Three plays for every movie

Well, looks like the guys at Backstage.com took my hint today and released a longer interview with Jake. Three plays for every movie? I can stand that.

Photo Source: Matt Hoyle

Anyone can be guilty of going through the motions—even Jake Gyllenhaal, and even the people who write about him.

“When you have a lot of opportunities, which I am blessed to have had in terms of my work, you get into the habit of not paying attention to certain specifics,” Gyllenhaal says. “And as we get busy, anything we do is the same thing.” Warming to the theme, his voice rises, and he makes an example of the interviewer. “You’re going to churn out this story, then you’re going to churn out another story, you know? And you fucking probably know how to do it perfectly, and you can do it in a certain period of time, and you probably have half of it written already somewhere in your mind. You don’t get to be in the position you’re in without knowing how to do those things and having certain things already in your back pocket.”

Satisfied that he’s made a convincing parallel, Gyllenhaal returns to the topic at hand. “And I wanted to throw all of that away. I asked myself, ‘What if I just start from scratch and devote myself only to this one thing? What happens when you do that for five months in preparation?’ ”

Photo Source: Matt Hoyle

Anyone can be guilty of going through the motions—even Jake Gyllenhaal, and even the people who write about him.

“When you have a lot of opportunities, which I am blessed to have had in terms of my work, you get into the habit of not paying attention to certain specifics,” Gyllenhaal says. “And as we get busy, anything we do is the same thing.” Warming to the theme, his voice rises, and he makes an example of the interviewer. “You’re going to churn out this story, then you’re going to churn out another story, you know? And you fucking probably know how to do it perfectly, and you can do it in a certain period of time, and you probably have half of it written already somewhere in your mind. You don’t get to be in the position you’re in without knowing how to do those things and having certain things already in your back pocket.”

Satisfied that he’s made a convincing parallel, Gyllenhaal returns to the topic at hand. “And I wanted to throw all of that away. I asked myself, ‘What if I just start from scratch and devote myself only to this one thing? What happens when you do that for five months in preparation?’ ”

Filmgoers will find out when “End of Watch,” the gritty cop drama that inspired Gyllenhaal to seek a fresh way, opens Sept. 21. New York City audiences, however, will get to double-dip on the 31-year-old, who is appearing Off-Broadway in “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” opening Sept. 20. The timing, as with so much of Gyllenhaal’s career, is fortuitous.

“I made a promise to myself 10 years ago that for every three movies—if I had the opportunity to do three movies!—I would do something on the stage,” Gyllenhaal says during a break from rehearsals. “And I broke that promise to myself and woke up 10 years later going, ‘Why am I not doing what I love doing?’ I had the opportunity, and I needed to seize it before the door closed and nobody wanted me!”

Now the actor will be appearing nightly in Nick Payne’s family dramedy, as the directionless uncle to an overweight teenager whose parents are alternately baffled and worried by her. Oh, and the family’s British. And Payne’s dialogue is evocatively oblique. And Gyllenhaal’s Terry is somewhat inarticulate.

Gyllenhaal doesn’t take it easy on himself.

“I feel like I do,” he argues, “given that Nick’s writing is brilliant. There are twists and turns like driving the streets of Paris at 150 miles per hour, but ultimately I feel like I’m kind of saved by how brilliant everything underneath it is. But it’s not the easiest of roles to have picked out.”

Stars like Gyllenhaal, who bring the ready-made tag “Oscar nominee” to advertisements, billboards, and posters, are catnip to Broadway producers. Given his pick, however, he chose an elliptical British family drama rather than something more commercial. Gyllenhaal has been longing to perform this particular play for two years, but still. Off-Broadway? Doesn’t Broadway do serious dramas?

“The size of the show is really fitting for Off-Broadway,” he says, though avoiding the fanfare of Broadway likely wasn’t too disappointing for him. “I know everyone’s in the business to make a profit, but I also think there’s a real sense of not being involved in that game [Off-Broadway]. Just the real sense of ‘Let’s get down to work, and we don’t have to think about the other things.’ ”

It makes sense that the child of professional artists—director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner—would, no matter his star wattage, balk at the overtly commercial and gravitate instead toward the collaborative and weird. Case in point: “End of Watch,” for which Gyllenhaal re-imagined his approach to the craft. Jetlagged and unable to sleep, he first read the script in an hour and a half in the middle of the night and met with writer-director David Ayer the next day. That’s when the actor decided to find out what would happen if he dedicated five months of his life to preparing for his role.

A sliver of a plot about a dangerous drug cartel skirts the edges of “End of Watch,” but for the most part the camera is content to record the interaction between Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña’s best friends and partners. The intense five months of preparation that Gyllenhaal and Peña dutifully put in—including ride-alongs multiple nights a week, putting both men in bulletproof vests and life-and-death situations—pays off in a believable, back-slapping bro friendship between the two.

