Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal is an American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at the age of ten. Following his first lead role in 1999's October Sky, he starred in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko, in which he played a psychologically troubled teenager alongside his older sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. In 2002, he starred in another indie film, The Good Girl, alongside actress Jennifer Aniston. In 2004, he appeared in the science-fiction film The Day After Tomorrow, portraying a student caught in a cataclysmic global cooling event. Gyllenhaal then played against type as a frustrated Marine in Jarhead. The same year, his role as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain earned him critical acclaim. For his Brokeback Mountain performance, Gyllenhaal won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for the Academy Award in the same category. He has since played the lead roles in many notable films, including Zodiac, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Love and Other Drugs, Source Code, End of Watch, and Prisoners.
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My latest film is Nightcrawler, out tomorrow on October 31st.
Victoria from reddit's helping me out in person today. AMA.
Update: Thank you guys for your really honest and articulate questions. And I appreciate you taking the time, and I'm glad we could all spend a little time on the world wide web together. Until next time!
Hi Jake, my wife and I are big fans, I'd like to cook her a meal this weekend and casually say "oh yeah, Jake Gyllenhaal suggested this" - what do you suggest I cook?
Um... um... Hahahaa...
runs fingers through hair
Well, if you don't know what she likes already, then I don't know what to say man! You guys are married! Cook what she likes, dude!
How many pages into the script were you when you realized it wasn't going to be about a blue guy who teleports?
I think celebrity culture is strange, because celebrities are kind of treated as non-people, rather more like a product or something to be consumed. How does your celebrity status impact your sense of humanity or self? I ask this as someone who is certainly not a celebrity but still sometimes has a hard time tapping into what it means to feel part of humanity, or human.
What I've realized is that there's a real intimacy being in a movie theater with someone in the dark. And I have connections with people whom I see in that context, and the movies that they are in really move me.
But I think it's really important to see that STORY is the most important thing. Ultimately it's not the person, but the story that has the greatest impact.
And so I always find it fascinating being the face of the story. Because I think all the feelings that come with the story get put on the actor. And it really has to do with many, many people's work who created what you're seeing.
So it's a great irony.
But I also think it's very wonderful when people are positive.
I'm also a firm believer in performances and movies and any type of art eliciting many different types of responses. So I love hearing people's opinions, good and/or bad, about things that I've created.
I heard while doing a ride along with the LAPD for End of Watch you witnessed a murder. What was that like? Did it affect your approach to the role?
That was a pivotal moment for me, in that I started realizing where I could really learn from the process of preparation for the roles that i play, and the severity of real life, and how even though what I was doing was fictional, there was a responsibility I had. And it's really wonderful that you asked that question, because it was a real turning point for me in how I approach the process of what I do, and I could see how absurd it is, what I do, and yet at the same time it has great import, and that was specifically a very shocking but very moving moment for me - as a human and as an actor.
I read that you almost got the role for Batman in Batman Begins. Do you think Maggie auditioned for The Dark Knight just to irk you? Cause that would be a really sister thing to do. On the subject of family, I also found out that that you're a descendant of the noble Gyllenhaal family from Sweden. Does that mean we have to call you Sir Jake?
Absolutely. In fact, that's what my sister calls me.
Hi, you’re great. Donnie Darko struck a major chord with me as a teenager dealing with depression, and even empowered me to feel significant despite feeling doomed. How much of Donnie’s character resonated in your personal life? Your portrayal of him was so memorable.
But now for my serious question- what IS a fuck-ass?
Well, to answer the first question, I... a huge part of Donnie was where I was in that time in my life, and I think that it speaks to the unsolid ground that adolescents moving into adulthood, that comes with being an adolescent moving into adulthood, and I felt when I read the script like it was speaking to me, and it's such a wonderful thing for me that it feels like as a movie it speaks to a lot of people, because mentally I was in a similar space to that character, obviously it had a lot of metaphors, but it makes me feel great that it was influential and it helped you in any way.
And what is a Fuck-ass? By answering that question, I would be giving away the answer to everything.
Hi Mr. Gyllenhaal! If you where another person for one day, who would it be?
You just described my job.
Would you ever want to play a villain?
