Babbler # 4795
posted 06 March 2006 03:53 AM
I've just read this script, Ledger later told his mate, Adam Sutton, and it sounds a lot like you. It was a film about a gay cowboy, and the actor was right; Sutton knew more than a bit about that.
As Hollywood's first grand gay love story, it is a tale that gives expression to the lives of men like Sutton, who find catharsis, redemption and reflection in its shadow.
"The movie put me at ease in a way," says Sutton, a knockabout horseman from the Hunter Valley who was on set for part of the filming. "And I hope it puts a lot of people at ease, and takes the burden off a lot of country people's shoulders - to know that they are not alone with that thought. It does happen. As tough as it is, it does happen."
He's talking about being a gay man, being in the bush and being alone - and not knowing what to do with any of it, an anguish Ledger captures in his painfully constricted performance.
Sutton cried watching it, as well he might. There was pain and anger on screen, aggression, and love embraced, then denied and nearly destroyed. He understands them all.
In his world - the world of cowboys and rodeos, of stereotypes scarred in the earth and not to be trampled on - you couldn't be gay, and if you were, there was punishment. It could take the form of violence, of the kind that claims a character in the film, or it could be crippling self-hatred and denial.
He would put everything but his heart at risk. He would dive into shark-infested waters to untangle a net in the middle of the night - but there's that kind of fear, and then there is real terror. He believed it was easier to hate himself than to be himself, and shut down that part of him for years. By nature he was a masculine, dare-devil journeyman, so he did what he had always done, surviving by the sheer force of his boisterous character. He was "the crazy bastard" - the maddest, bravest bloke in the room.
After a few years he returned to NSW, and recognised the one natural affinity he could build a life on: horses.
He started riding in rodeos - fearless again and with success, but continued personal denial. The rodeo world was horses, then girls. "You're meant to pull [women]. That's what you had to do." He did it, but it was hard work. "I was scared of letting anybody know me better. I hated myself. I never let anybody inside my little circle, to know me. That was my front. It was a fort."
It was a turning point, and another came the next year when a close friend came out; Sutton took a step in the same direction, going to a gay bar on the Central Coast.
The previous, and only, time he'd been in one - by accident years earlier, with some cowboy mates in Sydney - he had been at his worst. He remembers a man hitting on him. "I broke the bloke's fingers. I was aggressive. I was homophobic. When you're crying out to be like that, you find yourself [becoming homophobic] to cover yourself to your mates."
This time he was braver. He went to the bar and met a gay couple who became friends and mentors. His fort was crumbling.
"I just want to love someone and be loved back," he'd tell his new mates. "I've never done it."
Three years on, he has. He can marvel that he has come so far, and look at the cultural impact of Brokeback Mountain and marvel that the world has come this far, too. He's telling his story - coming out on a grand scale - because the time is right: the movie, the Oscars, the Ledger connection. People will notice now, and gay kids in the country might hear him. His family embraces him still; he has his old friends and many new ones.
"It takes courage and it takes strength and it takes that inner person to take hold and not worry what Tom or Harry down the road thinks. But it's hard, you're standing on your own island, singing your own song."
From: goodbye... :-( | Registered: Dec 2003
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