Jake Gyllenhaal Says Heath Ledger’s Death Affected Him In Ways He Can’t Put Into Words

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were inseparable while filming Brokeback Mountain. Instead of going their separate ways, as most actors do after a director yells cut, the two enjoyed a close friendship that was tragically cut short by Ledger’s untimely death in 2008.

Gyllenhaal, who is godfather to Ledger’s only child, Matilda Ledger, opened up about the effect Heath’s death had on him. The actor, who is usually private and rarely talks about Ledger’s death as it’s too painful, opened up to People and Entertainment Weekly about his late friend and the profound effect his death had on him personally and professionally.

At first Jake Gyllenhaal talked about the experience of playing Jack Twist. At that time it was the first time we saw two matinee idols playing LGBT characters in a way that grabbed audience goers attention. The film went on to receive multiple Academy Award nominations, and grossed big at the box office, but at the time, Gyllenhaal was unsure of how people would receive it.

“When I read it, I wasn’t quite sure,” said Gyllenhaal.

Then Gyllenhaal described his time shooting Brokeback Mountain, and although the cast experienced an incredible bond with each other, particularly Heath and Jake, he did admit shooting it was lonely because of the location.

“What a sad and broken hearted fellow he was. It’s always the one who emote this positivity. I was deeply sad after that. It was a very interesting journey. We were so young. We had no idea what the movie was going to become. That movie for all of us, even in the midst of the beautiful love between Michelle [Williams] and Heath — there was a real sadness there.”

When asked about how Heath Ledger’s 2008 death affected him, Gyllenhaal was a little reserved to discuss the topic, because it was personal to him, and seemed at a loss for words on how to articulate it in a way that wouldn’t give too much away.

“I don’t know if I can answer that in one answer. Personally, it affected me in ways, I can’t really necessarily put into words, or would even want to talk about publicly.”

When it came to speaking about how Heath Ledger’s death affected him on a professional level, Gyllenhaal was able to talk about it more openly. He went on to say that not having lost someone so close at a young age, his death put things into perspective, which is important given the flashy Hollywood scene, that’s easy to get caught up in.

“Professionally, I was at an age where mortality wasn’t always clear to me. Particularly because, I think, you live in this bubble of making films. There are real friends and there is a real community, but there’s that — [on] Macklemore’s new album, there’s that lyric, ‘The curtain closes, and nobody notices.’ I think that’s true, and I think that’s okay. I assumed that everyone would notice. It gave me that experience of ‘This is fleeting’ and none of this attention or synthesized love really matters at all.”

During a televised taping for James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, Gyllenhaal spoke about meeting Heath. He had explained that the two of them had met while auditioning for Moulin Rogue, and then they met up again. “I remember thinking, ‘I like this guy. He’s super lovable,’ ” said Gyllenhaal.

Heath Ledger was found dead of an accidental overdose of a cocktail of prescription pills, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine. These medications are prescribed to treat insomnia, pain, and anxiety. His death heightened the awareness of the U.S. big prescription pill problem.

[Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images]