Jake Gyllenhaal says Heath Ledger hated 'Brokeback Mountain' gay jokes: 'He was like, "No. This is about love."'

t’s been 15 years since Jake Gyllenhaal filmed the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed same-sex love story Brokeback Mountain — and it holds a special place in his heart.

In an interview on Sunday Today with Willie Geist, the actor, 38. talked about how the movie, which paired him with Heath Ledger – with whom he bonded off-screen as well (and became the godfather of the late Ledger’s daughter with Michelle Williams) – “defined” his career and gave him new professional opportunities.

“It opened tons of doors,” said Gyllenhaal, who is currently on the big screen in Spider-Man Far From Home. “It was crazy.It was amazing. It's defined my career in different ways.”

There have been countless jokes about the film matter, which were insensitive then (though totally normal material on late-night TV and beyond) and seem even more so now. Gyllenhaal said that Ledger, who died in 2008, was especially protective of the story and the dialogue, which of course included the famous “I wish I knew how to quit you” line.

“I see people who have joked with me or criticized me about lines I say in that movie — and that's the thing I loved about Heath,” Gyllenhaal said. “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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Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams and daughter Matilda
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Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams and daughter Matilda
Actor Michelle Williams (L) dances on the red carpet with her fiance Heath Ledger (R), nominated as best actor for the film "Brokeback Mountain" at the 78th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California March 5, 2006. Williams is wearing a dress designed by Vera Wang and Ledger is wearing a Dunhill tuxedo. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE: ALSO SEE GM1E62O09V301
Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams at the "Vanity Fair" OscarS Party. (West Hollywood, CA)
Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger arrive on the red carpet. (Photo by Yui Mok - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Michelle Williams, nominee Best Actress in a Supporting Role for 'Brokeback Mountain' and Heath Ledger, nominee Best Actor in a Leading Role for 'Brokeback Mountain' (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Michelle Williams, nominee Best Female Lead for Land of Plenty, and Heath Ledger (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: (L-R) Matilda Ledger and Michelle Williams are seen on October 27, 2009 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 03: *** EXCLUSIVE*** Actor Heath Ledger with actress girlfriend Michelle Williams in Bondi Beach January 3, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. The pair were living in Australia and enjoyed a rare public display of their romance while overlooking cliffs in Bondi Beach, (Photo by Photonews International Inc./Getty Images)
BROOKLYN - MAY 23: (L-R) Michelle Williams and Matilda Ledger sighting on May 23, 2009 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: (L-R) Matilda Ledger and Michelle Williams are seen on October 27, 2009 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Actor Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams attend the Australian Premier of Brokeback mountain at the Cinema Paris on the 13 January 2006 in Sydney, Australia. The Australian actor was found dead on his hotel floor in New York on January 22, 2008. (Photo by Mike Flokis/Getty Images)
Michelle Williams and her fiance Australian actor Heath Ledger arrive at the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica March 4, 2006. Ledger is nominated for Best Male Lead and Williams is nominated for Best Supporting Female in the film "Brokeback Mountain". REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Actor Heath Ledger (L) speaks to actress Michelle Williams as they arrive at the 58th Annual Directors Guild Awards in Century City, California January 28, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Oscar nominated actor in a leading role Heath Ledger, for his role in "Brokeback Mountain", and his co-star and fiance Oscar nominated actress in a supporting role Michelle Williams, attend the 78th annual Academy Awards nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills February 13, 2006. The Academy Awards will be given out in Hollywood on March 5. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger during The 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for IFP)
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On the 10th anniversary of Brokeback’s release, Gyllenhaal told Out that Ledger hated that “I wish I knew how to quit you” — a pivotal and poignant moment in the film — was turned into a meme and that the film became known as “the gay cowboy movie” because it diminished the story.

“He was extraordinarily serious about the political issues surrounding the movie when it came out,” Gyllenhaal said. “A lot of times people would want to have fun and joke about it, and he was vehement about being serious, to the point where he didn’t really want to hear about anything that was being made fun of.”

Gyllenhaal, who was in his mid-20s at the time, told Geist that quickly after wrapping the “little movie we made that meant so much to us,” he realized that it was “bigger than me” and that it really “hit a certain nerve.” He realized it had become “not ours anymore. It was the world’s.”

He said to be “26 years old and at the Academy Awards,” where both he and Ledger were nominated for supporting and lead actor, respectively, was, “Whoa.”

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Jake Gyllenhaal in his early career years
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Jake Gyllenhaal in his early career years
NEW YORK CITY - NOVEMBER 8: Actor Jake Gyllenhaal attends the "Anywhere But Here" New York City Premiere on November 8, 1999 at the Union Square Theatre in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Jake Gyllenhaal during "A Midsummer Night Dream" Screening at Chelsea West Cinemas in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - 17th January 2000: Actors Selma Blair and Jake Gyllenhaal arrive at the New York premiere of the new Miramax romantic comedy 'Down To You'. (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Jake Gyllenhaal at the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Actor Jake Gyllenhaal attends the "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" Westwood Premiere on November 14, 2001 at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal (Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage)
LONDON - NOVEMBER 7: Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal kiss at the UK Premiere Party for "Sylvia" at Mezzo in Soho on November 7, 2003 in London. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 05: Jake Gyllenhaal, British Independent Film Awards 2003 At Po Na Na In Hammersmith, London, Where Established Stars As Well As Beginners Were Honoured By The Independent Film Industry (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage)
Jake Gyllenhaal during "Jarhead" Madrid Photocall at Santo Mauro Hotel in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Lalo Yasky/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - OCTOBER 16: Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal attend Americans For The Arts National Arts Awards To Honor Those Who Keep The Arts Alive In America at Cipriani on October 16, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Matt Carasella/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
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