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08/04/2020 10:05 AM AEST | Updated 08/04/2020 10:08 AM AEST

Jake Gyllenhaal Says Heath Ledger Turned Down Oscars Over 'Brokeback Mountain' Joke

The actor said his late co-star "refused" to participate in an opening monologue that poked fun at the film's gay love story.

The 2006 Oscars will forever go down as one of the worst ceremonies in history after the much-derided “Crash” beat out the groundbreaking “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture ― but it could have been even worse.

In an interview with Another Man magazine published Monday, Jake Gyllenhaal revealed that he and late co-star Heath Ledger were approached to contribute to the opening monologue and poke fun at the same-sex romance at the center of Ang Lee’s 2005 film.

While the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” actor was open to the idea, he recalled that Ledger outright rejected the offer because he “refused” to make jokes at the expense of the film’s love story.

“I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Gyllenhaal told the outlet. “And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay... whatever.’ I’m always like: it’s all in good fun. And Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me ― I don’t want to make any jokes about it.’”

Kevin Winter via Getty Images
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger speak onstage during 2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

“That’s the thing I loved about Heath,” he added, according to People. “He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love. Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.’”

The actor said he “absolutely” agreed that Ledger’s decision seemed “smart” in retrospect.

In fact, the opening to the 78th annual awards show hosted by Jon Stewart kicked off with a pre-filmed bit featuring Billy Crystal and Chris Rock peeking out of a “Brokeback Mountain”-style tent that hasn’t exactly aged well.

While Gyllenhaal and Ledger each received an acting nomination for the film, both ended up going home empty-handed. The film, however, did pick up trophies for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.

Gyllenhaal further reflected on the film, which he said he still can’t watch all these years later, and how its legacy is much larger than his contribution to the project.

“There are things you’re chosen for ― a quality, an essence ― and Ang did that. And it’s still a mystery to me,” he said. “And something that Heath and I shared: that it was a mystery to us at the time.”

The actor made similar comments last year during an interview with “Sunday Today,” explaining that his late co-star would “would never joke” about the central romance.

He’s also reflected on his close friendship with Ledger throughout the years, telling People back in 2016 that Ledger’s death in 2008 “affected me in ways I can’t necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly.”

“It [gave me] the experience of, ‘This is fleeting.’ And none of the attention or synthesized love that comes from the success of a film really matters at all,” he continued. “What matters is the relationships you make when you make a film, and the people you learn from when you’re preparing for a film. That changed a lot for me.”

Gyllenhaal most recently mentioned Ledger at the 2018 BAFTA awards while honoring Ang Lee, noting how the late actor “would’ve loved to witness all the incredible change that has been affected in the LGBT community in the intervening years.”

The actor added: “He would be proud to know that he played a small part in all of it.”