INTERVIEW: Heath Ledger on "Brokeback Mountain"

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INTERVIEW: Heath Ledger on "Brokeback Mountain"

Post  Admin on Sat Mar 08, 2008 4:20 pm

INTERVIEW: Heath Ledger on "Brokeback Mountain"
12/29/05
BY THOMAS CHAU
After a series of not-so-spectacular studio features over the past few years, Heath Ledger has taken his career in stride by taking on a different and daring role in the form of Ennis in "Brokeback Mountain." Ledger co-stars with Jake Gyllenhaal about two cowboys who begin their long and difficult journey in love during the summer of 1963 on Brokeback Mountain. The innocence quickly fades and harsh social realities set in as they attempt to keep their spirits alive over the course of twenty years.
Below, Ledger talks about taking on such a daring role in Ang Lee's latest drama.

Q: Your character isn't much for words so did you take it on from a more physical standpoint?

HEATH: Definitely. I actually thought it was a gift not to have words to play with. It definitely restricts what you can express. You are stuck with what's on page. In a sense, I had the freedom to say what I really wanted. In fact, I can make my own decisions and come to conclusions about this character from the physical point of view. First of all, I had to go in and discover what was causing this inability to express and to love. What was the culprit in that? I figured that it was some sort of a battle, and the conclusion I came to was that he was battling himself and battling his genetic structure; he was battling his father and his father's father's opinion and traditions and fears that have been passed down and deeply imbedded in him. So, once I had that and a few other things, I wanted to physicalize it cause that was all I was really left with. I wanted it to be hard for him to express and I think any form of expression had to be painful. I wanted him to be a clenched fist; and therefore my mouth became clenched too. A lot of the physicalization was lack of posture, but with the lack of posture in his mouth; in the words, it escapes his mouth.

Q: Everyone is talking about your speech in the film. How did you come up with that style?

HEATH: For one, it was something I remembered about Australian ranch-hands; they always liked talking like this. But I think it in Australia, it's just to keep flies out of your mouth, but it was something very clenched about it. When I found this accent, I had to find a regional accent and my mouth was moving everywhere when I got it, but that was part of physicalizing his battle and it was an extension of what was within him. I just tried to that and as many as those aspects as possible.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in figuring out Ennis?

HEATH: Well, the challenging thing for me I think was in preproduction, figuring out what to do with so little time. I guess the aging process was probably what I thought was one of the important aspects, because without that, the whole story goes up shit creek without a paddle. And also, it had to be so subtle the aging process. Physically aging between 18 and 40 is fairly slim and subtle, and also for Ennis, the character I was playing; he didn't really evolve emotionally either within that age at the time. I used my accent to voice the tone of the voice at the beginning of the film when he's younger; it's pitched a little higher and it's a little more useful and energetic and enthusiastic and it slowly kinda gets deeper and deeper and raspier and more fixed and tighter towards the end. I thought that was just a subtle vehicle I could use to age.

Q: And the easiest thing?

HEATH: The easiest thing I found was being a ranch-hand, being a horse backup. I can ride backwards if I had to. I'm very comfortable with horses. I love horses and I have grown up around farm-hands and even if I was born in Perth, Western Australia, there's something very universal about anyone who's on horseback night and day. There's a universal trait. Even physically, when you are on horseback night and day, when you get off that horse, you are still walking as if there's still a horse between your legs.

Q: Who was the biggest supporter in you playing a gay character?

HEATH: No one was trying to detract me from it. Everyone was very supportive of it. I understand everyone else or people found it risky.
I hate to call it "daring" or "brave"; firefighters are daring and brave. I'm acting. I didn't get hurt and I'm not mentally wounded from this experience.

Q: Was Ang Lee a deciding factor in accepting the project?

HEATH: I don't think I would have done it if it were in anyone else's hands. He was the perfect director for it and that's really. I looked at it as a wonderful opportunity to get in the head of this character. I never saw it as a huge risk that everyone else was seeing. It's all relative to the person you are and how relaxed you are with people and the people around you. I was very happy to tell a story that hadn't been told and I thought it should have been told.

Q: How did you and Jake go about doing the first love scene in the tent?

HEATH: The way we looked at it and the way it is is that there are not actually love scenes for the sake of doing a love scene. There are actually stories within each of those moments. The first moment for Ennis was very poignant because it had to be rough; it had to be fighting. He was almost ready to punch him. Once that all settled it had to be this innate passionate adrenaline. It just takes over him. There's another moment in the tent where it was really important to show a glimpse of Ennis in a vulnerable state. It is true intimate love they have for each other. It has to set up the tragedy for the story. It set up the freedom of Brokeback Mountain.

Q: Do you have a renewed faith in the Hollywood system?

HEATH: It's definitely given me hope. The whole year was about reigniting enthusiasm for myself because I did "The Brothers Grimm" followed by "Lords of Dogtown," then "Brokeback," then "Casanova," and then "Candy," which is a love story between junkies; and I think before that I was really bored with the choices I made and with the movies. I was just in the industry. Everything was just boring and it was starting to get stale and I was getting a plateau of nothing. This was my year to handpick things for the first time. I really wanted to put together a collection of quality work.

Q: Was that "Monster's Ball" the film that changed it all for you?

HEATH: "Monster's Ball" was the first time I felt like I had to something about it; and what I had to do was essentially nothing. At the time, I just boiled it down, take off the shine, and destroy it a little bit.

Q: Ultimately, do you think Ennis could've been happy with Jack and live happily ever after?

HEATH: I don't know. Maybe externally, he would have been seen happier because he was never confronted or tested in any way and he could have continued to live in denial. I'm sure inside he would have be hallow and rusty and alone. I think he was ultimately internally happier for having the experience because in his life he experienced true love.

Q: How would you feel about an Oscar nomination?

HEATH: I think it's a great honor to be in a movie that's been well received. The only time it's presented to me; the idea of a thought is like today [with the press]. Michelle [Williams] and I definitely don't really sit around worried about it. It's also a little surreal; kind of a strange concept to me that one performance or one movie can be compared or competed against another and that's what this strange little season does. Each performance and each movie is running a different race. It's a different sport. We all train for different sports and we all start from different points. There is no one finished line at the end. It's an award season of opinions, so it's full of false sense of success and failure.

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Rest In Peace Heath Ledger
1979-2008
You will be Never forgotten

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