Jake Gyllenhaal—an actor whose face you’d like to punch—is back on the press circuit, this time for his new boxing movie, Southpaw. While one hoped Gyllenhaal would have discussed how his character is influenced by the real-life struggles of Marshall “Eminem” Mathers during an interview with British Esquire, Gylly had moon matters on the brain.
There are a handful of beautiful quotations to note from the Esquire profile, in part because it’s written in that familiar style that affirms that this celebrity used to be young and immature but is now very much a Serious Actor. Gyllenhaal told writer Sanjiv Bhattacharya that the change for him occurred in 2010, after the release of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time:
Then something tectonic took place. His priorities shifted and his perspective changed. “I woke up one day and I wasn’t in the right room,” he says. “It was like a David Byrne song: ‘That’s not my beautiful house. That’s not my beautiful wife.’”
On the filming of his Serious Film Southpaw, director Antoine Fuqua told Battacharya about Gyllenhaal, “He even broke up with his girlfriend because he was at the ring every day!”
Prior to his boxing movie, Gyllenhaal played a cop in End of Watch, another Serious Role:
“There were times, when I was taking cover, wearing a Kevlar vest and thinking, ‘Come on, we’re making a movie!’ You know?” he says. But at the same time, he loved it so much, it changed his life. “I have never felt so good about being in Los Angeles as when I was in East LA working with police officers. Just being in that culture, especially the Hispanic culture. It was amazing.”
The delicate icing on Gyllenhaal’s Serious Actor cake is, of course, a strong belief in quasi-science and mysticism:
This is why he prepares so intensely, because for Gyllenhaal, empathy has a molecular, even mystical quality. “I believe deeply in the unconscious,” he says. “That you literally accumulate the molecules of the space that you’re in. We’re like 90 per cent water, so naturally we are going to be affected by the moon when it’s full: if the sea is, why wouldn’t we be? That seems scientific to me. So, if you spend enough time in whatever environment your character would exist in – the way I spent six months with police officers – then the molecules of that environment must transfer somehow. And then you put it on screen, and people go, ‘I feel something that I don’t normally feel.’”
At least Gyllenhaal seems to be sort of aware of the limited importance of his job as an actor:
“There’s a hierarchy of importance, and actors are way down. I get that my job is absurd. I’m hyper-aware of how ridiculous it is. But at the same time, I take it extraordinarily seriously! Because as absurd as it is, it can also breed empathy.”
Whatever you think, man. It’s working.