By Victoria Lindrea
BBC News entertainment reporter in Venice
Director Ang Lee, joined by stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, has talked about his new movie Brokeback Mountain ahead of its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Friday.
Ang Lee's last film was comic-book blockbuster The Hulk
Based on a short story by The Shipping News author E Annie Proulx, it is the tender story of the forbidden love that develops between two male cowboys who meet on a Wyoming ranch in 1963.
Hidden from a society that will not accept it, their relationship grows and deepens over 20 years in a film that is sure to raise eyebrows in the country where it is set.
"There has never been a homosexual cowboy movie," producer James Schamus said.
"We are using the codes and conventions of romance that have always applied to straight people very unapologetically. We don't care if anyone is upset about it."
Lee, however, insisted the gender of his protagonists is immaterial.
"When it comes to love, there is no difference for me between the love I have for my wife and the love a man has for another man."
A low-budget independent production that was filmed in Canada to save money, Brokeback Mountain is a world away from Lee's last feature, comic-book blockbuster The Hulk.
But while the rural America of the 1960s may seem alien territory for the Taiwan-born director, Lee believes that "sometimes you see the subtext more clearly as a foreigner".
Ledger (l) and Gyllenhaal together have four films at Venice
"What was difficult was pulling down people's preconceptions of the American West, preconceptions that were created by movies," he said.
"I just wanted to make a love story. What's important is that the material touches me at a gut level and I connect with it."
The material also touched a chord with Gyllenhaal and Ledger, who between them have four films screening at this year's festival.
"I've read a lot of books and seen a lot of films about love but they often seem to be recycling themselves," said Ledger.
"I found this to be refreshing - a beautiful representation of love."
"With Ang as director, I knew the theme of sexuality would be secondary to the primary theme of love," said co-star Gyllenhaal.
"To me that's what is lacking in most love stories I've seen," he said, adding that Brokeback Mountain confronts "a real idea of love, not just a cliché".
In Brokeback Mountain the actors play ranch-hands in '60s Wyoming
The actors share on-screen sex scenes that are depicted with a refreshing frankness - though it has been suggested some of their more explicit moments did not make it into the final cut.
At Thursday's press conference Lee paid tribute to Proulx's "epic short story - a story that moved all of us".
"The difficulties of their circumstances make it more romantic," he said.
"We all have that urge to be romantic. I hope this love story can penetrate whatever differences of opinion people have."