Quint chats PRINCE OF PERSIA and SOURCE CODE with Jake Gyllenhaal!
Published at: April 8, 2010, 1:55 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the biggest of the interviews I got at WonderCon this year with Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal for Disney’s big tent-pole summer flick PRINCE OF PERSIA, directed by Mike Newell and produced by giant spectacle mogul Jerry Bruckheimer.
When I entered the room to chat with Gyllenhaal he directed me to a chair that was right up next to the window. There was a slight counter top build up against the glass that Gyllenhaal perched himself on, which, when sitting in the chair, put me the awkward position of having his crotch being at eye level. Needless to say, I spent most of the interview with my eyes locked on his, despite whatever neck pain that might have given me. I ain’t no cock spy!
Awkward seating situation aside, I found Gyllenhaal to have quite a lot of enthusiasm about his craft and a down to earth boyish excitement about film that I didn’t expect. I don’t know why, but I pegged him more as being an withdrawn serious guy.
Hope you guys enjoy the chat!
Quint: I have to start off by saying that I loved BROTHERS. I think that was a criminally overlooked movie. You, Natalie [Portman] and Tobey [Maguire] knocked that out of the park.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Thank you very much.
Quint: I was very shocked that it got ignored during the awards season.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Really?
Jake Gyllenhaal: You know, I think those things take on lives of their own, it’s like sometimes things catch and sometimes things don’t, but it doesn’t make it any more or less of a movie, I guess. I’m really proud of that movie as a marker of sort of a new beginning in understanding of acting for me, so thank you. That means a lot.
Quint: Seriously it felt like the kind of movie that I could have seen in the 70s. Do you know what I mean? It was very comfortable in what it was and it was very comfortable in resting everything on three shoulders, essentially. It was very… I don’t want to say “slow,” but it was a very deliberately paced movie that we don’t get in the multiplexes anymore.
Jake Gyllenhaal: But enough of a story, I feel, to keep people engaged. It’s like there were twists and turns if you hadn’t seen the original that I think people would go like “Whoa, what happened?” That’s what I was… When I read it, I hadn’t really seen the original and then I read it and particularly that one thing that happens with Tobey… You are like “How do you come back from that?” and you don’t. He did a great job with that.
Quint: I didn’t do the set visit or any of that stuff, so this is kind of like the first extended bit I’ve seen from PRINCE OF PERSIA and what really struck me is that I love that even if he wasn’t up on the stage or even anywhere near the panel, I could have pegged that as a Jerry Bruckheimer just because the dude puts such an emphasis on fun and spectacle. It’s fun, and that’s what I loved about seeing it and I love who he likes to put in these movies. I’m a huge Alfred Molina fan and so…
Jake Gyllenhaal: For real, me too. You don’t see any of Alfred in it, though. I saw a couple of clips and he is so much in the movie.
Quint: They focused a lot more on him on SORCERER’S APPRENTICE where we just got to see all of these crazy wacky magic fights between him and Nicolas Cage.
Jake Gyllenhaal: It’s so random. (laughs)
Quint: That’s a ticket sold from my book! (laughs) I have to imagine that was in the script; just kind of the overall fun feeling of the thing.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yes.
Quint: On the panel, you called back to a childhood love of INDIANA JONES and those kinds of movies, so I guess if you could elaborate a little bit on that.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yeah, it was that. To me the fun thing about it is… I think it is incredibly entertaining, it’s huge and it’s for everyone. (laughs) I had great fun making the movie. I think it does show in there and yeah, that’s what it is. You did most of the talking yourself, so you just…
Quint: Man, I’m a shitty interviewer, I’m supposed to make you do all of the talking.
Jake Gyllenhaal: No, no! (laughs) That is what it is. It’s really, really great fun.