Go see Nightcrawler.
If you had to, would you rather eat a live spider the size of a bottlecap, or a bottlecap?
What's wrong with you?
But seriously, though? You're like on their side! You are!
I don't think anything's wrong with you. I would eat both at the same time. I mean, come on!
What was it like working with Heath Ledger? Are there any stories in particular that capture what he was like as an actor/person?
Well, I think that he was and is one of the best actors of my generation.
And as it goes with people who are as talented as he was, sort of constantly an inspiration.
I remember him saying to me, early on, before we started shooting Brokeback Mountain, that his character had a hard time with the light, that bright lights were overwhelming to his character. And that was one of my first insights into the process and preparation for acting that i had never really experienced, that a character would feel something from the elements that would affect his whole being. And Heath gave me that.
JAKE!!!! HUGE FAN!!! There was a huge rumor that you and Mark Ruffalo didn’t get along well on the set of ZODIAC due to his farting during your scenes or something. It sounds made up, but I’ve been hearing this for years now. Is there any validity to that at all???
I've heard a rumor that Mark Ruffalo is a vegan, don't know if it's true. But man oh man...
I recently watched Enemy and your performance in it was incredible. But after doing much thinking and research, I'm still lost as to what actually happened. Can you shed some light on your interpretation of the film? Were you two separate people? Was it all in your head? Spiders?
Also, when acting in a movie like that, do you find you need to have your own solid interpretation of it before you can really get into the role?
I think that a movie like that is all about instinct.
When I read the script, I felt like it was about identity. About reconciling parts of yourself, in order to understand yourself more fully.
The movie, to me, is about intimacy. Not just with oneself, but also with - in the case of this movie, the opposite sex. And relationships in general. And the spider was really the idea of our director, Denis Villeneuve - but I think that it's a reference for - it's a representation of - the character's point of view, of... the terrifying aspect of being intimate with someone else.
How would you survive a zombie apocalypse?
Round up a good number of fuck-asses and make sure they stay out of my house.
Seeing as tomorrow is Halloween, do you have any favorite scary movies?
Most romantic comedies scare me.
You know who looks like you? The captain of the Detroit Red Wings, Henrik Zetterberg. Are you Swedish too? Google Images of Zetterberg
I am. I am swedish.
Hey Jake, how does it feel being part of the Swedish nobility? Do you recognize your rich Swedish heritage in any way?
Ever considered joining the Marvel cinematic universe?
I feel like everyone, everywhere, is a part of the Marvel cinematic universe. Whether they like it or not.
Jake, hi. Thanks for doing this AMA.
Out of all the scripts you’ve read, what is the one that you think was the most well-written? What made it so good?
Have you ever had an aspirations to write if you haven’t already?
I would honestly say the script for Nightcrawler, the movie that's coming out tomorrow.
There's an absolutely original character at the center of it, that existed on the page before I was even allowed to bring it to life. And there's a true brilliance, structurally, and a water-tight storyline, but most of all, there's an originality in tone, where you're on the edge of your seat and disturbed and thrilled but at the same time, laughing. I think we live in a time where people tell us that feelings are supposed to be one specific things and can't be a mixture of a ton of things.
And this movie, to me, seems to capture so many feelings in one.
And the script did that.
And that is a rare, rare thing for a script to do.
If my reddit AMA is any testament to me as a writer, then the answer should be no. But I come from a family, my mother is a screenwriter, and writing is something I hugely admire.
HI JAKE!! You are one of my favorite actors of all time and I almost dropped my phone when I saw that you were doing an AMA.. I was excited about Nightcrawler since the first teaser and can’t wait to see it! My question is - what would you say are the best snacks to eat in the theater while watching Nightcrawler? xx
These have been the hardest questions to answer. It's all about food, and I REALLY appreciate that.
I am partial to sour candies. Of any sort. Of any kind.
So sorry to not be specific, but...
Hey Jake, longtime fan and I'm pumped for Nightcrawler.
What are you being for Halloween? Tell me it's a grey hoodie and skeleton jumpsuit.
