Watch Jake Gyllenhaal Breaks Down His Career | Career Timeline

Barbara Merkley

[gentle music] I turned to acting

and performance and expression, self-expression,

to understand things about myself.

The act expression is healing.

Hi, my name is Jake Gyllenhaal

and this is the timeline of my career.

Dad! Daddy!

I’m not really sure how I decided

to get into acting at such young age.

I think it was probably a mixture

of the attention that I ended up getting

through mimicry at the dinner table

mixed with knowing people in the movie industry

and being a bit of a clown.

I just sort of fell into it, ’cause it just brought me joy.

I happened to be a friends

with the Crystal family.

I don’t know how it happened, ’cause I was pretty young

but I was asked if I wanted to audition for City Slickers.

So I did.

And then I was asked to fly to Billings, Montana

to meet with Ron Underwood, the director of City Slickers.

And I remember flying with my dad on a plane

and getting to this cool hotel and being so excited

and then meeting with Mr. Underwood.

And then, while we were on our way to the airport,

being told that I got a part in this movie.

I remember everybody being so sweet to me.

There’s a scene in the movie where I was showing everybody

in between takes that I could dislocate my shoulder.


Danny Dan, come on, come on.

He’s in the gifted program.

And Billy crystal said,

Oh let’s start the scene with that, that seems funny.

So the whole scene starts with me popping my shoulder,

double jointed arm, which is still double jointed.

Doesn’t feel as nice now but

it actually gave me a real insight

into how movies and how even…

I know this sounds absurd, but how creativity is found,

you move with the thing that is most original

and at the time that was most original.

And it really set a tone actually

for how I’ve approached a lot of different things

and scenes from there on out.

To watch people like Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern,

and Billy crystal and watch them work and play.

And it really had a deep, deep, deep effect on me.

When you’re a teenager, you think you can do anything

and you do, your twenties are a blur,

thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money

and you think to yourself, what happened to my twenties?

Watching a great comedian give a monologue

that has become a classic monologue at that age,

again, was like a masterclass.

That movie had a real indelible impact on me

and Billy Crystal signed a poster for me by the end of that

and he said, To Jake, thanks for letting me

be in your first movie, love Billy.

And I still have that poster to this day.

Seems now that I even have to check

with the station manager if I wanna wipe my nose.

[children laughing]

[dramatic music]

Donnie Darko, it was my first movie that anyone

sort of offered to me without an audition.

And I remember finishing the script of Donnie Darko.

I closed it and I went,

I don’t know if I want to meet with this person.

I wonder what they’re like.

What’s he gonna be like, like in a dark cloak,

like hiding in a corner?

I didn’t know.

And so I sort of hesitantly went upstairs

and there was this totally unassuming,

really lovely, very kind, just regular guy.

And he was like, Hey.

Let me play you some of the music

that I’m thinking about putting in the movie.

And, you know, We really wanna make this.

And I was like, oh, this guy’s so nice.

And the next day he offered me the movie

and so began what I would consider to be

one of the most powerful

experiences I’ve had in making a film.

When I look at the cast of that movie now,

when I look at what they’ve all done,

where they’ve all gone, what they’ve all created,

who they were at that time, it’s just incredible.

And it’s the only time,

up until now or hopefully a different…

Soon it may change, that I’ve acted with my sister.

Anyway, I’m not gonna squeeze one out till I’m like 30.

Will you still be working at the Yarn Barn?

Because I hear that’s a really

great place to raise children.

That’s really funny.

I think that’s a movie about the unconscious, you know?

It’s a movie about the power of the unconscious

and the power of growing up and what that means.

And it’s a thing that I think we don’t give enough,

I think, love and empathy and respect to that journey.

There have been movies that have been made that have

but it’s just one of them, the complications,

the pain, the struggle of what it feels like to grow up.

And why it struck me was that, at the time,

there were all these sort of high school films coming out

that were all about, you know, your typical experience

and this, to me, was an expression of adolescence

that was far from typical

and somehow really felt more true to me.

28 days,

six hours,

42 minutes

12 seconds.

Going home.

And inevitably the end of that movie will bring up,

and has brought up, so many different questions.

And, to me, that’s a really successful story.

My desire for a full stop ending resolution is intense,

I love it, but I think in the end

what feels most true is the question mark.

And so Donnie Darko is that.

And I just like that it’s a movie

that messes with you a bit, you know?

And I think, because it does,

it has stood the test of time.

[eerie music]

[muted laughing]

[thunder pealing] [dramatic music]



I loved making this movie.

I made a lot of friends on this film

that have been my friends now for,

I guess, close to 20 years, you know?

Roland saw me in a number of parts

and he just said, you know I think this guy’s a talented guy

and I wanted to be in the movie.

