It was the working title to a project on the road to nowhere, spitefully so.
Academy-award winner Ang Lee is, and has been for quite some time, at the top of his game. An impresario director whose versatile film-making is the envy of his peers; his impact, the delight of the professional swooners who covetously ogle the world of entertainment.
Would they all feel the same if they knew more of his personal life? Could they stomach what lurks behind those eyes that beam for the public, suck in a tad the squirming darkness that festers therein?
Soon, they’ll all get a chance to test the tenacity of their guts.
Sunshiney Mr. Lee, since coming West long ago, has badly suffered exposure to some of the rankest stereotypes, one stinger in particular. He has harbored a secret grudge, one he just could neither dodge nor escape.
Whether it was listening to an old Eddie Murphy comedy album, standing nervously shoulder-to-shoulder in a public restroom, praying silently all eyes remained front and centered, or chafing under the askance glances of passers-by and what must be their unkind assessments, all together it would come crashing down on his psyche when each day would come to its weary climax, when he was alone with his feverish thoughts. Each night, it took its toll: a pound of flesh, gray matter in particular. In time, a grand conspiracy seemed to be afoot, and it made his ugly resentment grow, take on a life of its own, till it obsessively tore at him and then seemed to finally rip free, in turn enslaving its former host.
Ang Lee’s animus?
The popular myth that men of Asian descent fall short in the shorts. Which especially galled him, because he figured he was up to snuff—for a man of his height. You know, one inch for every foot of growth. What more could all these strutting peacocks expect? Those tormenting demons in human form, bastards he could never hope to avoid, short of locking all the doors, boarding up the windows and discontinuing internet and cable service.
Well, he had suffered enough at the hands of the masculine West. It was time for payback, and this first time he’d make it personal. He’d deflower the finest of American masculinity, oh, he would.
Mr. Lee put out the word that he was holding casting calls for leading men of either Caucasoid American or African American descent, come one come all. And when Ang Lee said he needed actors, the up and coming acting community went beside itself with excitement.
Enter the male stars of what would one day become Brokeback Mountain. Only, in its original incarnation, it was hardly destined for such a lofty yet touching place in the American Pantheon of filmery. No, to Ang Lee’s diabolical mind, it could only be entitled Brokedick Mountin’, and boy, did he plan on making both sides of that label come to fruition.
(Side note: When later asked by the two head-liners about the peculiar title, Mr. Lee assured the men, who were first in line for auditions outside the seedy apartment in West Hollywood he rented out as Studio-Central, it was just how Rednecks would pronounce “Mountain,” and for authenticity’s sake, that was how it was going to be. When the questions inevitably turned to that first word of the title, Mr. Lee groused, “Look, you guys wanna work with an academy-award winning director or not?” Mr. Ledger spoke up briefly, but zipped his lip good and managed to salvage his position before Mr. Lee could yell out “Next!”. Lucky for Mr. Gyllenhaal such a tragedy didn’t occur, for the next two aspiring actors in line were none other than rocker Tommy Lee and aspiring movie star Barry Bonds. [Hey, steroids can cause shrinkage, but from the way the slugger kept consistently tugging at his package while anxiously waiting, he wasn’t having any problems finding the mark.])
So, under the engaging yet forceful personality of the director extraordinaire, the reaming, er, reading began.
Boy did the three men from filmdom kick up a ruckus. The labored grunting and groaning of the duped stars, the knocked over furniture, the roughly induced sounds of forced flatulence, all goaded by the barking directions of Mr. Ang Lee, did not in anyway advance the fanciful notion that pain and pleasure are just two sides of the same coveted coin of passion.
Also kicked up was a parallel commotion—outside the studio apartment. Upstairs, caffeinated college kids didn’t like being denied the quiet necessary to cram for upcoming finals; soon enough, they started rhythmically chanting at the top of their lungs, “Get a room . . . down the road!!” Outside, the line scattered, once impatiently peeping Rocker Tommy Lee raised the alarm. “Code Pink!!” he had screamed, or something akin. The job-seekers, one and all, frantically fled every which way on foot; for though many had arrived in their own personal cars, they just plum forget that salient fact, so fearful that they, too, might fall under the influence of Mr. Lee and his jaded promises of celluloid stardom.
(Sprinting Barry Bonds later collided with a public bus, suffering a bruised shin. The nine passengers and the driver aboard weren’t so likely: all were fatalities.)
It wasn’t long before the law got wind that hijinks were afoot. Liberal Los Angeles or not, hectic hamster humping was exactly just that: for hamsters frolicking noisily about a cage, not three grown men rocking a tiny studio to its foundations.
Back inside the one-roomer, just after Mr. Ledger managed to huff out between snorts, “Hey, you better be getting some good shots, ’cause I ain’t doing any more cuts along these lines!” but as Mr. Gyllenhaal next observed through wincing eyes, “Hey, since when does a high-powered Hollywood movie-mogul use a Polaroid!?!” the door was kicked in by the shiny big boots of the law.
Production grinded to a screeching halt and Mr. Lee’s visions of vengeance were dashed: His two pawns’s thinga-ma-bobs, though bruised and battered, were still intact. They’d recover, with lotions and rest.
And just how did the abomination Breakdick Mountin’, spawned by one man’s petty need for generalized revenge, talented as that plotter might be in other pursuits, metamorphose into the butterfly Brokeback Mountain?
It was the only way Ang Lee could talk himself out of doing some time behind bars, where he’d have to spend day and night fretting over who had what and how much of it, with no place to hide his real and imagined inadequacies! (Hey, all of us at one time or another is going to look and feel inadequate. Don’t think so, tough guy? Then some morning strip yourself naked, go out to the local pasture, and stand next to a horse with his dangler loaded with a night’s accumulation of urine. You’ll see.)
As for the carrying-on inside the studio apartment? barked the senior arresting office. \
Mr. Lee, wily on his antsy feet, readily replied to that question: Raw material for a later product of exquisite refinement. Yes, he readily admitted, it was definitely the wrong environment, for practical purposes; but for aesthetics that evoke the tragic desperation so often seen in the misunderstood male gay lifestyle, it just couldn’t be beat.
And it worked!!
(Well, the lip-legerdemain did help, but offering up parts for the six officers that hauled the three men downtown sealed the deal. Two got cast as stunt butts, one volunteered his Johnson for a close-in shot, and the remaining three got to wear cow suits so they could blend in with one of the cattle-drives. As for Ledger and Gyllenhaal? Hey, they almost walked away with Oscars! So what do they got to complain about?)
And that's how the greatest gay love story came to be. Now you know the story within the story.