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Jake Gyllenhaal opens up about how death of Heath Ledger affected him

The two actors made a strong connection while filming "Brokeback Mountain," one that still resonates years later.
/ Source: TODAY

Heath Ledger's death in 2008 stunned fans, friends and family alike. And the loss of the 28-year-old actor resonated heavily with his "Brokeback Mountain" co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal, who says he has a hard time articulating everything Ledger meant to him.

Jake Gyllenhaal at SXSW in Austin, Texas earlier this year.Getty Images

"Personally, it affected me in ways I can't necessarily put in words or would want to talk about publicly," the 35-year-old told People magazine. "In terms of professionally, I think I was at an age where mortality was not always clear to me."

Gyllenhaal was 27 when Ledger died from accidental prescription drug intoxication.

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"I think you live in this bubble, too, of making films ... There are real friends, and there is a real community," he said. "There is also that [new Macklemore song] where he says, 'The curtain closes and nobody notices' ... I think that's true, and I think that's OK."

In addition to appearing in the film together, the pair often promoted "Brokeback" jointly and had a memorable shared appearance at the 2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards, laughing through the stilted description of the film they had to give.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger at the SAG Awards in 2006.Getty Images

"I think [Ledger's death gave me] the experience of, 'This is fleeting,'" Gyllenhaal added in the interview. "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."

Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain."Everett Collection

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This isn't the first time he's spoken about Ledger's absence; Gyllenhaal, who is the godfather of Ledger's daughter with Michelle Williams, Matilda, told the Los Angeles Times in 2012, "Heath was always full of massive charisma and great skill, and he really took his time to listen to himself and find that. And I have great admiration for that."

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