once you see the characters 'do it,' our real friendship and the things we share together makes it kind of easy to play the role of real friends," he said. "And the screen sex -- we kind of just dove into the love scenes and dove out again just as fast as we could." He paused to some laughter. "And that was it."

Director Lee's previous films include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "The Ice Storm," "Sense and Sensibility" and "The Hulk."

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