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Jake Gyllenhaal leaped to fame in 2001’s Donnie Darko and solidified his reputation through contemporary classics such as Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac.
Since the misfire of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, he’s gotten acclaim for playing a sociopathic video paparazzi in last year’s Nightcrawler and a boxer returning to the ring in Southpaw.
What part of filming Demolition was the most fun?
Climbing up the wall of the house, peeling it back and tearing it off with my own body weight. People who do that either get arrested or paid for it. It was nice to get paid.
What was the most challenging aspect of your role?
Playing a character where, for the first three-quarters of the movie, apathy is his main feeling. Pulling back from the idea that emoting is what acting’s about.
You play a banker. Is Hollywood fair to money men?
Someone said, “My friend works in the financial district and wonders why Hollywood makes everybody super f—ed up in the financial world.” I said, “If your main currency is finance and capitalism, you deserve to get a little shit.”
You play the only American in the inner circle of the Colombian cartels in the upcoming The Man Who Made It Snow. What’s the appeal?
It’s about this Jewish kid, Max Mermelstein, who falls in love with this Colombian woman and, by proxy, ends up helping create the Colombian cartel in America. He probably had a tremendous amount of regrets for having done that. It’s a guy who got himself into a situation, unknowingly, [though] I don’t think anybody gets themselves into anything unknowingly.
Didn’t Sean Penn do that when he met with El Chapo?
Sean is conscientious. He’s political, he’s provocative, he’s fascinating. It’s why we love him. It’s why he’s an extraordinary actor and an extraordinary human. He’s complicated, and he got himself involved in a complicated situation. But it’s that type of courage that allows us to love the performances and the person. On a human level, it’s pretty incredible. At the same time, I looked at the media [coverage] and went, “Whoa.”
What do you think of the coverage of Donald Trump?
Sometimes, I find myself seeing certain candidates like Trump where I say, “Oh, it excites the preadolescent in me,” which is prevalent, many times. But I want a leader who is an adult.
You were going to make a movie about Lance Armstrong. What happened?
There was discussion of doing that, but I was actually just friends with Lance Armstrong, and there was never really a movie. A little bit of a discussion, maybe, but ultimately just a friendship.
Do you like to watch yourself onscreen?
I got great advice years ago: See a movie that you’re in twice. The first time, you’re watching the idiosyncrasies that you dislike about yourself — and I have many of those. At the same time, I’m always more concerned about the story than what I’m doing, which has been good and bad for me.
What do you like best about Hollywood?
Hollywood is full of massive contradictions. It’s cutthroat in a lot of ways. But there is a real community, and there are a lot of kind people who are very sensitive. I like sensitive people. And hard work, like in every business, is always rewarded.
What do you dislike the most?
How little credit the crew gets. And I’m not a big fan of ageism.
Why does everyone want to work with Jean-Marc Vallee?
He’s eradicated the Hollywood vanity. Ironically, he’s an editor first, so he’s editing in his mind, thinking about a result. But nothing is planned in that way. You’re just drawing upon ideas and ideas. There’s no wrong anywhere. It’s like catching fish in an open ocean and throwing them into buckets.
April 5, 6:40 a.m. An earlier version incorrectly noted that Jean-Marc Vallee directed Prisoners. THR regrets the error.
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