My job is like Halloween every day. So I... unfortunately am working on Halloween, so I will be in my character's wardrobe, so in a strange turn of events and ironies... I'll be dressed as the character I'm playing in a movie I'm doing with Jean-Marc Valee. Which doesn't consist of a hoodie with skeletons on it, I'm sorry.
But I hear you, I hear you!
I saw that someone tattooed the writing I did on their arm from Donnie Darko. That was pretty cool. I saw it last night.
When you were a kid is this how you envisioned your future? What did you want to be?
A soccer player.
Jake, if you could have one super power what would it be? You know, besides planting a ton of tree’s in the forest in Mozambique.
That'd be sick.
Um... I'd love to be able to just immediately make the best sourdough starter. Now THAT'S a superpower.
Hi Jake, welcome to Reddit!
Two questions for you:
What would be in your perfect sandwich?
Are there any fictional characters from literature that you would like to portray?
That's all! Thanks again for doing this AMA! :)
Ay ay ay... Why do I have to have only ONE sandwich? Why?
I would say pastrami on egg bread with coleslaw and russian dressing.
Well, I'm a huge fan of J.D. Salinger. There's a short story of his called "For Esme with Love and Squalor," that I love. That relationship, I think, is an amazing literary relationship. And though it would be impossible, I would love to bring that relationship to the screen.
What was the last picture you took with your phone?
Let me look...
gets out phone
Oh there was a really sweet little girl with her mother on set yesterday, and her mom was holding her, and she had such a sweet face and was holding a lollipop and I took her picture. I know that doesn't sound ideal, it's not that cool, but I think it's cool.
I also took a picture of "Skip to My Lou" Because that's the name of my character when I was in the dressing room at Jimmy Fallon, there was a vintage book, so I took a picture of it. I thought it was fate.
I also by mistake took a video of it in slo-mo. Of a book, on a shelf. I'm still learning to use my phone.
But you'd be surprised at how entertaining a book sitting on a shelf in slo-mo could be.
Hey Jake - just wanted to let you know that both Prisoners and Enemy were fantastic!
My question is: do you have any plans on working with Denis Villeneuve again?
No concrete plans, but we both talk about it all the time, and I think that it will happen sometime soon.
If you were a pizza, what kind of toppings would you have?
Plain, simple, it's the hardest to do.
OMG Jake Gyllenhaal!
I'm a huge fan, I can't wait to see Nightcrawler, it's got the most interesting premise to any movie I've seen in the last few years. Two completely unrelated questions:
1: Do you know if it was difficult nailing down the name Nightcrawler with the X-Men franchise being what it is?
2: You've had some involvement in some iconic military films (Jarhead, Brothers), were you ever personally involved with the military, such as family or friends? And what was your training like for Jarhead?
It surprisingly wasn't. What's wonderful is that we asked all the people involved in that franchise, and Marvel, and they all were incredibly excited and very supportive of us using the title, seeing as they are so different in theme and character and many things. In fact, I know that there are fans at Marvel of this movie, Nightcrawler. And I can't wait to see their version.
2) Yes. Two of my closest family friends, two of my boys are in the military, one in the Marines and one in the Navy. Served in the Persian Gulf, and then my friend in the Marines was in Iraq. So yes I have a personal connection to the military. But since that my good friend Zach Iscoll, who's in the Marines, has come back from and started an organization called Headstrong, which I support fully, getting the right medical and mental care for military servicemen and women returning from combat.
You and your sister both started as child actors. Did you see any difference in the way people treated you when you grew up, as opposed to the way they treated her?
Well, actually, I started acting professionally earlier than my sister, and I think in some ways it was a more mindful decision for her to wait. Because I think that being a professional at such a young age brings on a lot of questions that are difficult for someone who's a kid to even begin to answer. But at the same time, it was a blessing and I recognize it as that. But I saw so many wonderful things that she did, while I was doing things that I loved. One of those things was her graduating college, particularly which I still hope to do in the future, no matter how old i am.
Hey, Jake, first of all I want to say thanks for all the great films. It’s amazing to watch Bubbleboy and then Prisoners. So much talent, keep up the great work!
Now for the question: If you could have played any role in any movie ever created, which one would it be?
