30 Years After Pretty Woman Hit Theaters, These Juicy Secrets May Make Fans Love It Even More

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After Pretty Woman was released back in 1990, it both turned Julia Roberts into a megastar and spawned a number-one single. And three decades on from its debut, the heartwarming flick is now regarded by many as the quintessential rom-com. But even huge Pretty Woman fans don’t realize that the box-office smash changed quite a bit before it hit movie theaters. Here’s a look at 20 things you may not know about the rags-to-riches classic – including the shocking consequences of that bathtub scene…

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20. It originally had a grim ending

Pretty Woman famously ends with Richard Gere’s Edward overcoming his fear of heights to climb up a fire ladder and kiss Julia Roberts’ Vivian. But this romantic gesture only came into being following some studio interference. Disney had been left aghast, you see, after reading the original script’s much darker finale.

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And you can’t blame the House of Mouse for balking, either. In that earlier version, Pretty Woman closes with Edward pushing Vivian – and the fee for her services – out of his vehicle. To make the story even more downbeat, Vivian’s pal Kat was also supposed to suffer a fatal overdose.

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19. Gere had to be convinced to take the role

It’s fair to say that Gere was left underwhelmed after reading the original screenplay for Pretty Woman. In 2015 Cosmopolitan reported that the actor once said, “It was a silly little script, and when it came to me, the part was a suit. It was like, ‘Put someone in the suit,’ basically.”

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In fact, Gere rejected the part of Edward several times before Marshall called upon the help of Roberts to intervene. Specifically, the director sent the actress out to the Big Apple to use her persuasive powers on her fellow star. And a Post-it note featuring just three words – “please say yes” – was apparently enough to convince Gere to accept the role.

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18. Roberts doesn’t appear on the Pretty Woman poster

The image of Roberts posing back to back with Gere on the Pretty Woman poster has arguably become just as famous as anything seen in the film itself. Yet while the shot may seem as though it would have been straightforward to take, a significant amount of photo trickery was apparently used in its creation.

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Firstly, the gray hair that Gere sports throughout the movie was given an altogether darker hue on the poster. Far more significantly, though, the female form you see doesn’t actually belong to the movie’s leading lady. For reasons that remain unclear, an image of Roberts’ head was fused on to her on-set double’s body. And this was all done before Photoshop became popular, too.

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17. The deleted scenes include a gang fight

A whole host of Pretty Woman scenes that didn’t make the final cut have popped up over the years. There’s the tender moment when Edward and Vivian enjoy a horse ride, for example, and a sumptuous steak dinner where Julia Roberts’ character uses ketchup. Perhaps most intriguingly, however, an on-screen scuffle could potentially have featured within the movie.

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Yes, one filmed scene shows Edward almost getting into a gang fight after helping Vivian to escape their clutches. But Vivian isn’t exactly appreciative about being “rescued.” Instead, she barks at Edward, “I f**king beat the s**t out of a pimp who tried to force me into his stable. I could beat the s**t out of you!”

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16. It originally had a different name

It’s hard now to imagine the classic rom-com as having any other name than Pretty Woman. The film even revived Roy Orbison’s mid-1960s chart-topper “Oh, Pretty Woman” for its star-studded hit soundtrack. And yet, initially, the flick was supposed to be called something entirely less memorable.

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So, would Pretty Woman have been such a success if it had been released as $3,000 instead? This original title was a reference to the cash that Edward gives Vivian for her services. It also ties in with the movie’s early script, in which the pair’s arrangement never strays from being purely a business deal.

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15. A sequel will never happen

Given Pretty Woman’s remarkable box-office success and pop-cultural impact, you may have expected a sequel to emerge at some point over the last three decades. However, there’s a reason we’ve never been able to see what Edward and Vivian did next: each of the three major players involved promised only to make a follow-up if they all signed on the dotted line.

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Of course, Gere, Roberts and director Garry Marshall did join forces once more for late 1990s rom-com Runaway Bride. But, evidently, the trio didn’t believe that the time was ever right to bring back Pretty Woman for a second helping. And following the death of Marshall in 2016, it seems highly unlikely that Edward and Vivian will ever return to our screens.