As with his best work (“Brokeback Mountain,” “The Good Girl,” “Zodiac”), Gyllenhaal’s “End of Watch” performance pivots on the chemistry between himself and his co-star. Gyllenhaal’s talent has always been in invisible, seamless partnering; he’s a team player in a leading man’s body—a team leader. When he’s working off other actors who push him, and against whom he can push back, he shines. When he treads a more traditional Hollywood route (“The Prince of Persia”), the results can be less warmly received. “End of Watch” and its dependency on his chemistry with Peña reminded Gyllenhaal of the importance of interacting, and how, in his words, “to get back to not being able to be OK without another person.”

So it isn’t surprising, in the end, that Gyllenhaal chose an ensemble play Off-Broadway for his stateside stage debut. “To feel like you’re a part of a family that is truly relying on each other to stay afloat—that idea is what drew me in,” he says. “I had no real explanation for not doing a play for essentially a decade, but I intend not to make that mistake again. Hopefully, ideally, it will be three plays for every movie.”

This Backstage mag issue will be on newsstands tomorrow.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Three plays for every movie

  1. Oh, boy! Jake, you keep us busy! Thanks for sharing that long interview with us, Gyllen.
    I’m not sure if I could survive so many unseen Jake’s plays! Have a pity!

      • I play constantly, having NYC on mind. Thursday is 25mln to win!
        If Jake would be so kind to play in Europe, somewhere near Poland or in my city even… sigh.
        You don’t know how lucky you are, boy!

      • There are theaters all around the world. Europe has a long history of theaters, it’s not a case that Jake made his stage debut in London. There’s hope.

  2. Please don’t Jake, unless some of them are being done in the UK. *sob* 😦 There’s no way on earth I could ever afford or manage to go and see one in the USA… *sigh*

    But, great interview.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with this:

    As with his best work (“Brokeback Mountain,” “The Good Girl,” “Zodiac”), Gyllenhaal’s “End of Watch” performance pivots on the chemistry between himself and his co-star. Gyllenhaal’s talent has always been in invisible, seamless partnering; he’s a team player in a leading man’s body—a team leader. When he’s working off other actors who push him, and against whom he can push back, he shines. When he treads a more traditional Hollywood route (“The Prince of Persia”), the results can be less warmly received. “End of Watch” and its dependency on his chemistry with Peña reminded Gyllenhaal of the importance of interacting, and how, in his words, “to get back to not being able to be OK without another person.”

    The difference is so obvious… wonder how I needed it written down to see why (although I liked it a lot) PoP kinda didn’t work.

    Nev

    • PoP didn’t work for everyone, especially it seems for the critics, but there are quite a few of us who truly enjoyed Jake as Prince Dastan. Some people like action/adventure/fantasy more than others. I just think it shows his range and versatility.

      • I agree with you, Susan! Jake was interacting in POP beautifully. And shone like a diamond, being pushed by Tamina all the time! LOL. I think, even being a leading, title character in POP, he didn’t try to overshadow anyone, he interacted great with Alfred Molina, and his movie’s bros. With ostriches even. LOL Don’t even get me started on that!

      • I think PoP was ill promoted by Disney but maybe I’m wrong. I don’t like action movies and I went to see it only because of Jake, I thought it was a nice action movie for families, I don’t know what those critics were expecting from it and from Jake.

    • Hey Nev, I hope that if Jake seriously goes for a Thespian career he will get at a theater in your neck of the woods.

      As for that part of the interview you quoted, I honestly don’t like it and I don’t agree. It makes it look like Jake doesn’t shine on his own but needs a co-star to do well. Apart from that, I liked it.

  3. A thought on Prince of Persia (and then I’ll try to shut up about it as it’s over and done with). It was a wonderful action movie that was appropriate for family viewing. I think Disney did an awful job of promoting it and most of the blame for its perceived failure lies with their marketing department. It deserved to do better at the box office, but even so, it was meant to be a fun, adventurous, fantasy romp in the desert and it achieved that brilliantly. I would take Prince Dastan as a ‘super’ hero any day over any of the comic book superhero franchises that have dominated at the movies the last few years. I could go on and on, but I’ll shut up now….

    • Don’t shut up Susan, I love to hear your thoughts. I agree with everything you said, Jake did a brilliant job and the film is exactly what it was supposed to be: a funny action movie with a great cast.

      • What can I say? I totally agree! POP was conquered by Sex and the City and Shrek. it was a misfortune. With brilliant Shrek, next of a fantastic, loved by everybody’ series, obviously couldn’t have win – as a competitive family movie. Sex and the City – was a very successful series as well. Both movies had audience waiting for them. It was difficult to beat it by new family, adventure movie. It was not Jake’s genre before, so some were complaining about that choice Disney made with him. I wish they choose a different date for premiere…. sigh. Bad luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: