The former director of Brokeback Mountain has revealed that a number of A-list stars such as Matt Damon, Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt were among those who turned down roles in the film.

As it turned out, the gay romance movie made stars out of both Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal to international stardom. However, Brokeback Mountain’s first-choice director Gus Van Sant revealed in a new interview with IndieWire that he initially had a hard time casting those two main roles, and that quite a few big-name stars refused to star in it.

“Nobody wanted to do it,” said Van Sant, who initially was chosen to direct the film. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.”

Leonardo DiCaprioLeonardo DiCaprio had been approached for 'Brokeback Mountain'

Eventually, the movie was helmed by Ang Lee, and Brokeback Mountain turned out to be highly critically acclaimed, bagging eight Academy Award nominations in 2006, the most of any film that year.

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One of the film's producers, Diana Ossana, substantiated what Van Sant had said in an e-mail to IndieWire. “Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons,” she wrote, also describing the casting of Ledger’s character Ennis as “the ultimate hurdle”.

Brad PittBrad Pitt was another star approached

Looking back on the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the film’s casting process at the time, Van Sant, who directed the likes of Good Will Hunting and Milk, said, “What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.”

He continued: “I was not ready. I’m not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”

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