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INT: Jake Gyllenhaal

05.27.2004

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who became an indie darling after starring in the quirky DONNIE DARKO, is still probably best known to mainstream folks as the guy who almost was SPIDER-MAN. When Tobey Maquire's back injury after the first Spider-Man film threatened his ability to appear in the highly lucrative sequel, Gyllenhaal's name was most often mentioned as his possible replacement. Alas, it proved to be just speculation as Maguire healed, reconciled with producers and returned to the role. Undaunted, Jake went out and got his own big summer movie, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, where he gets his own shot at saving the day and getting the girl. Opening this Friday, it features Gyllenhaal as the crafty whiz-kid son of a prominent climatologist, played by Dennis Quaid, who gets trapped in New York by the big storm and must find a way to survive.

I got a chance to talk to Jake last week at the St. Regis Hotel in Century City. He's a funny, good-natured, self-effacing guy, and he was pretty candid about his experience making this film.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL

What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?

The most challenging thing for me was making scenes that I think have very little sub-text have some reality to them. You have to get so much information in in such a short period of time that it’s like making someone feel like you’re actually saying it –  that it’s not some plot device – is very, was really hard for me.

Emmy (Rossum) said the tank scenes were the most difficult for her.

I mean, yeah I like sitting in a tank with 700 extras going in the bathroom in it, and you know, and then reusing that water to then shoot another scene where you’re drowning in water is disgusting, and it’s hard, but it’s not as hard as like trying to make you know, (dialogue) like, “He will come,” work. (Laughter) That’s really hard, so...

Are you saying the script was a little thin on the human side?

No, I’m saying a movie like this has a very clear, I mean, you have to be aware of what kind of movie you’re making. And this is a movie that reaches a lot of people in a lot of different countries all over the world that don’t all speak English, and who don’t all understand Americanisms and things. There need to be things that are simple and can be translated. Because of that, you’re...it’s a help because so many people see it which means it’s important for it to have a message, but it’s also a hurt because you don’t, as an actor, get to play around as much. But it services this type of film really well. And you can’t do it any other way.

You and Dennis Quaid don’t have many scenes together to establish your relationship-

We did have a love scene that they cut out. (Laughter)

Really?

And I was very frightened by the way. (Laughter)

How did you guys work around that?

Yeah, well I was really gung-ho at the very beginning of the movie, like trying to make the relationship really poignant, you know. I remember Dennis kind of sitting me down one day and saying like, “You gotta chill out. It’s an action movie.” (Laughter) He was funny about it, but he was like, “You have to make this work, but like again it has to be in the vein of what it is.” It’s interesting ‘cause we both walk off going like, “Well now we gotta do a movie together.” Because we really didn’t have any time and making the relationship I made with him was, it was just—there was very, there was, we did actually do a lot of stuff. I would come in when he was doing scenes, like phone scenes, we’re talking on the phone. I would be there in the other room. So, I was there.

Did you hang out together at all off the set?

No, we didn’t have that much time really. It was a very...because we worked very sporadically, he would work a week and then I would come in. So, then I would work for two weeks, he’d work, I’d leave, he’d work for two weeks. It was very sporadic. In fact Roland said the next time he’s going to do a movie like this where there are so many different storylines going on he really wants to block shoot everybody ‘cause it just makes it really hard to keep performances consistent.  Like it would have been great if Dennis and I shot our stuff, all our stuff at the very end that was us together, after we had had our specific scenes and—‘cause the actors that I think did block shoot were easier to cut for Roland. 

Is part of the reason you started out so intense because it was your first big-budget action film?

Yeah. I was – you should have seen me. I was like, “Independent it.”  [Laughter] I was just like not hitting my mark and being in the moment and doing whatever I needed to do, and they’re like, “There are 800 extras behind you dude. You’ve got to fucking handle it.” (Laughter) And Roland is like, “And there is an enormous wave that I’m figuring out, so you need to be in the blue screen and not on the other, you know.” So there was that. I was enthusiastic about it because of that, but I also think that spirit needs to be in these movies because if that’s not in these movies then they suck. And they’re really boring to watch and I think you want people to be enthusiastic about their performance in the movie even though people don’t necessarily remember the performances in them. That’s not important to me. I know that people walk out of the movie going, “Oh, that wasn’t stupid, that was actually like scary and fun,” and I believe that. Because we all have that attitude.

