In an interview with The Paris Review, Pulitzer-winning author Annie Proulx says she wishes she’d never written “Brokeback Mountain,” the story of two cowboys — Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar — navigating a secret romance in 1960s Wyoming.
Proulx wrote the 1997 short story, which was adapted in 2005 into the Oscar-winning (Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score) film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
I wish I’d never written the story. It’s just been the cause of hassle and problems and irritation since the film came out. Before the film it was all right.
[T]he problem has come since the film. So many people have completely misunderstood the story. I think it’s important to leave spaces in a story for readers to fill in from their own experience, but unfortunately the audience that “Brokeback” reached most strongly have powerful fantasy lives. And one of the reasons we keep the gates locked here is that a lot of men have decided that the story should have had a happy ending. They can’t bear the way it ends — they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed. And it just drives me wild.
They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many of these things have been sent to me as though they’re expecting me to say, Oh great, if only I’d had the sense to write it that way. And they all begin the same way — I’m not gay, but … The implication is that because they’re men they understand much better than I how these people would have behaved. And maybe they do. But that’s not the story I wrote. Those are not their characters. The characters belong to me by law.