The Movie (and the Moment) That Made Jake Gyllenhaal Shift Gears

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Jake Gyllenhaal Prince of Persia
Jake Gyllenhaal Prince of Persia

In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a crime reporter who furiously chases down leads (in speeding cars, no less!), obsessed with breaking news for a local Los Angeles television station. The film has earned strong early notices and Oscar buzz for its star, whose extreme weight loss for the thriller has been well documented.

As Gyllenhaal reveals in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly there was a surprising inspiration behind the character: his parents’ 2009 divorce. “It was incredibly painful but liberating for them,” the actor explained. (Stephen Gyllenhaal, a director, and Naomi Foner, a screenwriter, decided to end their marriage after 32 years.) “When anybody does something that honest, it inspires you. I tried to emulate it in my work and in my life, too.”

By then, Gyllenhaal had already begun to rethink his career, thanks to the 2010 critical and box-office bomb Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, based on a 3-D video game. “There was a moment when I went, ‘I’m not what my work is,’” the 33-year-old actor said of the film in his EW interview. “Meaning, I’m not communicating who I am.”

So who is he? Gyllenhaal points to the gritty cop drama End of Watch (2012), the Oscar-nominated Prisoners (2013), and his upcoming turn in Nightcrawler as being truer to his acting self than the misguided Persia. “I look at past work I’ve done and go, ‘I wish I could redo that again. Tear it up and sew it up,’” he added.

Watch Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia:

As for his post-Persia moves, Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t want to give the wrong impression. “Sometimes people ask me, ‘Oh, you’re making these smaller movies now.’ No, I just want to go at character a different way,” he said. “Not in an annoying way. You can really live and love and make the audience have fun watching.”

Watch Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler: