Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

13 things we learnt from Jake Gyllenhaal’s visit to Dubai

In town to pick up an award from Variety at DIFF, Gyllenhaal offered a reflective, one-hour talk on his craft and career, which includes roles in Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac, and this year's Nightcrawler and Southpaw.
Jake Gyllenhaal offered a reflective, one-hour talk on his craft and career. Sarah Dea / The National
Jake Gyllenhaal offered a reflective, one-hour talk on his craft and career. Sarah Dea / The National

Hollywood heavyweight Jake Gyllenhaal stopped by on the final day of the Dubai International Film Festival, to pick up the International Star of the Year award from entertainment tome Variety.

Hosting an In Conversation event at Madinat Theatre, the 34-year-old celebrity kept his cool amid waves of fervent adoration, forced to declare his love for one fan, and accepting a homemade artwork celebrating his most famous movie quotes from another. In between these fits of devotion, Gyllenhaal offered a reflective, one-hour talk on his craft and career, which includes roles in Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac, and this year’s Nightcrawler and Southpaw. Here’s what we learnt:

His dad might be a director (Stephen Gyllenhaal) and mum might be a scriptwriter (Naomi Foner), but not everyone wanted young Jake to be an actor

“My grandfather saw me in a play in high-school and said: ‘When are you going to get a real job?’, which I’m still looking for.”

He’s not going to lighten up anytime soon

“Most of [my roles] are yelling and breaking things ... At different times in my career I have tried to present something other than what I was. People say, “when are you going to do a comedy? What you do is so dark”. I think a romcom can be really dark.”

He finds his inspiration from hip-hop. Yes really

“I take my guidance from hip-hop — I really do — treat every situation like it’s the first time and maybe the last. That’s from Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.] you know.”

You don’t have to live a role

“If you’re playing a drug addict, I don’t think you should go and try doing drugs — it’s called acting. As much as there’s talk of method and living a character, imagination is half of it.”

On what he looks for in a script

“I think that you’re looking for a sign of confidence. As an audience we like to sit in seats and say that ‘this guy has got it’. I really look at pace, it’s a very important thing to me. You can mistake structure or really good dialogue, and vice versa, but structurally I’m looking for something that really has an end that knows where it’s going. My mother said to me early, “you need a story that you can sum up in one sentence”.

On his favourite movies

“Jacques Audiard — I love every single one of his films, most obviously, A Prophet. I love [Asghar Farhadi’s] A Separation. But I also love Jerry Maguire and The Goonies — I really do.”

On who he’d like to work with

“I like all directors, particularly the Coen brothers and Spike Jones. Those are the people where you see their films and wish ... I had the honour of being on a Jury in Cannes with the Coen brothers — that was such fun, it was like a mind meld.”

On which roles stick with him

“All of them. There’s roles that don’t ever go away. When I finished Nightcrawler and Southpaw, I don’t think I really realised how much time I had put into creating these characters. I remember I was talking to a journalist and I said it had changed my molecular structure, which sounds so pretentious, but it really does. You do all this work, and then you leave and it’s like, ‘wait I’m a boxer, where is my daughter?’.”

The biggest myth in Hollywood is ...

“That everybody is really short, it’s just not true. I feel that’s a stereotype that I don’t appreciate. The really talented ones, maybe, but I’m really tall. Dustin Hoffman, he’s really short.”

On Brokeback Mountain

“It still feels very close to me. I think it did have a part in changing the mainstream [prejudice], and I’m very proud of being part of it. When I was offered the script, I did not hesitate. Maybe that was naive, but I’m an artist, and when some work speaks to me, I have to do it, no matter what. I had no idea what an effect it would have. If we did have an idea, I don’t think we would have been able to make the movie that we did.”

On reports he once said he’s keen to play Kurt Cobain

“Sometimes it’s the end of a long day and someone says, ‘can you just say this?’. I’m a big [Nirvana] fan. I did a movie that went straight to video — a classic — called Highway with Jared Leto, about two guys that go to Seattle in the time when Kurt killed himself. I’m a huge fan and it means a lot to me. But I don’t think I’ve got the chops man, sorry to disappoint.”

On how acting is like Pac-Man

“It’s like Pac-Man, you can say: I eat over there, then I’m going over there, then I’ll eat over there, and hopefully I don’t get eaten.”

On acting and intelligence

“I realised a few years ago that I’m not as smart as I thought I was, and that I need to do a tremendous amount of preparation to feel comfortable in any moment. I wish I had known that early on, that acting is really a craft. In the world today there’s a big emphasis on celebrity and the idea of success. What I love about acting is the success of getting pleasure from your craft. It brings me the most joy in my life. Acting offers me an opportunity to see what a real job is. To go out to the real world and learn the risk that real people are taking. The risks we take in a scene are nothing compared to risks that people take every day. And if you can learn from that, you can change your whole life. It changed mine.”

Updated: December 17, 2015 04:00 AM

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