E. Annie Proulx's short story “Brokeback Mountain” was originally published in the October 13, 1997, issue of The New Yorker. A prologue was added to the tale when it was included in Proulx's collection of short stories, Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Proulx won a Pulitzer for her 1994 novel, The Shipping News.
“'Brokeback Mountain' was/is one of a number of stories examining rural Western social situations. I was trained as an historian (French Annales school), and most of my writing is focused on rural North American hinterlands. The story was not 'inspired,' but the result of years of subliminal observation and thought, eventually brought to the point of writing.” E. Annie Proulx, interviewed by Matthew Testa for Planet Jackson Hole.
Long before Brokeback Mountain, there was Song of the Loon. Directed by Andrew Herbert, and with a cast of unknowns (including John Iverson, Morgan Royce, Lancer Ward, Jon Evans, and Brad Fredericks), this no-budget 1970 film also revolves around a male homosexual romance set in the American West. Richard Amory (a nom de plume, as per the Arsenal Pulp Press) wrote the screenplay, based on his own 1966 novel.
As per the IMDb, Andrew Herbert worked as a sound editor in several films of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and as a film editor in the first half of the '70s. (Among his credits is the 1975 dramatic comedy Mr. Sycamore, starring Jason Robards, Sandy Dennis, and Jean Simmons.)
During its first weekend of release in five North American theaters, Brokeback Mountain earned US$109,485 per screen. According to Box-Office Mojo, only 9 other films (all animated) had higher per-screen grosses since such tracking began in 1982. Adjusting for inflation, Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Evita (1996) had higher per-screen averages, though they were playing in only two theaters. (The fewer the number of theaters, the easier it is for a film to achieve higher per-screen figures.)
"For me, Brokeback isn't rebellious at all. It's a very ordinary movie. People call it groundbreaking or what not. It puts a lot of pressure on me. But I didn't feel this way when I was making the movie. This is the way gays are. It's just that they have been distorted. When two people are in love and are scared, that's the way they are.” Director Ang Lee, quoted in the Associated Press. In the article, Lee expresses his disappointment that Brokeback Mountain failed to win the Academy Award for best picture.
According to a Taiwan News editorial, when Ang Lee won the best director Academy Award, the People's Republic of China's media made no mention of the fact that he was born in Taiwan. The director was described as “Chinese” or “Chinese-American.” The editorial added that Mainland China's media “refused to report or dubbed out the director's expression of gratitude of 'Thank you, Taiwan!' to his homeland upon receiving his Oscar.”
“We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash – excuse me – Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.” Author E. Annie Proulx in “Blood on the Red Carpet” for The Guardian.
“What you didn't see [at the Academy Awards]: Backstage workers gasp as Crash wins over favorite Brokeback Mountain. When presenter Jack Nicholson is asked if he is surprised by the win, he says, 'I didn't expect it because you heard so much about Brokeback,' before confiding, 'and that's who I voted for.'” “The Academy Awards show you never saw” in USA Today.
The GLBT Community Center of Utah asked for a boycott of the holdings of Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, whose Jordan Commons Megaplex pulled out Brokeback Mountain right before the film was to open.
Among the films deemed morally acceptable by the Jordan Megaplex powers-that-be were the gory horror movie Hostel, the raunchy (hetero) sex comedy Grandma Boy, and even Thomas Bezucha's very pro-gay The Family Stone, which probably passed the megaplex's censorship board because it has no homosex scenes in it.
The Utah Film Critics Society was one of the many US-based critics' groups that picked Brokeback Mountain as the best film of 2005.
Despite fierce opposition from Christian churches, Brokeback Mountain opened at one movie theater in Jamaica in late February 2006. The picture was given an adult 21 rating.
Brokeback Mountain was banned in the People's Republic of China. In Taiwan, however, the film became a hit, earning more than US$1 million (by early March 2006) as per Taiwan News.
“'Brokeback Mountain is a film which has nothing positive about it,'” said Dr Abdullah al-Amiri, a prominent member of parliament in Sharjah emirate [in the United Arab Emirates]. 'The portrayal of the sexual behaviour of its main character [sic] is offensive to eastern societies, particularly Muslims and the Arabs, since Islam forbids abnormal behaviours like homosexuality … The film will upset the people of this culture and tradition.'
“In Saudi Arabia the question of showing Brokeback simply doesn't arise: the ultra-conservative kingdom sidesteps the problem of censoring films by not permitting cinemas. Lebanon, the most easy-going of the Arab countries, might possibly allow it, but so far no Lebanese film distributor has plucked up the courage to give it a try.” Brian Whitaker in “Brokeback desert” for the [London] Guardian.
According to a Apr. 8, 2006, Reuters report, “a Massachusetts correctional officer is being disciplined for showing the gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain to inmates at the state's largest prison because his boss determined that the film includes content inappropriate for a prison setting.”
Who Killed Jack Twist?
Possibly no one. The phone scene between Ennis and Lureen is edited so that we see Jack Twist being beaten to death through Ennis' twisted imagination.
That said, Ang Lee directed Anne Hathaway in such a way that Lureen seems to be lying. One could see Lee's touch as one of welcome ambiguity or as a contrived way of showing that Ennis may well have been right all along – a relatively open gay man is a dead man.
Some people have wondered if Lureen's father ordered Jack killed. That seems highly unlikely, as it is implied in the film that her father has died – that's why she becomes the head of the family business. In E. Annie Proulx's short story, it is stated that Lureen's father dies.
Ennis' (barely audible) last words are: “Jack, I swear. . .”
Brokeback Mountain opera
June 2008 addendum: Variety reports that the New York City Opera has commissioned Charles Wuorinen to compose an opera based on Annie Proulx's short story “Brokeback Mountain,” the source of Ang Lee's acclaimed 2005 film.
“Ever since encountering Annie Proulx's extraordinary story I have wanted to make an opera on it,” Wuorinen was quoted as saying. The composer had previously been commissioned by the New York City Opera for the 2004 production of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which was based on Salman Rushdie's novel.
The Brokeback Mountain opera is scheduled to premiere in the 2013 spring season.