‘Brokeback Mountain’ almost starred Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, Gus Van Sant says

Although Ang Lee directed the 2005 film “Brokeback Mountain,” Gus Van Sant was among the directors initially approached for it — and Van Sant now recalls actors like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio turning down the roles.

“Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant told IndieWire. “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.”

Of course, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal ended up starring in the film that followed the secretive relationship of two cowboys. It ended up becoming one of the most financially and critically successful LGBTQ films of all time, winning three Oscars and being nominated for four more. It grossed $178 million worldwide.

Producers James Schamus and Diana Ossana (who also wrote the screenplay for the film) have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment, but Ossana told IndieWire that “yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons.”

Representatives for distributor Focus Features, and for Damon, Pitt, DiCaprio and Phillippe, have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

In retrospect, Van Sant says he probably should have “cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.”

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

“I think in that case in particular … I don’t think it would have panned out the way it did if I had directed it. I think it was great,” he said. “I like the film. I think the sentimentality and the ending of the film was something that probably wasn’t in the book in the same way. It maybe was in the book, but I think that he got something really great that I think is very… I’m not sure I would have ended up in the same place, so it probably wouldn’t have done as well.”

Van Sant’s latest film, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” is playing in theaters now. Pitt and DiCaprio, of course, starred in 2015’s “The Audition” together and will next co-star in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Van Sant directed Damon in “Good Will Hunting.”

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Actor Brad Pitt, wearing Gucci, attends the 2017 LACMA Art + Film Gala Honoring Mark Bradford and George Lucas presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: Brad Pitt attends Netflix hosts the New York Premiere of 'Okja' at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on June 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 23: Brad Pitt attends the premiere for 'War Machine' at Roppongi Hills on May 23, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 22: Brad Pitt attends the press conference for 'War Machine' at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo on May 22, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Actor Brad Pitt leaves the 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater on May 16, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Chief Content Officer for Netflix Ted Sarandos (L) and actor Brad Pitt attend a special screening of the Netflix original film 'War Machine' at The Metrograph on May 16, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Netflix)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 05: Brad Pitt arrives at the Premiere Of Amazon Studios' 'The Lost City Of Z' at ArcLight Hollywood on April 5, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: In this handout photo provided by NBCUniversal, presenter Brad Pitt onstage during the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)
Brad Pitt attends the 'Allied' premiere in Madrid on Nov 22, 2016 (Photo by Gabriel Maseda/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 14: Brad Pitt attends the red carpet for the Paramount Pictures title 'Allied' on November 14, 2016 at Shanghai Postal Museum in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures )
WESTWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Brad Pitt arrives at the Fan Event For Paramount Pictures' 'Allied' at Regency Village Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24: Brad Pitt is seen at LAX on July 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by starzfly/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Actor Brad Pitt is seen coming out of a hotel in Soho on July 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21: Brad Pitt is seen at LAX on June 21, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by starzfly/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 19: Brad Pitt seen in Manhattan on July 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Actor Brad Pitt attends the start of the 84th Le Mans 24-hours endurance race on June 18, 2016 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 09: Brad Pitt is seen at LAX on June 09, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by starzfly/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 31: Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt seen filming scenes for 'Five Seconds Of Silence in Hampstead on March 31, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/GC Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 26: Brad Pitt seen out in Tribeca on November 26, 2015 in New York, New York. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: Brad Pitt attends 'The Big Short' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on November 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Brad Pitt attends the 'Allied' premiere in Madrid on Nov 22, 2016 (Photo by Gabriel Maseda/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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