Jake Gyllenhaal vs. the Tennis Ball

Jake Gyllenhaal during the making of 'Enemy'
Jake Gyllenhaal during the making of 'Enemy'

For his upcoming film "Enemy," Jake Gyllenhaal acted opposite a tennis ball.

While the 33-year-old actor admitted to Yahoo Movies that the process made him feel like he was going crazy at times, he confirmed he didn't actually name his ball like the isolated and cracked Tom Hanks did in "Castaway." (Remember Wilson?) "No. I don't think I ever had the same one," the actor told us with a laugh.

It's not that sort of movie.

Watch 'Enemy' Trailer:

You see, Gyllenhaal plays opposite himself in the mysterious, psychological flick about a Toronto man who discovers he has a type of doppelgänger. The tennis ball never actually appears in the film. It was merely a placeholder for Gyllenhaal's second character — one that was digitally and seamlessly inserted into scenes.

"The technical stuff kept me on my toes," Gyllenhaal explained over the phone as jazz could be heard playing in the background. "When you look at somebody in the eye you don't just look at one eye, you switch back and forth," he explained. "When you look at a tennis ball you're obviously just looking at one place — so we had two dots on the tennis ball I had to look back and forth at... It just made it like 3-D chess. It was fun."

[Related: Director Admits Two Jake Gyllenhaals Can Be Too 'Intense']

Gyllenhaal pretends the ball is his duplicate self
Gyllenhaal pretends the ball is his duplicate self

Like the work that made him an indie film staple at the turn of the century, Gyllenhaal hasn't gotten this wonderfully weird since "Donnie Darko." With a look and feel that evokes a Hitchcock film, "Enemy" is steeped in enigmatic symbols: the recurring presence of a spider and other unexplained phenomena. Is his doppelgänger another literal human, or is he a subconscious invention?

Director Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Gyllenhaal in "Prisoners," draws out the question. "Enemy," based on a 2002 novel, "The Double," by Portuguese author José Saramago, is decidedly open to interpretation. But Gyllenhaal has his own theory: "It is two characters with two sides who are, in my option, the same person."

[Photos: 'Enemy' Movie Stills and Poster]

Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Enemy'
Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Enemy'

There were a lot of challenges Gyllenhaal faced filming scenes twice — once as his professor character, Adam, and then as occasionally working actor, Anthony (each with their own beautiful blond paramour played by Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, respectively). "I like working with actors who push me and who are more talented than me," Gyllenhaal said. "It always makes you better. I've had the opportunity to do that and in this case it wasn't true," he said of his scenes with himself.

On set, he tried different techniques, also acting opposite another actor who would later be digitally replaced with his own character. But he found it didn't quite work. "It became distracting," Gyllenhaal explained. "No matter how great other actor is — to see their choices was distracting because I knew I had already made other ones and I knew which way the story was going to go."

[Related: The Film Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Supposed to Do With Jake Gyllenhaal]

Instead, he preferred the tennis ball with the two dots. He would throw his voice to represent his other character — and if one were to watch it live on set, out of context, you might just think Gyllenhaal was going mad. "Boundaries got a little lost and that definitely affects you psychologically," the actor confirmed.

"I legitimately pictured a person in front of me," he explained. "This is going to sound odd, but I can picture and feel what it felt like in a moment that I had just done previously," he said, further describing a sort of sense memory he has, one that allows him to recall with precision exact film takes — often one of several. "Sometimes I can feel in my bones takes I've done," he says, admitting that his favorite ones don't always make the final cut.

When it comes to the two Jake Gyllenhaals in "Enemy," the idea might appeal to some, especially his female fans. But to him, having a duplicate version of himself just sounds like a bad idea. "I feel like there's enough of me to handle in just one of me," he teased.

Already available on DirecTV, "Enemy" enters theaters on March 14.

See Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Prisoners':

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