This week, the UK's Independent newspaper did a fascinating feature on the most significant kisses of the movies. These screen kisses are significant for a whole range of reasons - because they show that first, much longed for kiss (The Empire Strikes Back); because of their location and setting (From Here to Eternity); because it is excruciating to watch (Entrapment); because it took place at the moment of death (Godfather 2); because it's aggressive (Gone With the Wind); because a character really needed it (In Search of a Midnight Kiss). Or because the kiss is forbidden - and this kiss is first on the list and it comes from Brokeback Mountain.
'The kiss that has been topping recent polls as the best screen smacker of all time is the second big encounter in the film, when Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) arrives at the home of Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) some time after their first fumble in a tent on an isolated Wyoming mountain. Ennis thinks he's being clever by pushing Jack around so that they can end up in a spot that's out of sight of his wife Alma (Michelle Williams) and they lock tongues, arms and legs as if their lives depended on it. Unfortunately, Alma can still see them out of the window. This forbidden kiss has the extra spice of breaking two rules – it is both a gay kiss, and an extramarital one.'
Both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger spent an inordinate amount of time during the promotion of Brokeback discussing what it was like to kiss one another. The Independent had earlier resisted the urge to ask itself, although clearly tempted: 'The kissing-Heath-Ledger question, then, feels a bit trite. (For posterity, it was "exfoliating" [Empire], it "hurt" (New York Times) and, says Ledger, was "just like kissing a person" [Entertainment Weekly].)'
Heath told the BBC: 'Well I don't have an image, and I didn't then. But it was a very difficult decision because it scared the hell out of me. And I didn't want to kiss Jake Gyllenhaal, you know? [Laughs].' Producer James Schamus said: 'Everybody says (Heath Ledger)'s so brave to take this role. To me, there are worse jobs than kissing Jake Gyllenhaal.' I do agree - in fact I think every job is a worse job - but James didn't actually have to do it himself. Heath also honestly admitted: '“I didn’t really want to kiss Jake [Gyllenhaal],” the “Brokeback Mountain” star told Hotdog mag. “Not only that, but it was hard looking him in the eyes and telling him I loved him. To show love in the eyes for another man is something I’ve never done. Everything was new about it — so quite obviously there was fear about it.”'
Heath joked to TotalFilm: 'It was definitely tough – it took a lot of courage and once I got home I felt slightly violated! I think going in to the film, Jake and I had a lot of respect for one another just for making this choice but we also understood that we had a responsibility to tell the story. To act out the scenes, I guess you have to suspend reality and harness the power of belief in the performance, you know? We’d convinced ourselves of the story and the love between these guys and between the words “action” and “cut” we didn’t think about the fact that it was Heath kissing Jake. If we had, we probably wouldn’t have been able to complete the scene. We really had to believe in our environment. It was tough subject matter for sure but just be conquering it and doing justice to the story. We all felt very proud.'
Jake was more taken aback by how rough it was: 'Heath almost broke my nose in (a kissing) scene. He grabs me and he slams me up against the wall and kisses me. And then I grab him and I slam him up against the wall and I kiss him. And we were doing take after take after take. I got the shit beat out of me. We had other scenes where we fought each other and I wasn't hurting as badly as I did after that one.'
Ang Lee seems not to have had too much sympathy form his stars' unease at smooching. He told the BBC: 'Yeah [laughs]. I encouraged them to do a passionate kiss and I encouraged them [saying that] you could never kiss a woman that hard so give me the most heroic western kiss and they went about it and almost broke each other's noses. At the time we were easy enough [together] to crack jokes. Usually I don't rehearse those scenes - technically I will rehearse it, but how they [the actors] go about it, I just expect them to deliver.' Jake said: 'We were talking about the kissing in the movie just recently. Clearly, it's pretty challenging material, but Ang said two men herding sheep was far more sexual than two men having sex on screen.'
The Brokeback kiss has become a landmark in cinema and, of course, in 2006, Jake collected the MTV award for Best Kiss from a very excitable Justin Timberlake. Jake said: 'This is a real honor, not just for me and Heath but for all of you, that you picked this movie and this kiss over all the other one. If we didn't win this award, it wasn't worth it. Now it was worth it.' And, in early 2007, the kiss was voted as the top movie kiss of all time by LOVEFiLM.
Although the Brokeback kiss is quite possibly the most famous kiss of Jake's career, there have been others. Jake once told W magazine that his best screen kiss came from Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl and, having seen the obvious chemistry between Jake and Jen on more than one occasion, this comes as no surprise. When Jake presented Jen with her GLAAD Vanguard award, he said 'Everybody falls in love with Jennifer, and I have to say, it’s always her fault.' If you can watch the video below, you can relive that fabulous moment when Jake said 'smooooch'.
There's a funny account of how Jake and Jen approached the love scene of The Good Girl: Jennifer 'did find solace in Jake’s own approach to the moment, as she told the magazine that “Jake was as nervous as I was. Finally you just go for it. I couldn’t ask for a better, sweeter person to be devirginized on film with.” For his part, Jake discussed his experience working on the scene: “We had been making out for weeks in other scenes, and this was just some more hip grinding; some more kissing. Jennifer turned to me at one point and said, ‘That wasn’t so hard. I’ve faked it before.’” Throughout the production, he developed something of a protective stance toward his leading lady; he says that at one point, “I remember we were in bed one day, and Miguel Arteta screamed, ‘Stop joking around.’ And I thought, ‘This is Jennifer Aniston, motherf***er. You don’t yell at her.’”'
An earlier of Jake's leading ladies, Emmy Rossum, rather famously won her role in The Day After Tomorrow by going for a full-out snog with Jake during her audition - an approach that is praiseworthy and one that Jake seemed to have appreciated: As Emmy said, she had to kiss Jake so she might as well get on with it. 'It had to be. There was no choice for me. It was gonna be there. It also wasn't difficult. He's terribly attractive. So it wasn't like the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my whole life but, at the same time, I think the heat had to be there. Somebody had to melt the ice! (laughter).'
'I definitely auditioned. I went in and sat on the bench next to all the other girls that were auditioning. I wasn't given any kind of special treatment by any means. I got a meeting with Roland and Mark, went in and read for them, got a screen test with Jake, went in and I did that. I knew that that screen test was the moment when I had to prove myself. That's when you've gotta show it. You've gotta bring it. I think that anybody can run through water but not necessarily anybody can run through water while bringing the heart and emotion to the character.'
Another account of the lovely and demonstrative Emmy revealed: 'This 19-year-old is no wallflower. When she met hunky star Jake Gyllenhaal one morning a few years ago, Rossum pulled a move worthy of the Phantom. "I went over to him and said, 'Look, I know it's 9 a.m., but is it OK if I kiss you?' " Rossum recalls. When he consented ("He said, 'It's never too early!' "), she obliged. "I knew if I didn't do it, it would seem like I was scared. And I wanted to kiss him. He's very, very cute." Of course, that was right before her audition for the pair's 2004 action flick, "The Day After Tomorrow." And yes, she got the part. ("Because I kissed him!" she says.)'
I could go on and on, about these and more kisses, but I can't stop without mentioning the one leading lady who was reduced to tears by her Jake kisses. I think you know who I mean... For those who have never watched Proof, this video just features the Jake bits.
Some other Jake kisses:
Includes pictures from IHJ.