Brad Pitt and Leonardo Dicaprio turned down the chance to be in 'Brokeback Mountain'.

Gus Van Sant, who was due to direct the motion picture, which was eventually helmed by Ang Lee, has claimed the two Hollywood stars rejected the chance to be in the film - which broke barriers for casting heterosexual actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as two homosexual cowboys - as did Matt Damon and Ryan Phillippe.

He said: ''Nobody wanted to do it. I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast.

''That wasn't working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.''

Van Sant is still unsure why he departed the movie, but admitted his casting difficulties played a part.

He added to IndieWire: ''What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors.

''I was not ready. I'm not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.''

Diana Ossana, who produced the film and co-wrote the script with Larry McMurtry, has confirmed Pitt, DiCaprio, Damon and Phillippe all rejected the chance to star in the movie at the time.

She said: ''Yes, all those young gentlemen [at the time] turned down the project, for various reasons.''

Ossana also admitted Van Sant was ''passionate'' about the motion picture initially, and expressed interest ''about five days'' after she had sent out the script.

'Brokeback Mountain' went on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

But the film lost out in the Best Picture category to Sandra Bullock and Don Cheadle's 'Crash' in a surprise upset.