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Interview: Jake Gyllenhaal on His Transformation & Performance in ‘Nightcrawler’

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Interview: Jake Gyllenhaal on His Transformation & Performance in ‘Nightcrawler’

At this point plenty of movie-goers have been reading the rave reviews about Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in his latest movie ‘Nightcrawler.’ The actor’s career has been amazing to see throughout the years as he hops from one intriguing role to the next, always testing his skills. Now he might be a few steps closer to finally getting the Oscar for his acting, but there’s so many different aspects of ‘Nightcrawler’ that blended together perfectly into this marriage of solid cinema for people to see around the nation.

‘Nightcrawler’ focuses on Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a man who comes across an accident one night and finds himself heavily infatuated with the local news. Once he discovers the world of being a nightcrawler, trying to capture the best footage of local news before anyone else can, it becomes his world. He’ll stop at nothing to be the best, even if that means letting others get trampled on his way to the top.

While Jake Gyllenhaal was promoting ‘Nightcrawler’ we got the great opportunity to speak with him about his dedication to the role. There were a few obvious questions aimed at how he went to alter his physical appearance, but there was so much more going on with his performance that really worked for viewers. It just so happened to be that he lost a little bit of weight in the process, but it was for a specific reason. Gyllenhaal talks a bit more about his preparation for the role, working with filmmaker Dan Gilroy and actor Rene Russo.

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Do you have any ambitions to be a director at some point?

Jake Gyllenhaal: Well, my father’s a director. My mother’s a director, too. I know from a certain amount of experience, from watching a lot of people do it, who are extraordinary at it, because I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who are really good at it, that it would be presumptious of me to say that I would be good at it. At a time when I am looking to be presumptious, then maybe. I don’t know if that’s now. But I would like to try my hand at it, at some time.

When it came together to piecing together Louis, did you do some research in the way motivational speakers talk and position themselves?

Jake Gyllenhaal: The hand gesturing, all that weird gesticulation… You’ve met Dan Gilroy? There’s somebody who I based a lot of the character on, who used his hands a lot. But Dan, when he talks, he stands really straight, and he’s very thin. There’s something about him, he uses his hands a lot. So no, I didn’t study anybody who does self help. The words kind of guided me there. Because there’s these strange punctuations, about it, and I followed to a T the punctuation. I did not veer off one word, or one period, or any commas, throughout the whole thing. In that way it needed me to be very specific. So if there was a period, I would make sure to say a period. Sometimes my hands did it for me.

What about that movement that you would do with your hair? I noticed that was a kind of transformative movement. Is that something you decided to do when you read the script and decided that you liked it?

Jake Gyllenhaal: That just happened one day. There was one point when I had the idea with Dan [Gilroy]. There was some point where I thought, “What if, when Lou is headed into filming, that his hair gets in his way?” Because my hair was pretty long at the time. And there was a moment in the movie, when the hair was all in my face, and I’m filming, and I just thought, so often, when you’re driving, it’s sort of more dangerous when you’re driving with your knee. So there were a lot of inspirations that were coming from all over the place, from this movie. So I said to Dan, “Wouldn’t it be great when I was talking to Rick in the car, while I’m giving him speeches, that as I’m talking I’ll drive with my knee while I’m putting my hair up.” There’s something about it, where I thought he was a ninja, that he thought that he was a ninja. Before he did anything, where he stole that bike, he’s a ninja! He went in, and was like, “Let’s go!” That just came out. Dan loved it.

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In building this character, at times it seemed this is like a Norman Bates who’s gone into TV movies. Do you think he’s a sociopath?

Jake Gyllenhaal: My belief is, in using that word, I think it takes the one-ness off of us, in the creation of Lou. He’s our creation. Without our need for information, without our need for information of all sorts, in a world where unimportant information is now important, and important information is now unimportant, and it all exists on the same plane, we just need to feed and consume, in that way. That people like Lou can thrive. He’s a product of a generation where jobs are, I wouldn’t necessarily say, now, as scarce as they have been, but definitely scarce, and they are transforming the idea of what someone does, as so different. The other day, I wrote an article on there’s a job that is changing the idea of a whole generation, who are coming into the world going, “What is a job? What do I do? How do I get a job?” And Lou is a product of that. The choices he makes; he’s kind of a walking metaphor, that’s how I look at it. As soon as you say, “Oh, he’s a sociopath,” It makes it go, “Oh, he’s over there. Don’t worry. We don’t have to deal with it.” In a way, I think he’s a product of… he does what he does. He is enabled by Nina, Rene’s character. He’s enabled by the guys at the head of the station, and they are enabled by us. There’s a world where we maybe could live, ideally, where someone who wouldn’t end up being the head of a huge major network. But I feel like, in the world that we live in now, he probably would.

Can you talk a little bit about working with Renee? As a person, and as an actress, as your partner in this? As a person who touched your knee?

