Jake Gyllenhaal has played down praise he is receiving for his portrayal of a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, because it takes far more courage to be gay in the real world.

The 24-year-old actor, who stars opposite Heath Ledger in director Ang Lee's western, insists audiences are more open to homosexual themes than they're given credit for.

He says, "What I think is really more courageous is people who are trying to be more intimate in their real life who are up against real things.

"Intimacy is an incredibly hard thing for all of us no matter what the political things going on around it are.

"For everybody loving somebody and being close to somebody is filled with just as much anger and resentment and jealousy as much as there is love and happiness when we're playing characters.

"I think it's a time where more people are open to this than it might seem. This is an interesting idea and I think audiences want to see that."