And this is an action movie with a message.

Yeah, I think for me whenever I would get down or I’d be having a hard time or I’d be in the middle of nowhere in the cold in Montreal I’d always say to myself, “At least this movie has something to say.” I don’t think it was like (about) us looking at the monitor and being like, “did you get that minority in there?”  It wasn’t like that. I think from talking to us I’m sure you can tell that we think it’s an issue that’s really important.

Did Roland push that when he was preparing you for the role?  Did they talk about that?

Yeah, it was like when I was auditioning for Bertolucci. He was like, “You’re going to have to get naked in this movie and if you don’t want to get naked you can’t do it.” And Roland was like, “Look, this is a movie about the environment and if you don’t want to help the environment and get out of the car and recycle you can’t be in this movie.’” (Laughter)  It was a very similar discussion. So, yeah, and I know there’s no irony in print either, so...

This is definitely the biggest film you’ve made thus far.  Coming from an independent, Donnie Darko background, are you worried about all the attention this will bring? 

If it were to happen I would have a better perspective on it then, but I know what this is about. I knew what I was getting myself into and if I didn’t, well, I shouldn’t be doing it. And if I’m going to complain about it I shouldn’t be doing it either. I know what it’s about, there’s a part of me, a part of that masochistic side that likes it and then there’s also part of me that doesn’t like it either at times. And there have been a few times recently where it’s gotten into places where if I leave—we talk all day, and then I leave and go home and I need to take my dog for a walk and then there’s these guys taking pictures of me taking my dog for a walk, it was for a little while a time when I could just unwind and now it’s not that same time anymore. But I know what it’s about.

But your dog doesn’t.

Yeah, the dog doesn’t, but I can teach the dog how to sic photographer. [Laughter] Sic camera, sic photographer.

Are you worried that the fans of your indie work will see you in this movie and think that you’re selling out?

No, you know, well, whatever. Who cares, man. I mean, I’m doing what I want to do, and street credit is easily rewarded again. You can find it anywhere; I don’t really, most of the people who like the movies I’ve been in before will really like this movie too.

What did you learn on this movie that you had not learned before?

Learning how to relax was a really big thing, to not take things so seriously. There’d be days where I’d come off set, before I did this movie, I’d be like, “I sucked.” And beat myself up all night. Waste my free time, and it’s done and it’s over, and this movie because of the nature of it ‘cause I knew somehow a lot of it was not in my control, and I just kind of walked off set and be like, “That’s it, I thought it sucked, but it’s fine, I have tomorrow to figure it out.” And I’m going to take that into more character driven serious performances, and again I think it really loosens me up.

Didn’t you drop out of college?

Yeah.

Do you ever see a day when you might go back?

Maybe. I don’t know. I might. I went to Columbia, and Columbia has this core deal in the first two years, they’re famous – you know when you’ve met a Columbia student because you can talk about the core, it’s really weird. Like Brown students, they’re like, “Did you take African drumming?” And they’re like, “Yeah, yeah.”  At Columbia it’s different. But I learned really core modern western thought in two years and what shaped that, and I feel myself very well educated because of it. So whether I graduate and I get the degree – I’m just hoping for one of those honorary degrees.

Donny Darko is being re-released – what are they changing in the film and do you think it will find more of an audience now?

I don’t know really what it’s going to be, I’m not sure what the next installment, the next version of the Donnie Darko will be. I know that Richard is re-cutting it from his perspective on the movie and what he thinks it should have been now after three years, after he finished cutting it. And it will be 20 more minutes. I don’t know, I’m really interested to see if it just going to kind of stay this thing that people want to be underground, in the shadows, or if people are really going to want to see it like that. I’m not so sure, I don’t think it really matters to me, I’m just happy because things like that don’t get a second chance that often.

You’re not doing a commentary for it, are you?

No, but we were joking the other day, my friend and I, that the new version would be like me and Richard doing a commentary over it, “That was such a fun day.” “I know.” “Like, this is the new version? This sucks.”

Source: JoBlo.com

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