"When straight actors take on gay roles, we can expect to encounter showbiz gossip intended to convey the heterosexual bona fides of any actor cast in a gay role. [...]
The pattern remains unbroken today on the slopes of “Brokeback Mountain.” Publicity about the “gay cowboy” movie has enforced all the rules of this game: The actors’ heterosexual credentials are much rehearsed, and their method-acting skills admired. In an early account of the film, while it was still in pre-production, Salon.com quoted a Hollywood executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “Realistically, let’s talk about the giggle factor. I mean, it is a story about gay cowboys! That is the most daring thing you can do.”
Still, as Salon’s Rebecca Traister put it, “If the I’s do get dotted on Gyllenhaal and Ledger’s contracts, it’s worth noting that both will run less of a risk of being ‘taken for gay’ than many of their colleagues; [...]
As it happens, the account in Salon and Us Weekly needs to be updated, because as anyone paying even the slightest attention will know, Ledger and supporting star Michelle Williams, who plays his wife Alma, became romantically involved during the shooting and have recently had a baby.
Their straight cred firmly in place, Ledger and Gyllenhaal can face the inevitable barrage of questions about what it’s like to kiss another man. After all, this is an important demonstration of the acting skills that might win an Oscar. As Guardian critic Philip Hensher put it: “the actors in these films are always at pains to stress the incredible trauma involved in having to pretend to kiss a person of the same sex in front of cameras. To be fair, this is always a subject that unhealthily obsesses interviewers, but actors’ responses are often highly amusing. Jake Gyllenhaal has said: ‘Heath and I were both saying, “Let’s get the love scenes over as fast as we can—all right, cool. Let’s get to the important stuff."
Sometimes the actors evade the dangerous implications of their roles—that their acting might be too real—by trying to widen, or cloud, the lens. In a cover-story interview in the gay-oriented style magazine Details, Gyllenhaal stresses the universality of “Brokeback’s” story: “My character could have been played by a woman and it would have made just as much sense.” Apparently not having read any of the promotional material on the film, the actor says that he doesn’t believe Ennis and Jack are gay: “I approached the story believing that these are actually straight guys who fall in love,” he says. “That’s how I related to the material. These are two straight guys who develop this love, this bond. Love binds you, and you see these guys pulling and pulling and tugging and trying to figure out what they want, and what they will allow themselves to have.”
Ledger played the same card in an interview in Time magazine. “I don’t think Ennis could be labeled as gay. Without Jack Twist, I don’t know that he ever would have come out,” Ledger tells the magazine. “I think the whole point was that it was two souls that fell in love with each other.”
“Brokeback Mountain” producer James Schamus told one reporter that he was not worried about audiences who were troubled by the love story and sex scenes between men. “If you have a problem with the subject matter, that’s your problem, not mine,” Schamus said. “It would be great if you got over your problem, but I’m not sitting here trying to figure out how to help you with it.” But he also knows how important it is that the story be defined as universal. “Once people saw the film, they understood that it was a film about a kind of epic greatness that can exist in anyone, anywhere, no matter who they are, no matter what their sexual orientation or class or historical circumstances.” Source: www.truthdig.com