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Jake Gyllenhaal has yet to don a cape in a Hollywood popcorn movie, having missed out on Batman and Spider-Man roles.
But the Hollywood star on Saturday said playing Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman in Lionsgate’s Stronger finally landed him a superhero role. “I’ve been asked over my career, in interviews, ‘We hear you almost played this superhero … when are you going to make a superhero movie?’ I feel like I finally kind of have,” Gyllenhaal told a Toronto International Film Festival press conference for the drama.
In Stronger, Gyllenhaal portrays Bauman, a survivor who lost both his legs in the attack, and faced a long and emotional road to recovery. Bauman was waiting for his girlfriend at the finish line of the annual marathon when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.
Gyllenhaal said playing Bauman showed him how his movie character in real life has overcome adversity by exhibiting both strength and vulnerability. “Being open and allowing his story to be told — which is profound vulnerability — that makes him [Bauman] one of the strongest people I know,” the actor said.
Tatiana Maslany plays his girlfriend as the movie’s female lead. But Bauman, who appeared in Toronto to help promote Stronger, turned aside any notion that he’s a hero.
Instead, he turned the spotlight on the first responders and medical team that rescued him and saved his life.
“I don’t like being called a hero. In my eyes, there’s heroes I look up to. People who saved me — my caretakers, people at Boston Medical Center. My surgeon. The people that pulled me off that ground, who pulled me out. Those are my heroes. The police. The paramedics. Those are the true heroes,” Bauman said during an emotional highpoint of the TIFF presser.
“I lost something, but my heroes picked me up. Erin, my wife, the love of my life, she’s my hero. Just being there with me. My mum is my hero … there’s heroes all around. I just don’t like being called one,” he added.
The movie project adapts Bauman’s memoir, co-written by Bret Witter. John Pollono wrote the script. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman of Mandeville Films/TV produced Stronger, along with Scott Silver.
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