The funny part about that is, I feel like every role that comes to you, or every role that you play is yours, just as other roles are other people's, that you can't inhabit something that's already been done by another soul. So I have no role that I would love to play. I'm actually really excited about the role I just played, in Nightcrawler.
Do you do karaoke? What's your song?
But it would definitely be hiphop.
I would sing the chorus AND the verse.
Hi Jake, big fan of both you and your sister's work, and I was just curious on how much you two talk about each other's movies. Do you comment on or critique each other to a more personal degree than other actors would?
Mostly me and my sister don't talk about work at all. We're more concerned with family and life. But... when she's onstage right now, and because stage is really process-oriented, we oftentimes talk about ideas she can bring to each show each night, and we help and inspire each other show to show sometimes.
What TV show do you secretly enjoy?
I unfortunately watch very little television. But in a shameless plug, I will say The Honorable Woman starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. She's incredible in it.
Why do you like to travel in time so much?
Believe me... if I could NOT travel in time, I would.
What does your diet consist of?
It's a special, special thing called food. All different sorts of .... food.
I really liked your performance as Dastan in Prince of Persia, especially since the original video game was one of my favourite games to play growing up. It was great to see you pull off the role so convincingly.
Did you have to work out or train a lot for the part? Did you get to do any of the stunts yourself?
I did a majority of the stunts myself, but I also had wonderful acrobats and stuntmen who did a lot of the extraordinary things in the movie.
It's my belief, from my experience, that a character is made by many people, not just the actor playing him or her, but all the people that bring it together. And oftentimes, those people don't get enough credit. So there were a lot of really extraordinary people working on that to help create that character.
When you were younger, who was your favorite actor?
Always loved Danny Kaye... my mother always showed us older movies, when I was a kid. I really didn't even know there were movies in color until I was like, 12!
You probably do dozens of interviews a month. Who is your favorite person to be interviewed by?
Well I don't do tons of interviews a month, but I do when I have a movie I want people to see, talk to tons of journalists. I had a really wonderful interview with Nightline. And I also was interviewed by David Muir, who's the anchor of ABC nightly News, that was really fun. And I also really love being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon.
If you Lance Armstrong and Matthew Mcconnaughhay did a joint triathlon, who would do each leg of the triathlon (swim, bike, run)?
The biking part should be pretty obvious. The swimming part should be pretty obvious. And the running part - well, I guess I'd do it.
Are there any words of advice you have to someone wanting to go into the film/entertainment industry?
I think Ben Affleck said it the best when he said - "Always be kind and respectful." But that goes for every profession.
And don't forget to be ambitious.
How close of friends are you with 50 Cent?
Well, we just did a movie together with Antoine Fuqua called "Southpaw." And he plays my manager. And he was wonderful to work with.
And he's a homie.
Hi, Jake! What is your favorite movie, and what is your favorite place that you've traveled to? Also, have you read any good books lately?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
I have a very hard time picking a favorite of anything, because i could be here for HOURS, and there would be a million movies, and you'd be like "oh wait I only asked for one..."
Recently, actually, I just saw "Searching for Bobby Fischer" which I loved. And have for many years.
Well, I love traveling to London, because I have so many close friends there, and every time I'm there I'm surrounded by people I love.
I recently read this book, Gilead. I thought it was great.
How do you prepare for a role like Lou? Anything different from your normal preparations?
Well, Lou is obsessive by nature, and so there was a sort of obsession, when preparing for him.
I... started studying the screenplay because it was so brilliantly written very early on, and I studied it like I would a stage production, and memorized it the same way, dissected it in the same way, and as I did that, I started making discoveries and that led me to even MORE discoveries, and... I spent 3 months doing that.
And from there, over time, the character was created.
What's some music you're listening to these days? I always love recommendations from my sisters, I'd like one from you too!
Also what was it like being taught to drive by Paul Newman?
I've been listening, over and over again, to this little sample that Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar did, for BEATS. For some reason it's been a huge inspiration to me recently. It's not a full song, but for some reason I love the melody and the beat.
Well, my father really taught me how to drive, but I did go to the racetrack and spend some time with the extraordinary Paul Newman. And it was - at risk of being redundant - extraordinary.
What do you do during your down time? Inbetween movies.
I spend a lot of time with my family.