It's been eight years since members of the Hollywood community were left stunned by the sudden death of Heath Ledger, and no one remembers it better than Ledger's Brokeback Mountain co-star and close friend Jake Gyllenhaal. In a candid and emotional new interview with People, Gyllenhaal revealed he still struggles to talk about the tragedy to this day. When asked by Jess Cagle how it affected him, he answered:
"Oh, I don't know if I can answer that in one answer. Personally, it affected me in ways I can't necessarily put into words or even would want to talk about publicly. In terms of professionally, I think I was at an age where mortality was not always clear to me."
The now 35-year-old actor was just 27 when Ledger's life was taken by accidental prescription drug intoxication and having not lost any close friends before, the actuality of death seemed to dawn on Gyllenhaal for the first time. He continued:
"I think you live in this bubble, too, of making films... There are real friends, and there is a real community. There is also that Macklemore new album where he says, 'The curtain closes and nobody notices' and I do think that's true, and I think that's okay."
Gyllenhaal has been acting since the age of 11, meaning he doesn't have a great deal of experience living outside of the film industry, and this only made the ordeal more of a learning curve. He finished by saying:
"But I think at the time, I assumed everyone would notice – and they did with Heath dying, but I think it gave me the experience of, 'This is fleeting.' And none of the attention or synthesized love that comes from the success of a film really matters at all. What matters is the relationships you make when you make a film, and the people you learn from when you're preparing for a film. That changed a lot for me."
It's unsurprising that Ledger's death had such a significant impact on both Gyllenhaal's professional and private life, as the production of Brokeback Mountain resulted in some pretty intense relationships. Earlier in the interview he mentions that although making the film was a sad and lonely experience, a "beautiful love" grew between Ledger and co-star Michelle Williams, who became parents to a daughter, Matilda, shortly after the film was released.
Gyllenhaal's honesty is a refreshing reminder of what really matters, aside from all of the glitz and the glamour that enshrouds the Hollywood film industry. The curtain may have closed on Ledger's short but incredibly successful cinematic career but we did notice and his legacy lives on.
Watch the full clip below: