Jake Gyllenhaal has recalled the first time he met his friend, the late Heath Ledger.
Speaking to GQ , Gyllenhaal explained that, although the pair starred together in the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, it was actually an unsuccessful casting a few years earlier which kicked off their friendship.
“I was auditioning for Moulin Rouge! Baz Luhrmann had chosen three actors. It was Ewan [McGregor], it was Heath, and me,” he told the magazine. “I never met Heath, I only heard about him. They would literally put me in a room and lock the door and Heath would come in and then Heath would be shuffled through the door. I never saw him.”
Despite neither of the pair landing the role, Gyllenhaal, who is godfather to Ledger’s daughter with Michelle Williams, now 12-year-old Matilda, said they become friends based on their “mutual frustration”.
“When Brokeback Mountain came out and it got all the attention it did, I remember, a few months later, Heath called me and he was like, ‘Hey, mate, I got some news for you.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Baz just offered me his next movie. I just wanted you to know, I f—ing turned it down!’ So that was how much Heath loved me, you know. That was how I met him.”
Heath Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2008.
Reflecting on his time working with Ledger in 2015, ten years after Brokeback Mountain’s release, Gyllenhaal told NPR Ledger was “incredibly special, and that doesn’t even come close to encapsulating who he is – who he was”.
“I miss him as a human being,” he said, “and I miss working with him. And what an unfortunate thing it is that we won’t be able to see the beauty of his expression.”