Heath Ledger is convinced playing a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain has improved his acting skills, because simulating romantic love for another man was a completely new experience to him.

The Australian actor had no homosexual history to draw from and found intimate scenes with co-star Jake Gyllenhaal particularly demanding when he was required to make eye contact.

He tells Hotdog magazine, "I didn't really want to kiss Jake. Not only that, but it was hard looking him in the eyes and telling him I loved him.

"To show love in the eyes for another man is something I've never done. Everything was new about it - so quite obviously there was fear about it."