Jake Gyllenhaal Interview For ‘Prisoners’
In ‘Prisoners,’ Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but a lack of evidence forces the only suspect’s release. Knowing his child’s life is at stake, the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. The desperate father will do whatever it takes to find the girls, but in doing so, he may lose himself, begging the question: When do you cross the line between seeking justice and becoming a vigilante?
Led by Hugh Jackman and Jack Gyllenhaal, ‘Prisoners’ features an all-star cast, including Maria Bello as Keller’s wife, Grace; Oscar nominees Terrence Howard and Viola Davis as Franklin and Nancy Birch, whose daughter Joy went missing with the Dovers’; Academy Award winner Melissa Leo as Alex Jones’ Aunt Holly; and Paul Dano as Alex Jones. ‘Prisoners’ is pencilled in for a September 20th release in the US and a September 27th bow in the UK. Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) directs the film from an original screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband).
You also recently filmed ‘Enemy’ with Denis Villeneuve and he recommended you for this role. Why do you think he saw you as this guy?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I feel like he wanted the character to be younger than what we would usually consider in a cliché kind of way, particularly for a detective. And there was a clash with these two guys, and for him it wasn’t about two egos, it was about lots of people not trusting each other and why? And I think he found age and I think he found naiveté and arrogance – I wouldn’t say that I have, but he might (laughs)…. and I think that became a real tension between these two people. The thing about Denis is that he sees the multi-faceted layers of people, of actors, of artists, characters in a story, human beings in general.
And Denis is very loving and understanding of those things, and so that gives him an opportunity to look at the story from different angles and from sort of more complicated angles than I think most directors would. I think my age and also just us having an incredible time working together before on ‘Enemy.’ We are very compatible artistically, we are like brothers. He’s like an older brother…. an A LOT older brother (laughs). But when he offered up the part I just took it, I couldn’t say no.
You’re playing a guy who gets involved with this extraordinary situation that any parent, or anyone, can feel strongly about. But playing this detective, you have to play a man who can’t get emotionally involved, how challenging was that?
Jale Gyllenhaal: For me what I was fascinated by when I was making this movie was by how much he felt, but how little he could show. I think that we think of acting as a way of emoting, you know? And to me it was an experiment and an experience of holding so much down. There was a lot of feeling. I’m an actor who I feel like will immediately want to connect in terms of vulnerability, I want that, I want that in scenes, I want to find that place that you can sort of break open – and with this I never had that opportunity, but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t feeling it.
It gave me a real insight into human behavior that I never knew, in that there can be so much love underneath something, underneath someone, and their drive can actually be love, without ever having to say that or show that. And I believe about this character that that is underneath him.
What was the research process like for you with ‘Prisoners’?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I have a lot of friends who are in law enforcement from other films that I have done, so I immediately went to them. Some of them are detectives, and also I also specifically wanted to know about missing children and what those types of investigations were like emotionally for police officers and also just the way they go about things. I had piles of written research and then also video research. Particularly what was fascinating for me was watching interrogations and seeing how the human species, we assume something of someone, we are skeptical of them, but they can become very different from who they were. More often than not it’s an equation that follows no rules.
You have some incredibly intense scenes going toe-to-toe with Hugh Jackman in this film, how was it working with him?
Jake Gyllenhaal: He is a ridiculously good man, it’s annoying. (laughs). He sings, he dances, he saves children…. the guy is just… it’s frustrating (laughs). But for me what was fascinating was that I had met him before and he was so nice, so I thought, “What was going on, what can we get at?” And what I found was this incredible vulnerability, and his strength comes from an engine of vulnerability. He is a man that I admire because he is not afraid to show that, and I think what is underneath is what you see in this performance. In this performance is a man who’s struggling deeply. The truth of who he is comes out in so many ways and in some extraordinary scenes. He’s extraordinary in ‘Prisoners.’
Working with him, we improvised a lot, he loves improve and so do I. We would throw things back and forth at each other. We were questioning and trying to discover our characters together, particularly at the beginning. And those few scenes we did at the beginning, and then particularly at the middle and end, we could both feel an evolution. He was a real guide for me, in what I was trying to figure out about Detective Loki, and I hope vice-versa. But it was really really fun. With a subject matter like this, which can seem not that way, it was incredibly fun acting. It was invigorating and enervating and you can see that his energy is like that. What I would say about Hugh is that I don’t think he’s always “the nice” guy, I just think he’s a really really good man.
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