Eye on Film: A Conversation with Actor Jake Gyllenhaal 

Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the most transcendent young actors of our our time. He was nominated by the Academy for his role in Brokeback Mountain back in 2004, and has wowed audiences with his gut-wrenching performance as a prize fighter in Southpaw.

His ability to meld into each role is what has his name on the lips of moviegoers year after year.

Recently, I was in attendance at the New York press junket with veteran press representatives for the Fox Searchlight movie Demolition, starring Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, C.J. Wilson and young up and comer Judah Lewis.

The title of the film purposefully alludes to how Jake’s character, Davis Mitchell, must destroy a conventional approach to a life that he has built up after the tragic death of his loving wife.

The discussion provided excellent insight not only as to who he is as an artist, but a person as well.

Press Corp: What does the title mean to you?

Jake Gyllenhaal: “It’s like waking up that inner child within you. Like when you see a 3 or 4 year old build blocks and then kick it over out of satisfaction, that thing in you that just feels so satisfied.

I think it’s a lot easier to destroy something. I think we all have that in us. I also think there is a mature part about it. I studied Eastern Religion in college and I had this book called ‘Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart.’  I think you have to be able to do that in the search to find yourself. You have to break pieces off of you and discard them in order to be able to understand yourself.

That’s why I love this movie. You have a guy who made all these conventional choices up to the moment that this tragedy happens, and because he wasn’t listening to himself, but to what society and convention told him. When this tragedy happens he is totally lost because he wasn’t listening to his own feelings. This guy is searching for how he feels. Then he spends an entire movie trying to figure out how to get back to himself. He never was allowed to feel how he wanted to feel about the event in the first place.”

I asked him to describe his creative approach at literally becoming the characters for which he is handed in a script. 

Jake Gyllenhaal: “I can only give you an example of where I’m about to go because that’s where I am at the beginning of a journey or in the middle of something. My biggest thing is always this aspect of trying to catch the big fish, in a way.

You have to listen, which I’m really not good at doing. Especially if I’m at a junket talking about myself. But that’s what I try and do. I try to trust that the universe is going to give me a clue because I’ve picked something that I actually believe in.

Because I’m doing something that I actually believe in and I’m going the right way, I will get clues. When I know I am going the wrong way I’ll be like ‘Shit, I don’t have clues. I’m lost.’  

So, what I would liken it to is, I get these odds feelings then I move toward them. Like, what I’m struggling with right now. The next movie that I’m going to do is, we have to bring in a big rig because I play a guy who lost his legs. I’m interested in what it’s going to be like being physically trapped in a space.

I’m interested in how that feels, but ultimately the movie is a love story and how somebody brings someone to something with love. Which, with or without legs, will be beautiful. So, it’s actually incredibly human and hilarious. I hate to say it, but he’s actually funny. So, to trust that someone will be there. I don’t know.

I liken it to, and I know this is a cliche, it’s like that structure, that piece of rock. You kind of chip away and you’re like ‘Oh that looks good’, then the whole side sort of falls away and you’re like ‘Fuck…okay, that’s what we have now.’ Then you try to form it into something that looks like you had some sense of what you were doing. Then people either love it or hate it. It’s a crap shoot.”

Press Corp: What’s coming up next?”

Jake Gyllenhaal: “Next I’m playing Jeff Bowman, a guy who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon Bombing, but it’s really not about the Boston Bombings. It’s story about him and his journey with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, and the journey through it.

This kind of wonderfully quirky, really complicated family around him. Really, it’s about their love story. Which, with or without legs would be just beautiful. He’s just an incredible human, and hilarious. I hate to say it, but it’s pretty funny. He’s a really funny guy. So that’s the next thing.”

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