Jake Gyllenhaal has Ewan McGregor to thank for the former’s friendship with Heath Ledger.

It would be easy to assume Gyllenhaal and Ledger first met on the set of “Brokeback Mountain”, but the two actors actually met before that.

Both stars were on the shortlist for the leading male role in “Moulin Rouge!” and only met after McGregor was cast. “I was auditioning for ‘Moulin Rouge!’— [director] Baz Luhrmann had chosen three actors,” said Gyllenhaal in GQ Australia‘s February cover issue.

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“It was Ewan, it was Heath, and me… And we auditioned with many different actresses, it was a long process. But I never met Heath, I only heard about him,” the “Southpaw” star continued. Gyllenhaal “finally met Heath and we sort of became friends before ‘Brokeback Mountain’ based on our mutual frustration.”

But the two never forgot about that “Moulin Rouge!” role. “I remember, a few months later, Heath called me and he was like, ‘Hey mate, I got some news for you’. I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Baz just offered me his next movie. I just wanted you to know, I f**king turned it down!'” recalled Gyllenhaal.

“So that was how much Heath loved me, you know,” he explained. “That was how I met him.”

Gyllenhaal, 37, also talked about his “Stronger” role as Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman. “It pushed me more than I’ve ever been pushed,” said the Oscar-nominee. “I pushed myself as a result. Sometimes I took it probably too far, admittedly. I mean, it has consumed me for two-and-a-half years.”

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The actor has since forged a friendship with Bauman, and the two talk “almost every day.”

“I don’t think that I would have been able to survive what he survived,” admitted Gyllenhaal. “And to find the sense of humour that he has. It just taught me more than any other film I’ve ever made. When you get to spend time with someone like that, it’s more than a lesson, it’s life-changing. Getting it right and portraying him, it still stresses me out, but I love him so much.”

The new issue of GQ Australia hits newsstands Jan. 15.

Michelle Monaghan
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