When Heath Ledger finished reading the script for Brokeback Mountain – a film about a love affair between two American cowboys – he thought of his friend Adam Sutton, and told him, ‘I’ve just read this script and it sounds a lot like you.’
He was right: Adam’s own life was reflected in many of the film’s themes. Brokeback Mountain went on to establish itself as a cultural landmark and its impact was felt far beyond the cinema: it was a human story, not a gay story, and audiences of every type responded around the world. Similarly, when Adam Sutton’s story appeared on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, the response was immediate and extraordinary. ‘Meet Heath’s mate, the real gay cowboy,’ the headline ran, and thousands did – setting a sales record for the paper, and prompting the TV program Australian Story to devote an episode to Adam’s story.
By nature Adam is a masculine daredevil who survives on the strength of his boisterous character. He is ‘the crazy bastard’ – the maddest, bravest bloke in the room – who has faced tragedy, a prison stint, and five long years on the road, but who could not face himself. His extraordinary and unlikely journey from the world of cowboys, rodeos and stereotypes, to Hollywood and, finally, to self-acceptance, is a powerful reminder that sometimes truth is even stranger than Hollywood fiction.
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