Mike Faist already has years of theater acting under his belt (including roles in stage productions of “Newsies” and “Dear Evan Hansen”), although cinephiles probably know him best for his standout turn as Riff in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” Meanwhile, Lucas Hedges landed his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for “Manchester by the Sea” and has played queer characters on multiple occasions, including in the movies “Lady Bird” and “Boy Erased.” The actor has previously described himself as “not totally straight,” although he clarified during a 2018 interview with Advocate that he sees himself more “as falling within the umbrella of being an ally.” With that being said, Hedges also admitted he’s found his personal sense of sexuality “a fluid experience.”
In some ways, Faist and Hedges are in the same place career-wise as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were when they played Jack and Ennis in Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.” In that case, Gyllenhaal was the arthouse wunderkind, coming off roles in films like “Donnie Darko” and “The Good Girl” before making the jump to the blockbuster arena with “The Day After Tomorrow” the year before “Brokeback.” Ledger, by comparison, had made his name as the teen heartthrob star of “10 Things I Hate About You” and “A Knight’s Tale.” However, the late actor transitioned pretty effortlessly into a character actor after that, starring in movies like “Monster’s Ball” and “Lords of Dogtown.”
Personally, I have mixed feelings about “Brokeback Mountain” being re-adapted in 2023. As poetic and poignant as Lee’s film and Annie Proulx’s source material are, it’s near-impossible to separate them from the cultural context in which they came to be. Still, there’s a lot of strong talent involved with the stage re-imagining, which is worth something.