One of the things I remember about that film, which is just,

I think it defines movie making

and being an actor in movies totally

is that we were filming in Montreal in the dead of winter,

and Quebec winters are not for a slouch,

you know, it was freezing,

and yet we were shooting on a stage,

massive stage, that was heated to 80 degrees.

Then we were shooting in fake snow inside that stage,

pretending like we were freezing cold.

And that just sort of just encapsulates the absurdity

of what movies are and how you desperately

need your imagination in order

to make these things work, you know?

And also I think there are these great moments of

the size that a movie can be,

like the grand nature of making movies,

that is just so beautiful.

And I remember walking on set

and there being the front steps

of the New York public library on a stage in Montreal

and a water tank, the size of…

I don’t even know, it was just a massive water tank

with cars submerged up to their windows

and a thousand extras and, you know,

a machine that could make a fake tsunami.

And I thought, this is just the best job.

[gentle music]

You know, the relationship, I think between me and Heath

while we were making this movie was something

that was based on a profound love for

a lot of people that we knew and were raised by in our lives

and a deep respect for their love and their relationship.

I mean, one of the things I really remember

about the process after the movie came out

was Heath never wanting to make a joke.

Even as I think culturally, there were many jokes being made

about the movie or poking fun at and things like that.

And his consummate devotion

to how serious and important the relationship

between these two characters was.

It showed me, I think, how devoted

he was as an actor

and how devoted he was, and we both were,

to the story in the movie.

And for us, the experience of the movie,

I can say, was a really deep and fun one.

We spent three weeks shooting, waking up in the morning,

making everyone coffee and then eating a little breakfast

and walking to work.

It’s a technique of movie making

that I wish we did more of, you know,

where we all just pow out

and live together in a space.

I wish I knew how to quit you.

Then why don’t you?

Why don’t you just let me be, huh?

It’s cause of you Jack, that I’m like this.

I’m nothing, I’m nowhere.

Get the fuck off me!

Come here!

There’s so much to say about this movie.

There’s even more for me to say about my experience of it.

There’s even more for me to say about the reaction to it

and what it meant and what happens when you realize,

as a performer in particular,

that something has nothing to do with you,

that it is…

A story has the power beyond

anything that you think you have control over or part of.

The story is the power.

And when it goes out into the world,

it becomes everyone else’s.

And so, you have a short time with it

and that’s my job and my honor to do

and then it is everyone else’s and it is no longer mine.

And there is no film that I’ve ever done

that has shown that to me more than Brokeback Mountain.

There is a moment that I go back to a lot,

Heath and I were at a Q and A,

at the Arrow Theater in Los Angeles

and I remember us going to dinner

while the movie was screening

and I remember us joking backstage

and I remember us kind of coming onto stage

in a sort of humorous mode, you know,

’cause just having fun with each other.

And we sat down, the lights came up

and a man stood up,

and the movie had been out for a week and a half,

and he said, I just wanna say,

this is my 11th time seeing this movie

and I can’t stop watching it.

And I just wanna thank you all for making it.

And I thought 11 times in 10 days!

And we just…

I remember that sort of, again,

the wash of that over us, we’re joking and we’re, you know,

we’re poking fun at each other before we go on.

And then the profound realization of

the profundity of this thing washed over us.

It happens constantly, to this day,

and it’s like, it’s…

I can’t really express how proud I am of it.

What if you and me had little ranch, somewhere,

little cow and calf operation.

Be a sweet life.

And when is it gonna be finished?

When you catch him?

When you arrest him?

Be serious.

I am serious.

I need to know who he is.

I need to stand there,

I need to look him in the eye

and I need to know that it’s him.

I think every movie carries with it an energy.

And when there’s a decision

to be in the world of this world,

which is, you know, a pretty dark world,

the cast, the crew, you carry

that energy with you, you know?

And it’s a trying, intense story.

One that, you know, really took its toll

on many people’s lives, literally, quite literally,

through the journey of the Zodiac Killer

and then afterwards in trying to search for this person.

And I think, for me,

that energy was very intense

but also I think, you know, David Fincher is incredible

and his movies are

some of the best ever made.

There was a focus and intention

that I’d never experienced before.

But also because we were working one of the first films

that was really shot fully on digital.

So he was in the process of making a film

with a whole ‘nother technique and a whole ‘nother process

and dealing with so many imperfections in that process

and trying to hone them in.

So for a very detail oriented filmmaker,

as you’re working with a new medium,

though he had worked with it before,

but to make a feature film with it,

you know there was a lot of trial and error.

That was the film I met the incomparable

and extraordinary Robert Downey Jr.

Have you considered the water theory?


Geographically, every attack takes place

near a body of water-

This is your water theory. Or water based name.

Lake Berryessa, Blue Rock Springs, Lake-

Washington and Cherry?

You think?


I found myself sitting there sometimes like

in awe of the actors that I was working with,

just watching them work.

Hey, just one thing, is it true

they got a print off the cab?

