Elizabeth Entenman
Updated Apr 06, 2016 @ 5:00 pm
Credit: Focus Features

It’s been over eight years since Heath Ledger tragically passed away, but his legacy and his memory still live on with his friends and co-stars. In the most recent edition of The Jess Cagle Interview, Jake Gyllenhaal opened up about the impact Ledger, whose birthday was on the 4th of April, had on not only his personal life, but on his professional acting career as well.

“Personally, it affected me in ways I can’t necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly,” Gyllenhaal told Jess Cagle of his Brokeback Mountain co-star’s passing. “In terms of professionally, I think I was at an age where mortality was not always clear to me.” Gyllenhaal was just 27 when Ledger died, and had never lost a close friend before.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29: Actor Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger speak onstage during the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
| Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Winter

The actor said that he considered Ledger a true friend. The two experienced some huge life moments while working together: Ledger fell in love with their co-star Michelle Williams, and both men received their first Oscar nominations for Brokeback Mountain. Gyllenhaal recalls learning the tough lesson that life is fragile, and things can change in an instant.

“There is also that [new Macklemore song ‘Light Tunnels’] where he says, ‘The curtain closes and nobody notices’ … I think that’s true, and I think that’s okay,” Gyllenhaal continued.

“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.”