Quint: And you have worked with people like Roland Emmerich before who are also skilled at these kinds of giant disastersploitation, just these super fun movies, but I’ve noticed through a lot of studio pictures, you just end up with this kind of homogenized “fun,” so it’s very safe fun, but what I really kind of connected with on the PRINCE OF PERSIA stuff that, to be completely honest, I didn’t know if it was going to be there until I saw the footage was that it just didn’t seem to have that “Directed by studio mentality” feel. I don’t know if that makes any sense…
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yeah, to me I feel like what was really nice about working with Disney, and also working with Jerry, was that Mike [Newell] and I… You never had this feeling of “No, you can’t do… NO!” and you were constantly trying things out. When we were on second unit, I would literally just try something out and I would say probably three quarters of the time it was not successful, but it’s unique because you can take those risks you know?
Quint: Every once in a while that’s where you get the lightning in the bottle. I don’t think a lot of people know that about filmmaking.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yeah and a number of those lines in those clips, which they actually cut short (in the WonderCon presentation)… I don’t know if you remember, but there’s a moment where I hit these two guards and I throw a rope around the and I’m like “Hold this,” and I went over the (wall)… [Laughs]
Quint: I’ve noticed from visiting sets and hearing a lot of directors talk there’s a fine balance of being prepared, having done your homework, and also being open to chance and to not pass up an opportunity that might make the movie better.
Jake Gyllenhaal: I just did this movie with Ed Zwick and Annie Hathaway and then I’m doing a movie now with Duncan Jones…
Quint: Oh, that’s right. I was on the set of MOON.
Jake Gyllenhaal: You were?
Quint: I was. I saw Gertie in person.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Nice.
Quint: I love Duncan. He’s very cool.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Duncan is so awesome and he is an extraordinary director. Working with him has been that exactly and I think this movie that we are making is mind boggling.
Quint: SOURCE CODE, is that right?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yeah, it’s called SOURCE CODE.
Quint: I don’t know much about it at all.
Jake Gyllenhaal: You will, you will.
Quint: I think that might be the point. I’m sorry, I think I cut you off. You were saying something about…
Jake Gyllenhaal: About Duncan?
Quint: Well, chance.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yeah, chance… That to me is where the magic is. When you have an opportunity to check in with yourself, particularly if you are in a scene. A lot of time things are rushed or someone wants a result, which is a big mistake like in a scene it says “And then he cries…” and you are like “Ugg…” You are not left up to chance, because somebody is forcing you in a certain direction, but if it’s well done and it’s well made, the script already, then you can almost go in any direction, which is what we did on BROTHERS.
That’s how Jim [Sheridan] works. It was just like “This scene really can be whatever we want it to be.” He just wanted something real and alive and present and working with Mike, too… There’s this one scene we shot in the desert where something wasn’t working and I just said to him “Maybe I’m just going to say this one line to her” and I really gave it to Gemma [Arterton]. I really gave it to her and she responded and it came out of nowhere and Mike gets like a kid in a candy shop, it’s almost annoying. (laughs)
He’s like (shouting) “Oh, my dear boy!” and I’m like “Oh, my God! Okay, okay. It was good. It wasn’t great,” but it’s those moments. It’s what I do it for. That’s what we tried to capture, but I’m starting to lean more and more about how to do that and a lot of that is with a director who creates space… at least from my department, from the acting department, gives me that space to get closer to myself, even if I’m playing a character who is very different from myself, if that makes any sense.
