Jake Gyllenhaal on Re-Thinking His Approach to Acting and the “Joy” He Found Working on Broadway


Actor Jake Gyllenhaal

“I think I realized that I’d sort of almost lost my imagination. And I went, ‘Well, what… is acting…’ without imagination?’ And so I went, ‘Okay…’. Like: let’s have a little more fun here.” – Jake Gyllenhaal

Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal has appeared in a number of acclaimed roles in film, so it comes as a surprise that in a recent interview with Another Man magazine that he confesses that he has significantly changed the way he thinks about his acting in the last few years.

Gyllenhaal explains that his approach to acting has changed over the years, and he feels he is now much less obsessive about getting into character. He explain, “I am super-specific, I am obsessive sometimes when I’m creating things. I think I’ve hidden a lot. Like, ‘I’m gonna hide, and then I’ll create these characters and I’ll tinker in the corner with these ideas…’ I hid in my idea of what I thought an actor was supposed to be, what they’re supposed to do. And I’m kind of like: ‘F– it, I’m not like that at all.’”

For example, Gyllenhaal points to his 2018 film, Stronger, about a survivor of the Boston Marathon Bombing named Jeff Bauman, as an example of a film role he got obsessive about. Unfortunately, though critically acclaimed, Stronger was not a success at the box office. Regarding his approach to the film, Gyllenhaal reflects, “I think I kinda pushed so hard, I wanted that movie to be so excellent. It was a devotion of mine to the guy I played and for myself. And so I just pushed really hard. It didn’t have the response that I really wished for it. And I think in some ways, in the process of it, learning from Jeff, who I played in that movie, I went, ‘What am I doing? What am I pushing so hard for?’ You know? You can’t pretend these things, you know. You’re never going to play the actual experience. Someone said to me: ‘You’ve lost your imagination.’ And I think I realized that I’d sort of almost lost my imagination. And I went, ‘Well, what the f– is acting…’ – or, ‘what the f– is creation…’ – ‘… without imagination?’ And so I went, ‘Okay…’. Like: let’s have a little more fun here.”

Gyllenhaal points to his performance in the 2017 Broadway production of Sunday in the Park With George as a significant help to changing his attitude toward acting. He says, “All it did was feed me. And I went, ‘Oh my god, this is my joy, this is what I love.’ I think the idea of character for me has changed. I’ve just let go into the joy of it.”

He also found enjoyment in playing the supervillain Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Regarding that performance — in which the character first pretends to be a hero before revealing that he’s a villain — Gyllenhaal says, “It was fun for me, because I felt like you don’t really ever know when he’s performing, even when he’s not performing,” he explains. “There were times when I walked off set and I’d go, ‘Man, that wasn’t very good acting… ooooh! Perfect!’ I could throw all that out of the window. Any standards I had, I got to get rid of, and that was really fun.”

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