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14. Roberts couldn’t legally drive

During filming for Pretty Woman, Roberts essentially broke the law by riding around in Edward’s beloved Lotus Esprit. You see, at the time, the 21-year-old actress hadn’t actually passed her driving test. But even despite this, Roberts was far from tentative when at the wheel of a car.

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Instead, the actress put most of the Fast & Furious cast to shame as she tore around the streets of Los Angeles. She moved at such speed, in fact, that the filmmakers were sometimes left behind. Roberts would later reveal that these shots were among the most enjoyable parts of her time on the movie.

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13. Vivian’s red coat was bought off the street

While Pretty Woman is full of memorable outfits, the red jacket Vivian sports when Edward sees her around LA is certainly among the most iconic. Yet although you may have assumed that the costume team spent weeks designing such an attention-grabbing piece, in reality they simply picked it up from a member of the public.

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Yes, incredibly the vibrant garment was a second-hand purchase that costume designers spotted on a passer-by as they drove around the streets of Los Angeles themselves. The team then paid the individual on the spot for literally taking the clothes off their back. And the rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.

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12. John Travolta auditioned for the film

Back in the late 1980s, John Travolta’s career was considered to be in the doldrums. It’s perhaps not much of a surprise, then, that the Grease actor was unsuccessful in his audition for the leading man role in Pretty Woman. And Travolta wasn’t the only major name to try to land the role, either, before it went to Gere.

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While Sylvester Stallone might not be the most obvious name to front a rom-com, the Rambo star was reportedly in the frame to play Edward during the early casting stages. Denzel Washington, Kevin Kline and Daniel Day-Lewis were all touted as possible contenders, too, with Superman himself, a.k.a. Christopher Reeve, similarly in the running.

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11. Porsche and Ferrari refused to let their cars appear

To begin with, successful businessman Edward was initially supposed to drive either a Ferrari or a Porsche – flashy choices that fit the character. But after hearing that Pretty Woman centered on a relationship with a prostitute, the two car companies forbade the filmmakers from including any of their vehicles. That turned out to be a big mistake – huge, in fact…

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Lotus, by contrast, saw the benefits of having its Esprit appear in a potential box-office smash and so gave the Pretty Woman team full permission to feature the car. And this gamble paid off, too, as the Esprit’s sales figures increased threefold following the release of the film.

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10. Vivian was nearly played by a teen-movie queen

It seems that Roberts has a 1980s teen-movie queen to thank for the role that launched her to superstardom. Originally, you see, director Marshall wanted Molly Ringwald to take on the part of Vivian. Ringwald had previously enjoyed several box-office successes, of course, including hits Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club.

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In the end, Ringwald decided that the part of a prostitute wasn’t for her and rejected Marshall’s offer. And since then, the flame-haired star has admitted she rues declining such an iconic part – although, in fairness, the script she read was a whole lot grimmer than the one eventually adapted for the screen.

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9. Roberts broke out in hives

Before being cast as Vivian in Pretty Woman, Roberts had only appeared in a handful of movies. And, understandably, the relatively unexperienced actress felt awkward about taking off her clothes in front of the cameras for the film’s big sex scene. She became so worried, in fact, that she ultimately ended up with hives.

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Calamine lotion was therefore used to allay Roberts’ skin problem. Meanwhile, Marshall came up with a novel – if slightly bizarre – idea to help make the actress feel more at ease while being naked on screen. The director’s solution? He just jumped under the covers with Roberts and Gere.

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8. Gere broke a tooth

Gere certainly suffered for his art during the shooting of one particularly aggressive Pretty Woman scene. As fans will know, at one point the movie sees Edward fighting with his lawyer Philip Stuckey when he sees him attacking the love of his life. And unfortunately for the leading man, things became a bit too real during filming.

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During the make-believe scuffle, Gere actually ended up cracking a tooth. And eagle-eyed viewers may be able to spot exactly when the accident happens. On screen, the star can be seen visibly attempting to work out what has happened to his mouth by wiggling his tongue.