Jake Gyllenhaal: Oh yeah, she did do that in one scene. Well, in the restaurant scene, that’s actually a perfect example. Her husband, Dan, gave her very little to survive with in that scene. I would say that I was given, Lou was given a figurative 50 calibre machine gun, with his words, and she’s given a spoon. So I walked into that scene, expecting to just win, just because I’d been given all those words. And eventually he does win that scene. But Rene came in, and made it a struggle for me, in that even with close to nothing to defend with, she was a fierce competitor. The choices that she was making, moment to moment, even when she touched my leg… She must have said that to you, that was a choice she was doing, under the table to me that no one would see, to mess with me. Because she knew that she needed to try and win something. As actor to actor. And I love it!

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There’s nothing I love more than another actor who is going to sideswipe me, sweep my leg, because I mean, it’s fun! She does it in so much fun, so much play, it’s not dangerous. It’s so playful. When we rehearsed, with her and Dan; they’re so loving, the two of them, just so positive and loving. I would come and rehearse and do a speech with her, a scene, and she’d be like, “Oh my God, you’re just so great!” And then I’d be like, “Can we just do the scene?” And she’d be like, “Nope, I mean, Danny, isn’t he just so wonderful?” And he would go “I know, I told you! I told you!” Guys, we’re doing a scene! She’s separated herself from the whole Hollywood thing, as much as she can, and she’s really creative, and very sensitive, and very loving and open. When you think about her in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ and stuff, there’s a real intimidation factor about her beauty and her charisma, but I think deep down inside she just likes to garden, chill out and stuff. I love that side of her, in the scene, because it’s that side of her, seeing the real human side of her, that makes her so fearless in that scene. So it was great fun to work with her.

Was there some effort made into altering your physical appearance for this film? Was there any sort of makeup involved in that process?

Jake Gyllenhaal: I have an extraordinary make-up artist, who’s working with me on this movie ‘Prisoners’ right now. And then he came, and he was nice enough to come and work with me on this movie. We had extraordinary department heads; from Rob Elswit, who shot our movie, all the way to our production designer. Every single department head, it was nuts! It was a 7.5 million dollar movie! The fact that we had all these people working with us was insane. So Donald, who did my make-up, I also worked on character with him. It was very important. It’s not about anything other than the creation of a good feeling inside. There’s no continuity with how we worked. There’s emotional continuity, given the scenario, and the scene and the day and the moment, has nothing to do with anything besides that. He was helpful there. We did subtle things. One of the biggest things that Lou really only sweats once in the movie, and that was a very particular thing, that we talked about often. In the times when he’s giving his speeches, or when he’s under pressure he does not sweat. The only time that he sweats is out of excitement, when he’s going through that house. When he comes out of that, and he runs down that hill, and he’s driving away, is the only time that you see him sweaty. He’s f–king psyched!

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So those types of things, as far as my face, and the choices that are made, losing weight and stuff. That was just months of, as we were getting into shooting, I would do stuff like run to set, and at a certain point I was just running through Griffith Park all the time, eight to fifteen miles a day, and I was just training myself as a coyote, with all the coyotes and stuff. And then my face just changed, I think. I don’t think I was really even aware, until a few months ago, and we were going through all the cuts. You start to separate from all the characters, and go like “Wow!” The place where you are mentally, it has so much less to do mentally than it does, physically. I can go back there at any moment and remember. I can go back to that Chinese restaurant, Like the scene of an accident, or something.

In the movie, L.A. is kind of its own character, and it’s beautiful. Can you tell me how you describe L.A., and how that played into your character?

Jake Gyllenhaal: L.A. is where I was born and where I was raised. So it’s filled with all of that stuff for me. I love L.A. I don’t want to quote Randy Newman, but… The movie would not have been able to been made anywhere else. This is a Los Angeles movie. It’s a movie about the world, and I think that L.A., from my experience of L.A., has every single culture in it. It’s just this extraordinarily vast melting pot. And also the topography of it is really important, because there’s also the desert outside, and there’s the city, the metropolis. And Dan and I talked a lot about this, that the borders from space of Los Angeles, it goes from like electric to total darkness, into the desert. You know, there’s the green grass, and the lawns we created, are all man made, and outside of that is wilderness and the wild. These animals come in at night. Who, who lives in L.A., has not had an exchange with a coyote? Anytime that I talk to somebody who’s seen the movie, and said that I based this character off of a coyote, they go, “Oh!” Because it’s like, who hasn’t been eye-f–ked by a coyote. They are not intimidated by you at all. In fact, they’re looking for the most vulnerable aspect of you. And they’re a beautiful animal. I have grown to love them, because I’ve done so much research, and felt like I was one of them, while I was playing this character. But they are ruthless because they’re also starving.

‘Nightcrawler’ is out in theaters now.

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