Jack seized [Ennis’s] left hand and brought it to his erect cock. Ennis -¦ got to his knees, unbuckled his belt, shoved his pants down, hauled Jack onto all fours, and, with the help of the clear slick and a little spit, entered him, nothing he’d done before but no instruction manual needed. They went at it in silence except for a few sharp intakes of breath and Jack’s choked Gun’s goin’ off, then out, down and asleep.

The book this passage was taken from, Brokeback Mountain, is currently being turned into a major Hollywood film, and two big-name actors are reportedly in negotiations to take the lead roles. Industry insiders say Heath Ledger is set to star as Ennis, and Donnie Darko actor Jake Gyllenhaal will play the character of Jack. If all goes to plan and this sex scene actually makes it into cinemas, it will be the first time gay sex has actually made it into a mainstream Hollywood movie.

Brokeback Mountain, originally a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx, is the tale of two teenage boys who fall in love while herding sheep in the mountains of Wyoming in the 1960s. As the inside of the book’s dust-jacket says, they are two drop-out country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, tough spoken, and were glad to find each other’s company where none was expected. The story follows their secret love affair which spans 20 years, during which time they both marry women and have children. And as you’ve just read, the sex scenes in the book are gritty and realistic, taking place in tents and on staircases.

If what we are hearing about this film is true, this is a significant and groundbreaking step for Hollywood in terms of mainstream movies, said Nick Adams, entertainment and media manager at US gay rights group GLAAD. I think mainstream America is ready for it.

This film will be the first to focus on the physical nature of our relationships.

Proulx, probably best known for writing The Shipping News, first published Brokeback Mountain in the New Yorker magazine in 1997, and it quickly won the attention of scriptwriters. However, several attempts to get the film off the ground failed (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were even poised to play the gay cowboys at one stage). The story’s controversial subject matter led many to believe it was a movie that could never be made.

But now director Ang Lee, the man behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ice Storm, and The Hulk, is on board, production is moving full steam ahead. Filming is expected to begin by mid-2004.

And it seems Gyllenhaal and Ledger (who once played a gay character in the Australian TV show Sweat) aren’t the only young actors keen to play gay in it. According to US entertainment mag Variety, Hollywood A-listers Colin Farrell, Josh Hartnett and Billy Crudup were all keen to be considered for the roles too.

So does this mean Hollywood’s leading men are no longer afraid to take on gay roles? James Schamus, who will produce Brokeback Mountain, told Salon.com that while he couldn’t comment too much on the casting process, It’s been remarkably hassle-free -“ no one has raised even an eyebrow and people across the board are responding in a really passionate way to the story and the characters.

Hollywood producer Scott Rudin -“ who planned to make the Affleck-Damon version of Brokeback Mountain in the late 1990s with Gus Van Sant directing, but now has no connection to the movie -“ agreed. You’ve got a great filmmaker and parts for two movie stars. I can’t imagine why any actor would not want to play one of those roles, he said. Anyone who gets in that movie is lucky to be there. It’s an absolutely beautiful script. Who would want to turn that down?

But not everyone in Hollywood is confident the cowboy-on-cowboy sex scenes will see the light of day. One Hollywood executive, who spoke to Salon.com on the condition of anonymity, said, Realistically, let’s talk about the giggle factor. I mean, it is a story about gay cowboys! That is the most daring thing you can do. If Ledger and Gyllenhaal do sign up, he said, it’s worth noting that they will both run less of a risk of being taken for gay than many of their colleagues -“ Gyllenhaal dates Spider-Man co-star Kirsten Dunst, while Ledger is with fellow Aussie thesp Naomi Watts.

Other industry insiders say they’ll be surprised if this movie isn’t totally de-gayed like most Hollywood films. They point out that A Beautiful Mind, for example, completely glossed over John Nash’s reported homosexual relationships. Even Philadelphia, a blockbuster hailed as Hollywood’s first gay love story, showed little sign that Tom Hanks had ever met, much less made love to, his partner played by Antonio Banderas.

But maybe things really are about to change in Hollywood. Apart from Brokeback Mountain, the upcoming Alexander The Great biopic by Oliver Stone will allegedly look at the sexual relationship between the conqueror (played by Colin Farrell) and his best friend and general Hephaestion (Fight Club spunk Jared Leto). And now, according to IMDB.com, Alec Baldwin will reportedly be doing a full-blown love scene with a guy on film when he plays Halston, the costume designer to Liza Minnelli.

As one Hollywood producer told Salon.com, Gay is the new black. Straight audiences can’t seem to get enough of gay-themed TV shows like Will & Grace and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy -“ something which would have been unthinkable two or three years ago.

Whether the powers-that-be in Hollywood think the world is ready to watch two guys having sex remains to be seen. Hopefully we won’t have too long to find out.

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