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7. The necklace had its own armed guard

As Pretty Woman was made for a relatively modest $14 million, the budget didn’t stretch to covering the cool $250,000 for the famous necklace featured in the movie. But thanks to some clever negotiating on the part of the producers, the owners of the piece were eventually persuaded to hire it out.

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Still, there was one condition that the filmmakers had to meet before the jewelry was loaned: an armed chaperone had to watch over the item throughout the shoot. The producers agreed to this demand, and so Vivian was finally able to get her hands on the necklace of her dreams.

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6. Gere composed one of its musical numbers

Pretty Woman features several unforgettable songs throughout its two-hour running time – from Roxette’s U.S number one “It Must Have Been Love” to Roy Orbison’s classic near-title track. But did you know that one of the movie’s tunes was actually written by its leading man? Yes, it turns out that Gere is a man of many talents.

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In one memorable scene, Edward sits down at the piano to perform a piece – one that Gere himself penned. And the actor is not only a dab hand on the ivories, but also on the trumpet. Sadly, though, audiences were kept from hearing Gere show off his prowess on his other instrument of choice.

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5. Gere improvised one of the film’s most memorable moments

In one of Pretty Woman’s best-remembered scenes, Edward shows Vivian a jewelry box that contains an exquisite necklace. Just as she reaches for the item, though, he mischievously shuts the container. And yet this charming and playful scene didn’t actually appear in the screenplay.

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Initially, you see, Marshall believed that the shots he’d filmed of Vivian being shown the box lacked any form of pizzazz. As a result, he asked Gere – without Roberts’ knowledge – to close the container firmly at the crucial moment. And the actress’ thoroughly surprised reaction is therefore entirely authentic.

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4. You can enjoy your own Pretty Woman experience

If you’ve ever wanted to step into Vivian’s shoes, then you have your chance, as the film’s hotel setting, Los Angeles’ Beverly Wilshire, offers the full Pretty Woman “experience” for the sum of $1,000. But what exactly can you expect when you eventually decide to splash the cash?

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Well, for starters, you’ll be treated to your very own fashion expert. You’ll also be whisked up and down Rodeo Drive – although in a top of the range Mercedes-Benz rather than a Lotus Esprit. And along the way, you can enjoy gourmet food, an aromatherapy bath and even a massage session.

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3. Marshall had to tickle Roberts’ feet

After Pretty Woman, Roberts went on to pick up an Academy Award, grace several other Oscar favorites and become one of the most accomplished screen stars of her generation. But at one time, there was at least a single chink in her acting armor: she struggled to laugh on camera in a convincing manner.

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To make Roberts’ giggle appear more authentic in the rom-com, then, Marshall thought outside the box. To wit, the director decided to tickle the star while he was off camera. And, luckily, Roberts succumbed, meaning the on-screen laughter she displays while watching reruns of I Love Lucy is in fact 100 percent genuine.

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2. The bathtub scene stripped Roberts’ hair of its color

The choice to make Vivian’s hair color a vibrant red caused a slight problem during the filming of the famous bathtub scene. As Roberts’ locks are naturally dark, the actress was thus forced to reach for the hair dye bottle before shooting began. But, unfortunately, dye and detergent don’t always mix well.

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And in order to maintain the bubbles in the bath, the crew had to add a significant quantity of detergent to the tub – with so much being used that Roberts’ locks ended up drained of all their color. As a consequence, the future Oscar winner had to undergo another last-minute hair-dying treatment before filming could restart.

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1. Roberts was the victim of a prank

Judging by a behind-the-scenes prank on YouTube, the mood on the Pretty Woman set was rather lighthearted. On one particular occasion, Roberts found herself on the receiving end of the cast and crew’s collective mischievous streak – and it all took place during the filming of the memorable bathtub scene.

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In the movie, Vivian dips her head into the water and then resurfaces to say “yes” to Edward’s unique proposal. Behind the scenes, however, Gere and the production staff all decided to make a quick exit when Roberts was submerged. Then, as the actress came up for air, she was faced with the unnerving realization that she was the only person left on the set.

