Heath Ledger is thrilled his new role as a gay cowboy is being received warmly because the first time he played a homosexual on TV, he was mercilessly bullied in his native Australia.

Ledger's role in Brokeback Mountain has been acclaimed and the actor is being tipped to win an Oscar, but he still recalls how his fellow Aussies teased him when he first played a gay man.

The FOUR FEATHERS star made his acting debut on Australian TV show SWEAT and admits his role was a terrible mistake.

He tells gay magazine The Advocate, "I had no idea what I was doing. It was a terrible performance; it was a terrible TV show I'm awful in it.

"It's just a teenage kid who confesses to his friend that he's gay. It's not really that interesting.

"I had small occasions where I'd get bullied on the streets for it. But I was never out to prove myself or my sexuality - it didn't really bother me."