Charles Melton studied this steamy gay flick to prepare for May December

Todd Haynes’ new melodrama May December has been out for less than a week, and it’s already garnering audience excitement, awards buzz, and meme fame across the four corners of the Internet. It’s no surprise why: not only has Todd Haynes mined the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal to create a disturbing yet engrossing tale, the film stars breakout leading man Charles Melton, a certified hunk whose series regular turn in “Riverdale” had us all wanting more from the actor.

Melton perfectly fits the 1950s melodrama mold Haynes is going for, but not without bringing his own brand of subversion to the role. In several interviews, Melton has spoken about the iconic queer film he’s watched over and over again to prepare for the role of Joe, inspired by real-life teen Vili Fualaau.

That’s correct: it’s Brokeback Mountain. Ang Lee’s seminal 2000 film gave a generation of representation-starved gays a chance to fall in love with the heartbreaking story of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, the doomed cowboy lovers conjured up by Annie Proulx in a 1997 short story.

Not only has Melton called Brokeback one of his favorite movies, he cites Heath Ledger’s performance as Ennis del Mar as one of the defining inspirations for his portrayal of Joe. “He has this repression,” Melton told Vulture, “this internal grit that really inspires me.”

Brokeback Mountain‘s impact is over 20 years old at this point, and it’s still inspiring a new generation of actors to be their queerest, boldest, truest selves onscreen.

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