Nowadays it has become quite common to see homosexual themed films seen from different perspectives across different film genres. Nor is it that it is something strictly new, in Mexico, for example, we have El Lugar sin Límites from 1978 directed by Arturo Ripstein and starring, with a masterful performance, by Roberto Cobo. But it is to be recognized that at that time it was not an easy subject to portray before society, and hardly a heterosexual actor would be willing to play a homosexual.
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Still with Secret on the mountain – 87%, released in 2006, there were many stigmas around it and it became the object of several ridicules for showing a couple of cowboys. But this did not prevent the film from getting the recognition it deserved from critics and the audience itself. The film starring then-rising stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal was significant to the careers of everyone involved, including Anne Hathaway.
Back then there was a stigma about how an actor who wanted to go far could “take on such a role,” and now the conversation seems to have been reversed. In the last two years, perhaps, a new controversy has begun to emerge in which films that feature homosexual characters played by heterosexuals are criticized. Stars like openly gay Neil Patrick Harris have commented that he has no problem with a heterosexual partner playing these kinds of roles, stressing that this is the job of an actor.
A couple of weeks ago, after the presentation of The Power of the Dog – 100% at the Venice Film Festival, Benedict Cumberbatch emphatically assured that it is not necessary for an actor to present their sexual history in order to play a character. Now, during an interview that Gyllenhaal gave to The Sunday Times, the actor recalled his time at Secret on the Mountain, and was asked if the impact of the film would have been different if it had been released at this time.
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I do not know. Maybe. Part of the medicine of the narrative is that we were two straight guys playing these roles. There was a stigma about playing a role like that, you know, why would you do that? And I think it was very important for both of us to break that stigma. But then again, I think that has paved the way for people who say, you know, people from different backgrounds should play more roles, that it shouldn’t be limited to a small group of people. And I believe that.
The actor recalled that there were several homophobic conversations regarding the film that would give Ang Lee the Oscar for Best Director (where they also got the nomination for Best Film); even he and Ledger would respond to or shut down any attempt to denigrate the tape for its central theme. In 2019, during an interview with Another Man, the actor from Guilty – 80% recalled the way he Heath ledger He defended the film, and was always against it being used for parodies or mockery, always emphasizing that it was a love story and should be respected as such.
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I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year and it was kind of a joke about it. And Heath refused. At that moment [yo] I was kind of like, ‘Oh, okay … whatever.’ I always say, ‘It’s all so much fun.’ And Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me, I don’t want to make a joke about it.’