Heath Ledger reckoned that the script for Brokeback Mountain (2005) was the best screenplay he'd ever read.
The script by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana was written in 1997.
During the filming of the Fourth of July scenes in Fort Macleod, the crew would get the extras pumped up by telling them to act like the Calgary Flames had just won the Stanley Cup.
Some reports have it that director Ang Lee barred screenwriter Larry McMurtry from the set of the movie. A spokeswoman for Focus Features, which is producing it, commented: "Larry McMurtry rarely goes on sets because he has very severe allergies." Larry McMurtry was also in the midst of writing a novel when filming began and ended; no one barred him from the set. Diana Ossana, the co-writer of the screenplay and a producer, was on set during the entire filming.
Diana Ossana, co-screenwriter and a producer on the film, first read the short story in the 13 October 1997 New Yorker magazine. When she first asked her writing partner, Larry McMurtry to read the story, he refused, stating he doesn't read short fiction, because he can't write it. She persisted, however, and he ultimately agreed.
According to reports, Heath Ledger nearly broke co-star Jake Gyllenhaal's nose while filming a kissing scene.
According to an interview that Heath Ledger gave to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea, there was a sequence that was filmed for the movie in which Jack and Ennis help some hippies get their car out of a river. According to Ledger, the scene took three days to shoot and was disliked almost immediately by everyone involved. The scene was written by James Schamus as an attempt to show Jack and Ennis in a heroic situation, but it does not appear in Annie Proulx's original short story, the published screenplay, or the final cut of the movie.
Gus Van Sant and Joel Schumacher were interested in directing the project.
There were 75 visual effects shots created for the film by the Canadian house Buzz Image Group. Of these, 15 were of CGI sheep. The film called for about 2,500 sheep, but only 700 were on-set, necessitating the additional woolly creations. Also created for the film were sky replacements, set additions, erasures and the hail in the hailstorm.
The football game on television that causes some family friction during Jack's Thanksgiving dinner is actually a 1970s Canadian Football League game between the Montreal Alouettes and Edmonton Eskimos.
During its first weekend of release (playing in only five US theaters), this set a record for the highest per-screen gross of any non-animated movie in history.
Afraid that Anne Hathaway's previous films The Princess Diaries (2001) and Ella Enchanted (2004) would work against her during auditions, the casting director introduced Anne to director Ang Lee as a New York Broadway actress. Ang Lee hadn't seen any of Anne's nor Michelle Williams's previous works before he auditioned and subsequently cast them in Brokeback.
Cameo: [Rodrigo Prieto] the cinematographer appears as the Mexican prostitute whom Jack picks up.
The original short story by Annie Proulx was published in the 13 October 1997 issue of The New Yorker, without the italicized prologue which was included in the later version published in "Close Range", her collection of short stories.
According to producer James Schamus, the movie cost so little to make that it recouped its cost during its first week of limited release.
The movie that Ennis and Alma are watching at the drive-in is Surf Party (1964).
Banned in China because homosexuality is considered a taboo subject in China.
Over 90% of the footage was shot within 70 feet of a road.
The song Jack plays on his harmonica is "He Was a Friend of Mine", the same song Willie Nelson sings during the closing credits.
Director Ang Lee gave Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal copies of the book, "Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest", by Will Fellows, a book that had been mentioned by both Annie Proulx and Diana Ossana as an excellent reference source, to help them understand their characters. Noting what he learned from his reading, Gyllenhaal said, "I don't think that these two characters even know what gay is."
Heath Ledger, uncertain about the role when he was first offered it, was encouraged by his then girlfriend, Naomi Watts, to take it, immediately after they both read the script. After reading the script, Ledger said he would have flown to Taiwan to meet with Ang Lee in order to be hired for the role.
Writer Annie Proulx sent both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger an original, autographed copy of her story. When she signed the copy to Jake she wrote "To Jake..." but when she signed the copy she had intended to give to Heath she signed it "To Ennis". After writing out her personal message she realized what she had done and decided to leave it be. In a private screening at Arclight in Hollywood, CA she reflected that Heath Ledger really was Ennis. She left the signed copy that way because she had felt Mr. Ledger has embodied Ennis in every way she had imagined him.
Among the actors considered for the male leads were Josh Hartnett, Colin Farrell, Matt Damon, Billy Crudup, and Ben Affleck.
Heath Ledger was only four years older than Kate Mara, who played his daughter Alma Jr. in the movie's last scenes (for most of the movie, Alma Jr. was played by younger baby and child actresses; Mara only played her as an older teen once the Ledger character was supposed to be in his 40s).
The artwork of Vilhelm Hammershøi (Danish Painter, 1864-1916) served as visual inspiration for the whitewashed interior of Jack's parents home in Lightning Flat, according to cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto.
Focus Features were able to recoup its $14 million budget by selling the overseas rights to the film.
The shirts worn by the 2 actors that feature prominently in the film were sold on eBay in February 2006 for $101,100. The buyer, film historian and collector Tom Gregory, called them "the ruby slippers of our time".
The poster for the film was deliberately styled to resemble another romantic epic, James Cameron's Titanic (1997).
When asked if he had any fears about playing a gay man, Heath Ledger replied that he was not afraid of the role, only that he wasn't mature enough to do it justice.
Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller pulled the film from his Jordan Commons entertainment complex in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, despite heavily advertising the film. He reneged on his obligations to show it two hours before the first scheduled showing when he learned of the homosexual content, claiming that the film represented a danger to family values. Focus Features threatened to sue and announced that they would no longer do business with Miller.
In March 2006 Randy Quaid filed a lawsuit against Focus Features alleging that the company had misled him into thinking that _Brokeback Mountain (2005)_ was a low budget, art-house film with no prospect of making money. He saw this as a ruse to get him to lower his salary. At the time of the lawsuit, the film had earned more than $160 million. Quaid dropped the lawsuit in May, seemingly after Focus agreed to pay him a bonus. Focus, however, denied that any such payment ever took place.
The first film to be released as a DVD and a download on the same day.
Heath Ledger declined to go to the one month cowboy camp that had been organized as he had grown up on farms in Western Australia. Jake Gyllenhaal was required to attend however as he needed "roughing up".
Ang Lee specifically drew on the tonality of films from the 70s - notably Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (1971) - to infuse the spirit of his film.
There was an audible gasp at the Academy Awards when presenter Jack Nicholson read out Crash (2004/I) as 2005's Best Film over this film, much fancied. Nicholson himself admitted to being shocked as he too had voted for Ang Lee's film.
When Ang Lee won the Academy Award for Best Director, the People's Republic of China's news media made no mention of the fact that he was Taiwanese. He was described as being Chinese or Chinese-American. The news coverage also blocked out Ang's shout-out "Thank you, Taiwan" in his acceptance speech.
Although Anne Hathaway learned how to barrel race, the insurance company insisted that a stunt double perform on film.
Larry McMurtry handled the fleshing out of the marital dramas and the Western elements from Annie Proulx's short story, while co-writer Diana Ossana concentrated on the male relationship, McMurtry feeling that he was not up to the task of conveying that realistically.
Michelle Williams requested that her two male leads kiss in front of her to help her get to the right emotional place for her character, Alma. As she was involved with Ledger in real life too, she felt that such a thing would help with her portrayal. She had to goad both men as their first few attempts were far too half-hearted for her liking.
Universal made the rare decision to release the film on DVD when it was still playing in theaters.