Although Ang Lee directed the 2005 film “Brokeback Mountain,” Gus Van Sant was among the directors initially approached for it — and Van Sant now recalls actors like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio turning down the roles.
“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant told IndieWire. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.”
Of course, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal ended up starring in the film that followed the secretive relationship of two cowboys. It ended up becoming one of the most financially and critically successful LGBTQ films of all time, winning three Oscars and being nominated for four more. It grossed $178 million worldwide.
Producers James Schamus and Diana Ossana (who also wrote the screenplay for the film) have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment, but Ossana told IndieWire that “yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons.”
Representatives for distributor Focus Features, and for Damon, Pitt, DiCaprio and Phillippe, have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.
In retrospect, Van Sant says he probably should have “cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.”
“I was not ready. I’m not sure why,” he added. “There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”
Van Sant says he was also offered “Call Me by Your Name,” which was directed by Luca Guadagnino and starred Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet.
“I think in that case in particular … I don’t think it would have panned out the way it did if I had directed it. I think it was great,” he said. “I like the film. I think the sentimentality and the ending of the film was something that probably wasn’t in the book in the same way. It maybe was in the book, but I think that he got something really great that I think is very… I’m not sure I would have ended up in the same place, so it probably wouldn’t have done as well.”
Van Sant’s latest film, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” is playing in theaters now. Pitt and DiCaprio, of course, starred in 2015’s “The Audition” together and will next co-star in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Van Sant directed Damon in “Good Will Hunting.”