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When it was released in 2005, Brokeback Mountain drew plenty of comment. It was a romance between two men released at a time when Hollywood was only just ready to explore same-sex relationships. Despite being banned in some territories, the film was a big success. And there are a few things about its creation that even fans of the two lead actors might not know.

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20. The writers wanted Heath Ledger after seeing Monster’s Ball

Heath Ledger was an up-and-coming young star around the time Brokeback Mountain was being written. In 2015 screenwriter Diana Ossana told Out magazine that her daughter suggested Ledger. So she and her co-screenwriter Larry McMurtry sat down to watch a movie he starred in, Monster’s Ball.

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Ossana remembered, “I had Larry watch Monster’s Ball, and he watched it until Heath’s character killed himself, and he stood up and said, “I can’t watch any more of this, it’s too brutal — but that young man is Ennis.” They sent the script off to Ledger’s agent, and luckily the actor loved it from the moment he read it.

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19. Ang Lee was “half asleep” making the movie

Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain, won an Academy Award in 2006 for helming the movie. However, he’s humble about his success to say the least. In 2019 he told The Star newspaper he was, “practically half-asleep making it. I just secured the actors and got them to perform. The shots are boring, really basic.”

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Lee went on, “I just make pretty shots. It’s the easiest thing. Shoot some pretty shots, I can do that all day. It’s, like, really easy. I had limited time, and the actors were great, Texas was good. It was a gay drama and I didn’t think many people would see it.” He was, of course, wrong on that front.

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18. The movie poster was based on a famous one

If you’re selling a romantic movie the poster needs to be instantly recognizable as something, well, romantic. The poster-makers of Brokeback Mountain decided that in order to convey their film’s themes they should look back over movie posters of the past, and starting searching around for the most acclaimed romantic movies and their corresponding posters.

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In 2005 Focus Features co-president James Schamus told Newsweek magazine, “If you look at our poster, you can see traces of our inspiration, Titanic.” Indeed those posters, with their design of the two lovers looking away from each other to hint at an unhappy ending, do bear some similarities.

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17. Jake Gyllenhaal was scared about the love scenes

In a 2005 interview with the website liveabout.com Jake Gyllenhaal talked about some nervousness he’d experienced on set. He said, “When it came to doing love scenes and stuff like that, the best metaphor I can give is that it felt like [me and Heath Ledger] were both like, ‘Are you ready? Yeah. Let’s go,’ and we dove off the boat into the deep end.”

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Gyllenhaal went on, “It’s like when you’re terrified of the water, you see a little kid thrown in the water and they’re trying to get back to the boat as fast as they can. That’s what it was like. But at the same time when we were there, we really went for it.” Gyllenhaal also admitted he couldn’t remember a lot of those scenes.

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16. Focus Features weren’t sure about Ledger

In a 2015 interview with the radio station SiriusXM Progress, the Brokeback Mountain screenwriters discussed the process of finding someone to play the character of Ennis. It was, Diana Ossana said, “the most difficult role to cast.” Another actor had actually committed to the part, but the filmmakers had their heart set on Heath Ledger.

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And yet, Ossana said, “The studio didn’t feel he was macho enough. I thought that was a rather odd comment. But we just sort of stuck with it.” When the first actor backed out of the project — Ossana wouldn’t say under what circumstances — she was able to call up Ledger’s agent and get him involved again.

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15. The film was banned in China

When it first came out, Brokeback Mountain proved controversial in some parts of the world. Although homosexuality was in fact legal in China, the censors of the country still refused to put the movie in cinemas. Anyone wanting to see it had to make do with bootleg DVDs.

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Despite this, the official newspapers of China celebrated Ang Lee’s Oscar win, with China Daily writing, “Ang Lee is the pride of Chinese people all over the world, and he is the glory of Chinese cinematic talent.” Although unfortunately, Brokeback Mountain wasn’t the last film with gay content to be pulled by the country’s censors.