Yeah, they got a partial in blood.

But that is not for publication.

Hey, hey, come on.

Hey, it’s me.

Did he say they got a print?


I was lucky that I was playing an observer.

And it was just one of those….

I mean it just incre…

I mean it was an incredible, another incredible experience.

One where I learned a lot,

a lot about filmmaking is a director’s medium

and it is all about their vision

and you service that vision.

And I know that

and I saw that and learned that on that film.

[dramatic music]

Can I help you?


[dramatic music]

[sirens wailing]

There was sort of no escaping

Louis Bloom in a lot of ways.

I’d been searching for techniques.

I spent a lot of time in the process of making films

looking for how to act and how to do it.

And if there was one way.

And I totally immersed myself in Lou Bloom.

These are three wealthy white people

shot and killed in their mansion

including a suburban housewife shotgunned in her bed.

I know you Nina.

I know your interest and excitement in this product

is greater than the amount you’re offering.

It was a sort of successful experiment in that.

But I think I came away from it realizing

I don’t know if that’s the way

in which I want to do it always.

I don’t know if that’s, to me,

what acting is always about.

I think it was hard to shake that experience.

But when you have words like that,

when you have a character like that,

which rarely comes along…

You saw him.

I can’t jeopardize my company’s success

to retain an untrustworthy employee.

You’re crazy.

When you have writing like that,

when you have someone who has written something

that’s so good, you’ll give everything to it.

‘Cause it’s so rare to find.

And so I was just deeply devoted to that character

and that story and yeah, the side effects of it, it’s like,

yeah, you, you…

It takes a bit of time to shake it off.

But you know,

in the end,

it’s just acting.

You need to show initiative.

There is no better way to achieve job security

than by making yourself an indispensable employee.

Mr. Beck is from Earth.

Just not yours.

There are multiple realities Peter.

This is Earth, dimension 616.

I’m from Earth 833.

I’m sorry, you’re saying there’s a multiverse?

What was interesting when I went into

Spiderman: Far From Home was that I think I was…

I’m pretty sure I was taking myself too seriously.

In fact, I’m sure of it.

I think I had really lost

that sense of play and fun that I am.

That sort of, that class clown that I talk about

that found that idea of just popping a shoulder

and making funny face.

It was such a cathartic thing to be able

to throw out away all that seriousness

and really become the actor

that I think I’ve always wanted to be in a lot of ways.

See, that wasn’t so hard.

[crowd cheering] [upbeat music]

Somebody get this stupid costume off me!

And find the play and the fun

and the gratitude that I’m here

and I get to do this.

And oh my God, like it’s all about

the family of making a movie.

It’s all about the experience that you have

with the people you’re making that film with.

And I think that we go through journeys in our life

where we’re, you know,

finding ourselves and, in the case of Spiderman,

I think I realized, hey, you know, acting is really fun.

You know, enjoy it.

And the people here are fantastic.

Enjoy them and enjoy the life around you

’cause life goes by super fast.

I really am sorry.

What can I do you for officer?

Why are you closed?

Oh, we’re just doing a transfer in the back,

it’s procedure.

You worried me for a second,

I saw you talking to yourself in the mirror.

Oh yeah, you know, I was thinking about

starting a savings account.

Oh nice.

We got some great junior accounts.

I’ll let you in in 20 minutes.

You know what though?

Cause, if I could just get it done real quick

cause I’m on the clock.

Promise not to rob the place.



What I find appealing is about the drive,

the movement sometimes of a character.

Are you active or are you passive a lot of times?

What are you going towards?

And I found that Danny sharp was a character

that sort of knew where he was going, was moving forward

and, yeah, is wild.

And his intentions are always good.

His actions are, you know, questionable in the bank robbery

and in the, you know, chase sequences and things like that.

But I like how much he loves his brother.

I loved that about the script from the beginning.

I don’t know if it’s always been to my advantage,

but I fall in love with story

before I fall in love with character.

And the character is the execution of that story

but really it’s about the story

and being in the world of the filmmaker.

I didn’t realize how small that ambulance was gonna be

and how many sharp edges there were gonna be in it.

But I kept thinking about

how much I loved reading the script

and how entertained I was when I did.

So it’s weirdly for me like much less about the character,

even though we’ve talked about a lot of characters,

than it is about the story.

And if you go back,

it’s the stories that I’m always seduced by.

And that’s the thing that I love.

And so when you ask me

about the consistency of characters I choose,

it’s actually the variation of the stories that I look at

more than the characters themselves.

At this point is really about play.

And it’s really about enjoying the people that I’m with.

There are so many incredible people who make movies.

Kind of hope for the future of my career

is just to be able to keep doing things I love.

If these past few years have taught us anything

it’s just to be with people you love,

enjoy them, enjoy our time.

And that’s what I’m gonna do, or at least try to.

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