As Hollywood falls back in love with movie musicals, bolstered by the reception of such recent blockbusters like “La La Land” and last week’s record-smashing live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” the industry will inevitably be on the hunt for performers who can keep up with demands of the genre. One obvious actor who could go the movie musical route is Jake Gyllenhaal, currently cycling between both film and Broadway.
Over the past few years, the actor has balanced his time between his big screen work and a series of theatrical offerings. The life-long theater lover first dipped his toe in the legit world when he starred in a 2012 Off-Broadway production of Nick Payne’s “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” followed in 2014 with his Broadway debut in “Constellations,” opposite fellow Broadway newbie Ruth Wilson.
“I think it’s where I am most joyous,” the actor told us in 2016 of his work in the theater. “It’s where I do feel I belong, and not just because there is an exchange with the audience, but because there is a respect for the storytelling every single night…Of course I’m nervous, I’m quaking in my boots, but it’s not the same kind of thing. You do know pretty quickly how it’s going there.”
In the summer of 2015, Gyllenhaal headlined an Encores! Off-Center production of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” for a mini mid-summer run, where he appeared alongside Ellen Greene, who starred in the show’s original 1982 production. After appearing in four benefit concert performances of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Sunday in the Park with George” in late 2016, he’s now starring in the show’s Broadway run through April.
But that doesn’t mean he’s eager to jump into a big screen musical, even if the current landscape seems to be more attuned to the possibilities of the genre than it has been for many years.
“I know, just probably given ‘La La Land’ and that type of stuff, that there will be some sort of resurgence — just like as people made space movies that were successful, people make more space movies,” the actor recently told IndieWire while promoting his own space movie, the upcoming release “Life.” “But for me, everything depends the people making it, whether or not it’s doing something interesting or different,”
Gyllenhaal’s love for the theater dates way back to his childhood, when his mother, filmmaker Naomi Foner, would take the budding actor and sister Maggie Gyllenhaal to see various shows.
“When we could afford it, my mother would bring my sister and I to a live Broadway show,” he said. “That’s why I’ve always sung since I was a kid and I love musicals. That’s why I’m doing it.”
His affection for staged song-and-dance carried over to the movies, and his admiration for the golden age of cinematic musicals still seems to inform his feelings on a maybe-resurging genre.
“There was a time in which movie musicals were being made much more often, [and] an actor had to act, dance, and sing, to work in the studio the studio system,” he said. “There were skills and craft that you had to master in a way. And that’s been lost recently.”
Gyllenhaal added, “There’s more of a need to want to be famous than to really learn a craft. So we need to change that if we’re going to be making movie musicals or more of them because it takes a lot of hard work and you can’t really fake it in the end.”