On Saturday, Indiewire’s managing editor Nigel M. Smith kicked off Indiewire’s annual TIFF talks with Jake Gyllenhaal, star and producer of what is arguably the festival’s first breakout film, “Nightcrawler,” which premiered Friday night. In order to portray Lou, a man who spends his nights filming footage of heinous crime scenes to sell to the morning news, Gyllenhaal transformed himself in ways that go far beyond his physical appearance. Here are several interesting things he shared about the making of the film and his process. [Video from the chat will be posted this week.]
1. Even though he had two hit films at TIFF last year (“Enemy” and “Prisoners”), his prep for “Nightcrawler” hindered his enjoyment of it.
“Last year I was eating nothing, preparing for this movie while I was doing interviews for those movies, so I was a little cranky. Now I’m just psyched because I’m eating, so that’s particularly exciting for me and that definitely tops last year.”
2. The weight loss wasn’t a requirement, but Gyllenhaal likened his character to a hungry coyote.
“They eat anything, they go for anything. Any scrap they can find, if they smell blood, they’ll move to it and that’s Lou, so I just tried to make myself into a coyote.”
3. The coyote theme became so strong that it was considered as an alternate title.
“There were times when we thought we weren’t going to be able to get the title ‘Nightcrawler’ and we thought maybe we’d title the movie ‘Coyote’ but then we thought about that movie “Coyote Ugly” [laughs]. I was still up for it.”
4. Gyllenhaal memorized the entire movie like a play. He even proved it by speed-reciting the film’s opening monologue.
“It’s still in my head, so when you say, ‘Does it have an effect on me?’ It’s fucking ingrained in me. It’s a piece of me forever.”
5. The music cues in the movie represent the music cues in Lou’s head.
“At the beginning you’re like, ‘What is this music?’ and then by the end you’re like, ‘Yeaaah.’ It’s kind of fucking brilliant.”
6. The movie was a bit of a family affair.
“Robert Elswit [the film’s cinematographer] also happens to be my godfather, so it was a very interesting kind of familial thing, particularly with the Gilroy family making the movie all together [director Dan Gilroy’s wife Rene Russo co-stars while his brothers produced and edited the film]. I don’t know if that says anything about all of our families.”
7. Gyllenhaal took to running long distances at night to help lose the weight and get into character.
“I did make myself hungry, I did lose that weight. I ran. I ended up running at night for a long time, like 15 miles. I’d run to set sometimes.”
8. Gyllenhaal first became aware of people who did this work for a living while doing ride-alongs for “End of Watch.”
“We were with police officers on the streets of South Central L.A. two or three times a week for four months, Michael Peña and I. When we would go to crime scenes with the police officers, or accidents or whatever we were involved in with them, there would sometimes be these guys from the local news videotaping things. In fact there were a couple times where my publicist got a phone call asking, ‘What were Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal doing at a crime scene?'”
9. While some view Lou as a sociopath, Gyllnehaal saw him more as an artist and an entrepreneur.
“A lot of people ask me questions about what it’s like playing a sociopath. I don’t walk into a scene going, ‘How does a sociopath act in this scene?’ To me it was all about the beauty of what I was seeing and how do I frame it? That’s the way I would look at it — it’s about art and then the translation is a bit sociopathic [laughs].