If he’s not the most prolific actor working in Hollywood today, Jake Gyllenhaal is nonetheless one of the most interesting. This year, he’s in “Everest” and “Southpaw” (and the years-late release of “Accidental Love,” but let’s forgive him that one). He also wrapped “Demolition” a film that premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in early September and is slated for an April 2016 U.S. release. All this after a year in which he scored numerous nominations and plaudits for his portrayal of Louis Bloom in the incredible “Nightcrawler.”
Yet, as Sam Jones, host of the TV show and podcast “Off Camera” explains, “the most profound change [Gyllenhaal has] made in recent years is one we probably didn’t realize we were witnessing, and that’s what I wanted to talk to him about. After his work in ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ Jake found himself in the position of being very young and very successful in Hollywood, and on a pretty predictable path to commercial success. He chose that moment to step back and listen to his own voice about the work he wanted to do. For an actor at that level, it’s a courageous choice. For an artist, it’s perhaps the only choice.”
Over the course of an hour, Jones and Gyllenhaal discuss everything from the lengths the actor goes through to prepare for his roles, to how he selects the parts he takes on, and why he’d like to see other actors in some of the roles he’s played. The interview begins with Jones saying that one of his first reactions to watching both “Nightcrawler” and “Southpaw” was to wonder whether Gyllenhaal himself is insane—he admits that other people have relayed similar sentiments to him. The remark seems like a genuine compliment; Gyllenhaal’s commitment to his roles is rapidly earning him a reputation as an actor who dives extremely deeply into his characters. As a child, Jake learned his diligent work ethic from his father, filmmaker and frequent television director Stephen Gyllenhaal (fun fact —one of Jake’s first roles was on an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street” that Stephen directed, in which he played the son in a family visiting Baltimore. Robin Williams played his father).
Gyllenhaal later explains that he encountered unexpected success in his early 20s, through his work on such films as “Brokeback Mountain,” “Jarhead,” and “Proof,” but he admits that “I didn’t really know what to do with [my success]. I didn’t know how to organize projects. I had no process. I was flailing around a bit.” Gyllenhaal turned to the directors he worked with for advice, and they helped him navigate the disorganization and recklessness of his early 20s. Gyllenhaal clearly righted himself and found the means by which to apply that work ethic he learned from his dad, and has turned his diligence into an enviable career. And that’s just start of it all.
For more insight into Gyllenhaal and his body of work, including why “the best analogy for acting is ‘Super Mario Brothers,’ ” listen to the podcast of the interview below. Or, if you prefer, you can watch the full interview here (for $1.49).