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14. Ledger was really good with the horses

One thing Gyllenhaal always remembered about Brokeback Mountain was how good Ledger was with the animals. He remembered in a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “Heath, you know, would walk up to a horse and could like silence the horse. Just literally he’d be like, ‘Shh. Shh.’ And then he’d get on the horse.”

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An old interview from Ledger himself attests to this. In 2005 he told straight.com, “I grew up in Australia, where you are around farm folk, and I think there is something universal about someone who spends all day on horseback. Even when they get off, they walk like they are still on the horse. I adore horses and horseback riding.”

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13. A film critic had to apologize for his review

No film is universally acclaimed on its release and Brokeback Mountain was no exception. Gene Shalit, the film critic of The Today Show, gave it a poor review. But the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) were angry about his description of the character of Jack, as Shalit had labelled him a “sexual predator.”

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Shalit felt compelled to issue a statement that said, “I did not intend to use a word that many in the gay community consider incendiary… I certainly had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone in the gay community or on the community itself. I regret any emotional hurt that may have resulted from my review of Brokeback Mountain.” GLAAD accepted the apology.

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12. Gyllenhaal assumed he would play a different character

Gyllenhaal got plenty of good reviews for his performance as Jack Twist. When the movie was released, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said, “Gyllenhaal may be full of charm and easy affability but you miss none of the longing he harbors, or the frustration which slowly begins to coarsen him.” Yet Gyllenhaal didn’t expect to play that role initially.

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As a matter of fact, Gyllenhall assumed he would play Ennis. He said to liveabout.com in 2005, “I thought, ‘Oh Ang will probably want me to play the Ennis part’ because I’ve played much more isolated characters before, and that’s a very obvious, very actorly way of thinking about it. Because, actually, Heath and I as people are really more of the characters that we play.”

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11. Heath Ledger almost broke his hand

One scene in Brokeback Mountain sees Ledger’s character punching a wall in desperation… but it wasn’t scripted. In 2015 Anne Hathaway told Out magazine, “The plan was for him to put his face against the wall — that’s what the shot was supposed to be — and he just wound up punching the brick.”

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Hathaway went on, “Everyone was freaking out because it was a real wall. It wasn’t a movie brick wall. It was a f**kin’ brick wall. And he did it, and they got it, and they said his hand was mangled. He might have actually broken it.” Ledger had such an intense time on set he immediately went on to film a comedy, Casanova, once Brokeback Mountain was done.

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10. Ledger found the kissing scenes “surreal”

Much was made of the love scenes between Ledger and Gyllenhaal’s characters. In 2010 Gyllenhaal remembered it all. Speaking at the New Yorker Festival, he said, “We just basically went up and slammed our mouths together. We were the instruments for something that was much bigger than both of us.” But what did Ledger think?

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Before his untimely death Ledger gave an interview to The Guardian. In January 2006 he said, “It was certainly a surreal moment the first time I had to kiss Jake. But once that was done, I quickly realized that it didn’t make me want to run out and do it again. And you think, okay, what’s the next shot? Those scenes were just a small part of the package.”

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9. Anne Hathaway told a lie to get cast

Anne Hathaway really wanted to be in Brokeback Mountain, and she really wanted to play Lureen. So she told a little fib in order to keep herself in the running. When Ang Lee asked her if she could ride a horse, she answered that she was really good at it. In fact, she’d never ridden in her life before.

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Hathaway quickly began teaching herself how to ride before filming started, but it wasn’t quite enough. She remembered to Out magazine in 2015, “I went to a rehearsal in front of 300 extras, all of whom work in rodeos, and the horse wouldn’t do a damn thing I wanted it to. And at the end, it threw me — in front of everyone.”

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8. Diana Ossana wasn’t able to watch the film for a while

As the world knows, Heath Ledger died of an accidental sleeping pill overdose in 2008. Though it may have been a blow to the industry of moviemaking, it was of course a much bigger one to those who knew him. These included Diana Ossana, who told HuffPost in 2015 that she was left “stunned” by it.

