Longer listens: Making "Brokeback Mountain"

Published December 19, 2005 7:45PM (EST)

With seven Golden Globe nominations last week, "Brokeback Mountain" moved into a close second behind Steven Spielberg's "Munich" as the Vegas favorite for best picture at the Oscars. "Brokeback's" nominations included best screenplay for Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who adapted the Annie Proulx short story about two young ranch hands who fall in love while herding sheep out above the tree line on a Wyoming mountain. In this piece (8:19 Real Audio) from NPR's "All Things Considered," McMurtry and Ossana discuss their working habits. (He writes his daily quota of five pages by 8:30 each morning and she spends the rest of the day fleshing it out.) "It's the best material I've ever had to work with as a screenwriter," McMurtry says of Proulx's story.

The story first appeared in the New Yorker in 1997 and was later published in Proulx's collection "Close Range: Wyoming Stories." "We have closets, within closets, within closets in this story," Proulx says in this 1999 interview (28:14 Real Audio) with Michael Silverblatt from his program "Bookworm" (made available by the Lannan Foundation). Proulx reveals that after she wrote the story, in which the young Ennis Del Mar never allows the relationship into the open, she went back and "re-wrote the entire thing as though he made the choice to open one of those doors early on in life." This happier version, she reports, was "singularly unsuccessful" because it was simply unbelievable that Del Mar would do such a thing in that time and place. After the story was published, Proulx says, she received more than 400 letters from men saying "This is what it was like for me, how did you know?"

Heath Ledger plays Ennis in the film and tells Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer during this interview (12:21 Windows) in a New York cafe that he feels the movie captured his own anxiety in filming some of the love scenes. "Any fear or anxiety that I had towards performing those scenes I didn't have to hide," says Ledger. "It was actually the way it had to be played." Ledger also talks about an absurd scene, thankfully deleted from the final cut, in which Ennis and his lover Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) rescue some hippies whose van is stuck in a riverbed. Producer James Schamus had added the scene because he felt it was needed to establish the characters' heroism and capability. Ledger, and most everyone else on the set, believed their goodness was already apparent.

-- Ira Boudway

By Salon Staff

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