Jake Gyllenhaal on ‘Demolition’, Working with Chris Cooper and Directors Who Want Nothing to Do With Him
“I think storytelling is the most important part of movie-making over performance.” – Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal‘s performance in Demolition as a grieving husband has impressed audiences for the character’s dark demeanor. In an interview with Vulture, Gyllenhaal spoke about relating to his Demolition character’s tragic life, working with Chris Cooper, and reveals that there are some filmmakers that refuse to case him in their movies.
Though Gyllenhaal has never been in the tragic position of the lead character of Demolition, it doesn’t mean that he can’t relate to the character. He explains, “I’ve lost people that I love and am very close to. It’s sort of easy to generalize loss, but it’s all different. [Director] Jean-Marc [Vallée] wanted there to be an awkwardness to the way you felt about my character. He struggles between apathy and numbness. I constantly struggle with my own feelings, like “What do I actually feel if I’m feeling anything?” I’m spending a lot of my time trying to exist within convention, and it was very easily relatable to me.”
The Oscar-nominated actor has much more flexibility with his projects, but he reveals that there are some directors who pass on working with him. He says, “Well, there are still filmmakers who don’t want to work with me… [laughs] so many of them, but there are also filmmakers who do and as long as there are a few, then I hopefully will continue to keep working. But in terms of picking and choosing I try now to create stories that I really love and want to tell. I think storytelling is the most important part of movie-making over performance.”
When asked if he considers acting “playing pretend” for a living, Gyllenhaal points out that there are some parallels to childhood and acting. He says, “I actually don’t think I do, but I do think there is some sort of absurdity to the job. Kids should be allowed to have a tantrum. They’re in a world way bigger than they are. Their feelings are huge, and they’re very small. But you can’t do that when you’re an adult. Sometimes I get overwhelmed because I see the state the world is in. Sometimes I can shut it off, and apathy is ever present. But finding how we really feel — no matter how hard it is — I think that’s the journey.”
Demolition also marks the third time that Gyllenhaal has acted with Chris Cooper, and he has the highest praise for the Adaptation Oscar-winner. He reveals, “When I did October Sky with him, I had no tools on my belt, very few. I was flying by the seat of my pants. I tried to use as much talent fuel as I could, and I ran out halfway through. Chris had this massive tool belt of choices and techniques, and I didn’t understand him. He was cold to me the whole shoot. I was confused, but also I could feel his heart, very much like my character would feel about his character in that movie. When the movie ended, his heart totally opened up to me. He took all his tools and put them away into a shed, and we became friends. Then when we did Jarhead, I was obviously still continuing to learn. But when we did this movie, I came to it with my own tool belt, and I could see him really for the first time saying, ‘Oh I love that, I use that choice.’ We laughed a lot and enjoyed each other in a way I didn’t know how to when I was young. It’s been a wonderful evolution with somebody who’s a legend and somebody whom I actually love.”