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Ossana told HuffPost, “To be honest with you, I haven’t been able to watch the movie since he died. I’ve watched it probably 150 times before that. But since he passed away I haven’t been able to watch the film. And I’m destined to watch it again. I’m hoping that I can get through it.”

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7. A wildlife biologist was hired for the sheep

One unexpected problem on the Brokeback Mountain set was the sheep. There were lots of them and getting them from place to place proved difficult. The wildlife authorities wouldn’t allow the filmmakers to take their sheep into the mountains for fear that they would either be killed by predators or spread disease.

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The animal authorities eventually decided that the moviemakers could film with the sheep on the mountain if they followed some strict rules. They had to stick to one isolated mountain, they had to count and check the sheep every day, and they had to have a wildlife biologist to oversee everything. The movie crew agreed.

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6. Randy Quaid sued the filmmakers

Randy Quaid, who played the sheep farmer Ennis and Jack work for, ended up suing the Brokeback Mountain producers in 2006. His complaint was that the filmmakers had sold the film to him as a low-budget endeavor so as to convince him to take a smaller salary, when they actually stood to make millions.

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However, Quaid dropped the lawsuit shortly afterward. Later in 2006, a Focus Features spokesperson released the statement, “Focus Features never negotiated, offered or agreed to any settlement agreement with Mr. Quaid or his attorneys, but we are happy to put this behind us, and [we] do wish [him] all the best.”

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5. Many actors turned the movie down

Before Ang Lee became the director of Brokeback Mountain, Gus van Sant was tipped to helm the project. His plan was to get A-list actors on board. But, he told the website IndieWire in 2018, there were few takers. He said, “I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.”

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IndieWire emailed Diana Ossana for confirmation, and she told them, “Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons.” The lack of willing actors discouraged Van Sant. He told IndieWire, “What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.”

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4. Ian McKellen wasn’t happy with Jake Gyllenhaal

Ian McKellen doesn’t actually appear in Brokeback Mountain, but because he was an openly gay actor he was asked about it. And he appeared to take issue with something Gyllenhaal had said. McKellen declared, as reported by World Entertainment News Network, “I got very upset when one of the actors said it was the most terrifying job he’d ever had because it involved him kissing another man.”

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The veteran actor went on, “Imagine how rude that is. Suppose I’d said the most appalling thing I ever to do was kiss Helen Mirren!” In fact, McKellen seemed fairly ambivalent about Brokeback Mountain in general. Asked about it at another point in 2006, he said it probably wouldn’t do much to help gay actors.

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3. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams fell in love on the set

Ledger and Williams were playing husband and wife in the movie, and while filming they fell in love. In her 2015 interview with Out Diana Ossana remembered that at one point Williams had to go to the hospital for a twisted knee and, “Heath was not about to let her go alone, and as he was getting into the vehicle with her he was smoothing her hair back.”

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Ossana went on, “I remember him looking at her, and she looks up at him with these wide eyes. She was almost startled by the attention he was giving her, but you could see it every day from thereon. For him, it was truly love at first sight. He was so taken with her.” Ledger and Williams went on to have a daughter together, but they split up in 2007.

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2. Ledger refused to make jokes about the movie

Heath Ledger wasn’t up for jokes about Brokeback Mountain’s gay love story. In a 2019 interview with Today Jake Gyllenhaal explained, “He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love.’ Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.”

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In fact, Ledger even refused to present the 2007 Oscars because he thought homophobic jokes might be involved. In 2020 Gyllenhaal revealed to Another Man magazine, “I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it. And Heath refused.”

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1. The movie inspired some to come out

Brokeback Mountain was a big moment for many people. In 2018 the Focus Features website posted an interview with writer and journalist Dave Cullen, who said, “Watching Brokeback Mountain, I was thinking, ‘This is us too. This is me.’ I was just as deprived because I was just as scared as Jack and Ennis.”

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And members of the Brokeback Mountain production team were also inspired. In her 2015 interview with HuffPost, Ossana revealed that two crew members came up to her just a week after filming started and let her know that they, too, were gay. For them, it was a very powerful movie to be part of.

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