Jake Gyllenhaal Recalled The First Time He Heard About Heath Ledger Before They Starred In “Brokeback Mountain,” And The Story Might Surprise You

“It’s where I first heard of Heath, and they would shuffle us in and out of rooms.”

Years before they were costars in Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were competing for lead roles in Hollywood.

Jake and Heath in tuxedos presenting at an awards ceremony

In a new interview with Howard Stern, Jake pulled back the curtain on his career and reflected on some of the biggest jobs he closely missed out on — starting with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005.

Jake in a sweater and jeans sits casually with crossed legs in a radio studio

Looking back, Jake said he was aware that he was competing with Christian Bale, who was eventually cast as Batman, and recalled making it to a final round of auditions, where he got to wear the famous Batsuit.

Jake in a suit and tie smiles at media event

If Jake had gotten the role, he’d have eventually shared the screen with Heath, who famously played the Joker opposite Christian in The Dark Knight. And though this never came to be, Heath's and Jake’s careers fortunately crossed paths in a number of other ways before Heath's tragic death.

Heath in a cap and Jake with stubble, both casually dressed at a media event

Talking to Howard, Jake recalled first hearing about Heath when they went up against each other for Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical movie, Moulin Rouge.

Heath wearing a leather jacket and a sweater

As we now know, Ewan eventually bagged the role, and Jake revealed that both he and Heath were “disappointed” by the loss at the time.

A younger Jake posing at an event, wearing a suit jacket and patterned shirt

Reflecting on it now, Jake acknowledged that rejection is all a part of the process, saying, “In the end … you learn to go, ‘There’s another one.’ Right? I can try and go in and audition for another one. I'll get something else … you keep that attitude.”

Jake Gyllenhaal in a classic suit, standing in front of a neon sign

Of course, it was only a few years later, in 2005, that Heath and Jake shared the screen in Brokeback Mountain, which earned both of them Oscar nominations and is considered one of the best movies of the 2000s.

Heath in a buttoned shirt and jacket, and Jake in a black suit and tie at a media event

Just as with Moulin Rouge and Batman Begins, the casting process for Brokeback Mountain was seriously competitive, with actors like Josh Hartnett and Joaquin Phoenix also in the running to star.

Heath and Jake, wearing ties, sitting with Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee in a theater

But just as Jake said, when you keep going, the right opportunities will find you.

Jake and Health smiling at each other onstage in front of a microphone

You can watch Jake's interview with Howard Stern here.

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