Hollywood.com: What was it about this story that made you want to make the film?
Ang Lee: Well, it's a unique, very universal American love story. It has a Western aura combined with the repression of gay subject matter--to me that made it really juicy to me. And the writing was sparse, very curt--the prose is beautiful and evoking--and then it has a metaphorical quality, too. To me it's just a great story. That is always a good sign to make a movie: it wrenched my heart for some reason, it wrenched my gut for some reason.
HW: How did you settle on Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger for these roles?
AL: I decided quite early on, when I took on the project, that it would probably be younger actors playing toward older. So I decided to go with [actors in their] 20s, and I think these guys are among the best actors. Heath [Ledger] strikes me as a good anchor man to carry that Western movie: brooding, non-verbal, energetic, violent--a lot of those melancholy mysterious characteristics of the West. And then I had to find a counterpart, and that's Jake. He carries the romantic scenes: knowingly bright, positive, almost not cowboy-like. Although the story's purely Western when you read it, as a movie the genre flows into a romantic love story. So I'm more casting as a romantic element.
HW: This is your second film about gay characters and repression. What do you find interesting about this subject matter, and how do you handle it differently in this film than in The Wedding Banquet?
AL: Well, this is more sexual. More gay than the other [Laughs]. I made that movie for mainstream audience in Taiwan. I didn't know that it would hit everywhere. That was a family drama. It's very traditional Asian drama, one of the main dramas in our society. I delivered the first male-to-male kiss in Taiwanese market. But in this film I kind of get into it deeper. I think sexuality and romance is at the core of the piece, so this, for that subject matter, is a lot deeper.
HW: How difficult was it to get actors to play roles like this?
AL: I don't know. That's not really my problem. I didn't really care. They're good actors, they want to do good work, and when they see juicy part, they get excited, they want to do it. These guys are like that. I remember shooting the first sex scene in the tent, thinking they were being brave because of the way they were devoted to it. It's beyond any lovemaking scene ever shot, or most love scenes I've seen. We see beautiful, awkward scenes--it's very hard to see private feelings that the characters have, and I saw that, so I thought they were very brave. But in terms of taking the job, it's good for them. I mean, they're great parts."