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Pitt, DiCaprio refused Brokeback Mountain

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Gus Van Sant attends the LA Premiere of "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" at ArcLight Hollywood, Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Director Gus Van Sant has revealed in an interview that both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio passed on Brokeback Mountain, the gay love story that snagged eight Academy Award nominations in 2006 -- the most of any film that year.

Van Sant, who was approached to direct the film that was ultimately helmed by Ang Lee, recalled the lack of interest from actors in portraying the roles that earned Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger widespread acclaim and accolades.

"Nobody wanted to do it," Van Sant said.

"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."

Diana Ossana, who produced the film with James Schamus for Focus Features, confirmed Van Sant's casting revelations in an email.

"Yes, all those young gentlemen (at the time) turned down the project, for various reasons," she wrote. Ossana also adapted the script with Larry McMurtry from a short story by Annie Proulx.

Of the two leading men, Ledger's role was the more difficult to fill, according to Ossana.

"Casting Ennis in particular was the ultimate hurdle," she said.

Looking back on the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the film's casting process at the time, Van Sant said, "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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