Q&A: Jake Gyllenhaal Takes No ‘Prisoners’ When Playing a Man with a Badge
Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the tattooed Detective Loki in this fall's kidnap thriller "Prisoners," has emerged as an actor equally at home in fringy indies and mainstream movies, from action to drama to rom-coms. While he’s bulked up and starved down for roles, the hallmark for his performances, from "Brokeback" to "Zodiac" and even "Prince of Persia," is integrity.
We’ll leave it to the silvery tongued Hugh Jackman to shower praise on his "Prisoners" co-star: "Jake? Of all the roles in the script, there was less on the page and he brought so much. He’s a great actor. I saw how hard he worked. It’s the kind of role that’s very perfunctory, dealing out most of the exposition, and he brought heart and emotion and discipline."
Here, the actor tells us about patrolling the scenes in a few of his latest films, including next year's buzzy "Nightcrawler," for which the already-lean actor dropped 20 pounds for to play a local TV news stringer on the crime beat.
With Detective Loki and your LAPD patrolman in last year's "End of Watch," you've shown a talent for portraying policeman. Are you drawn to playing cops?
Jake Gyllenhaal: That’s not true at all. I don’t keep playing a cop. No one person in law enforcement is the same. That’s part of the problem. I look at their personalities. What I learned from law enforcement is the idea of the uniform and how civilians often don’t see the person beneath it.
What about playing Detective Loki attracted you?
JG: This is the second movie with [Director] Denis Villeneuve following "Enemy." When he came to me with more of a perfunctory expositional role, he said, "I need your help, he’s not there yet." Sometimes those blank pages, the question marks, the unknown are so much more interesting. Also, I had recently completed a lot of research on police work.
We talked about your research a year ago when you brought "End of Watch" to Toronto with Michael Peña.
JG: I remember saying to you that that was an incredibly formative time in my life. The research I did on "End of Watch" for the character of Brian Taylor laid a foundation for Loki. I wouldn't have known how to hold a gun. The technical adviser for "End of Watch," Jaime FitzSimons, was huge. I find it critical to connect with someone in the real world that actually does that job.