Quint: Yeah and something that you mentioned earlier, which I’d like to touch on is you said that BROTHERS was kind of a check point for you where you started looking at the craft differently. I know PRINCE OF PERSIA is obviously a radically different movie, it’s a very big movie and there are probably much broader strokes, I would imagine, but did you find stuff that you learned there, you were able to carry over with you?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I did BROTHERS and then right after BROTHERS I did this movie with David O. Russell which has yet to come out, but that’s its own beast. David is incredible, but it was like BROTHERS, NAILED or THE NAIL I think we are calling it now, and then it was PRINCE OF PERSIA and then from PRINCE OF PERSIA I did this movie with Ed Zwick and now I’m doing this with Duncan and the progression for me personally, particularly with PRINCE OF PERSIA in the middle of it, which was a massive learning experience. It was like… You know, I’ve never been on something that big where there were three of me every day. Do you know what I mean? There would literally be three of me. There are three guys and then literally three of me. (laughs)
I would be on one unit and they’d be like “Okay, we are done. We need you to come over to this unit.” I would be like “When’s lunch?” They’d be like “Well, you know we started on second…” and I’d be like “Wait a second, I started on first unit, my lunch should be now!” [Laughing] They were like “Well, second unit started at this time, so lunch is at 3.” I’m like “I started at 6!” And then go over to special effects.
It was funny, because it’s like tag team, like I would finish with Mike and then I would move over to second unit and then there’d be like a guy who looked like me doing stuff and I’d be like “Alright, tag you out. It’s my turn now.”
They’d be like “Okay, we’ve got Jake, time for close ups. Time for that thing. We are going to do this and…” “Okay, tag you out” and “Special effects needs you.” I would go over there and I’d take off all of my clothes and they’d scan me and I’d put my clothes back on and go over to second unit again.
It required an intensity and a focus that I have actually then brought to this work I do now and I’ve developed techniques that have really helped me. Even if the movie is smaller… I just develop these really wonderful things. I see actors do funny things, but I have in the past who have had great experience in films and I’ve been like “What are they doing?”
I worked with Dustin Hoffman and he gave me a walker, like an old person’s walker, at the end and I was like “What?” He always would warm up before a scene doing like triceps pull-ups on a walker to get his energy up and I’m like “That’s crazy… Let’s just act!” and now cut to me doing triceps work to get my energy up, but those types of things… I think those little idiosyncrasies create a sense of presence and a knowing of yourself that I think helps your work definitely and I learned so much on this movie. It was an incredible process.
Quint: I can imagine…
[A representative comes in and notifies that there’s only time for one more question.]
Quint: Well if I’ve got one more question, I have to talk about Duncan.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yes.
Quint: So, how far along are you in the movie?
Jake Gyllenhaal: We are almost done.
Quint: Really? Are you shooting in London?
Jake Gyllenhaal: No, we are shooting in Montreal. We are shooting the coolest shit right now, man. I can’t even tell you.
Quint: I’ve got to bug him “Hey, the studio might not want it, but I want to come up!”
Jake Gyllenhaal: I’m telling you man, he is really quite something. His mind… He comes from quite a pedigree, just artistically, but on his own I believe he is the next generation. He is blowing my mind on a daily basis.
Quint: What’s interesting with him is he is kind of like the quiet Quentin Tarantino, where it’s like he has such amazing film knowledge. Like when I went to MOON he was wearing the most badass CLOCKWORK ORANGE t-shirt I’ve ever seen. I’m like, “Wow, I know I like you already.”
Jake Gyllenhaal: He has collector’s edition t-shirts on like every day and people come up and they are like “Dude, where’d you get that shirt?” I’m “It’s just a shirt, I have no idea.” [Laughs]
To me, working with him… It’s surprising, his instinct, his sense of collaboration, but at the same time truly being an auteur… I don’t know man, it’s nice, because I feel like I’ve talked to a lot of journalists who have really responded to his movie and know that and I knew that when I saw it and I think people… Everyone I’ve been like “Have you seen MOON?” They’re always like “Everyone says it’s so good, I need to see it.” He’s the real deal man. Anyone who has seen it knows that and this… you are really going to like it!
That’s a bit of a scattershot interview, but I think it gives you a taste of his enthusiasm for the process. Imagine the section where he’s talking about there being three of him on the Prince of Persia set every day and read it in your mind with Jake Gyllenhaal, eyes wide, pacing around the room, talking in run-on sentences.
The dude’s got the passion and he’s got the chops. And I’m so intrigued by Source Code right now you have no idea!
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