Talking about Donnie Darko, Zodiac and Brokeback Mountain -- by most estimations the high points of his career -- made him extra reflective. If this past weekend's event was any indication he understands as well as anyone that these are the key titles. If Love and Other Drugs is the breakout success most seem to be expecting, it'll replace Zodiac in his key trio; He's not the star of that film anyway since that film's movie star is unquestionably David Fincher. Fincher isn't onscreen but that hardly matters when you can see his smudgy auteur fingerprints on every painstaking frame.
(<-- Jake with director Richard Kelly on the set.)
He said of his breakout film, that "it remains one of the most important I've been involved in." What does he look for in a role?
It's changed for me and i'm still figuring it out. Initally it's just a response to the story, the story itself is what's most important. Love and Other Drugs, you know, the first moment I read that I was crying at the end and when I read Brokeback Mountain I was crying at the end and when I read Donnie Darko and I was throwing up.He had made October Sky before starting college. He dropped out at 19 -- he regrets not finishing -- and felt lost. And then came Darko.
It really marks, more than any other movie I've ever done, figuratively a time in my life. And that movie -- before we started shooting, I had been having a rough time figuring out what was up, what end was up.
Jason Schwartzman was supposed to play that part. They had financing, they were ready to go and he dropped out and I stumbled upon it and out of the director's desperation got the role. It really matched somehow somewhere where I was in my life. I remember it premiered at Sundance and my mother, father and sister came up to me afterwards crying and realizing that I had been saying something to them with that movie -- how lost I was.
How did I do it? I don't know something about talking to that rabbit. It just seemed to comfort me at that time.
He realized how odd that sounded, laughing as he said it. Apocalyptic giant rabbits don't generally read all warm and fuzzy like security blankets, do they? When asked about the film's cult status he explained that how an audience responds is not something you can control -- he made it because of how much he related to Donnie.
When you think of cult films a lot of time's there's a bit of a wink. I don't think that was our intention at all. It's a deeply serious movie to me... Whether you're experimenting with drugs or not there's a moment where you go 'Whats real? What's not?'
There was no thought of result. Any time I've ever done anything with the thought of a result its been a bad thing.
Brokeback Mountain (<--- Jake with director Ang Lee)
I was personally glad that when it came time to discuss his one bonafide classic, he didn't take the bait of reiterating discomfort about making out with Heath Ledger. (People are always trying to get actors to say how much they hate man-on-man scenes. It's so tired journalists. Stop it!) Instead he spoke about love scenes generally.
When you're in a movie and you're in a love scene -- it comes up in any love scene whether it's with a man or a woman -- it's inevitably uncomfortable, awkward and everybody is in on it. No matter how intimate it is, everyone is in on it. There's this weird sense of being watched. If you've ever made out with anyone and know you're being watched, you can't help but watch yourself. That takes the sexiness out of the whole thing anyway but we're performers so you can make it work. Occassionally I've been into it but I won't talk about with whom.At this point he made a little 'oh what the hell...' kind of joke like he was going to tell us with whom he... but then he retreated. Damnit!
When he tried to talk about the reunion scene, he had difficulty.
It was about more than just kissing. The scene in Brokeback Mountain where Heath and I see each other after a very long time. This has been hard for me to explain for years. We had very little to do with that scene being as powerful as it is. It was powerful when you read it in the screenplay. It was powerful in the short story on the page. What we do when we had that moment together is filled with -- it's filled with moments that people have had that have nothing to do with us. We just basically went up and slammed our mouths together. You know what I mean? We were the instruments for something that was much bigger than both of us.Do you know what he means? He did ask.
We rehearsed it before we shot the movie and it was still winter and there was snow everywhere. There was Ang and the location scouts. We drove out and Ang played us the music he was going to have in the movie. I had my dog with us. He was jumping around in the snow. It was no different when we shot. It was already right there.Denby asked him if he had any regrets about his performance.
I think I do have regrets about it, about things, as every actor does. When i see Heath's work in that movie it's just transcendent and amazing and as a fellow actor to me I just always admire him. I hoped that I could be as good as. So I watch it and I always see that.Zodiac
(<--- Jake with David Fincher at Cannes)
The subject of playing different ages in films shot out of sequence came up again when it came time to discuss David Fincher's second serial killer picture.
I think if you think too much about it on the day you're screwed. With that movie, you'd be surprised what a change of a shirt can do and a little bit of makeup. In terms of age -- when I first read Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac I thought "this role should be played by a 40 year old." And then I was cast. There's bravery in casting someone younger and sometimes it's totally wrong but in these two movies for some reason it worked better. I think people suspend disbelief very easily. If I were to play, as I was joking, "OLDER." It just never works out very well unless you're Marion Cotillard.Thought you La Vie En Rose fans would like that quote.
Denby showed two clips from Zodiac, a scene with Mark Ruffalo and a scene when Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) visually but not quite verbally confronts the man he believes is the killer (played by John Carroll Lynch) in a hardware store; they stare at each other in accusation, curiousity and then mutual recognition. Gyllenhaal related that they did hundreds of takes, and did those hundreds of takes, twice.
We shot that twice. David didn't like the first store we shot in. That was again multiple takes. The funny part of that is John Carol Lynch played by dad in Bubble Boy so that look is filled with so much more than just 'hunter and hunted.' I was desperate for you show a scene of me and him crying in a car and me in a bubble.Discussing a crucial late scene with Mark Ruffalo in a diner, Gyllenhaal got contemplative about understanding what directors want and ideas he had about acting from a young age.
That was the third time we shot the scene. We shot each of our takes close to 50 times. So... 150th take? Now I see what David wanted. I watch it and I'm like 'Now I know.' I didn't know what he wanted.Fincher is a taskmaster but you have to appreciate the young movie star's honesty about his long learning curve. It all sorta makes you wonder how many times Rooney and Jesse had to shoot that five minute break-up scene that kicks off The Social Network, doesn't it?
That's all! I hope you enjoyed all of this Gyllenhaalia.