This week sees the release of Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard and, as Detective Loki the man in charge of tracking down two missing girls, Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal has already picked up all manner of plaudits for his gritty performance, so join FilmJuice Editor Alex Moss as we look back at some of Jake’s finest moments on screen.
Based on the real events of the Zodiac killer and directed by a man who does serial killers better than anyone – Seven’s David Fincher – Zodiac remains something of a forgotten gem in recent cinema history. Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, a newspaper cartoonist who becomes obsessed with solving the Zodiac murders and the codes the killer leaves behind. Gyllenhaal plays the role with a reserved, geeky innocence all the while allowing Graysmith’s determined intelligence to remain at the fore of his performance.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: While Jake was always director David Fincher’s first choice for the role, had Gyllenhaal turned it down it would have gone to Orlando Bloom.
The film that, to date, has netted Gyllenhaal his only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor sees Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist, a 1960’s cowboy who falls for his colleague Ennis, played by Heath Ledger. Ang Lee’s achingly beautiful love story sores thanks to the two central performances. While Ledger’s Ennis is closed off and angry about his newfound attraction, Gyllenhaal’s performance is more delicate, focused less on brooding and more on yearning.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: Heath Ledger grew up on a farm in Western Australia meaning he didn’t need any training for the film’s cowboy parts. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, attended one month of cowboy camp.
Directed by Moon’s Duncan Jones, Source Code is a brilliant sci-fi thriller which blends elements of Groundhog Day and 12 Monkeys to create a gripping adventure within a very smartly contained plot. Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a US Army helicopter pilot who wakes on a passenger train eight minutes before it is blown up by a terrorist. Able to travel back to the same eight minutes, Stevens must find the terrorist, save the passengers and woe the girl in the shape of Michelle Monaghan. Gyllenhaal plays Stevens with a brilliant combination of urgency and sarcasm, both frustrated and perplexed at the situation he finds himself in. His onscreen chemistry with Monaghan is electric and gives the twisty-turny plot true heart.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: Gyllenhaal was cast before Duncan Jones was brought onto the project. It was he who suggested Jones to the producers, having seen his excellent work on Moon.
The role that turned Gyllenhaal from a former child actor of films such as City Slickers to full on movie star, Donnie Darko remains one of Jake’s most captivating roles. Gyllenhaal plays the titular character who begins to realise he is destined for greater things as a vision of a creepy rabbit – think of a terrifying Harvey – informs Donnie of the exact time the world will end. Gyllenhaal’s performance holds the ambiguous and often mind-bending plot together combining teenage angst, borderline psychosis and genuine warmth.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: Real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal plays his onscreen elder sister Elizabeth in the film.
Sam Mendes’ look at The Gulf War and the soldiers that took part allows Gyllenhaal to firmly cement his credentials as not just a leading man but a certifiable screen presence. Jake plays Anthony Swofford, a marine who is so anxious to kill he doesn’t see war as hell but merely boring. Gyllenhaal’s performance here is like a loony rebel without a cause. One minute pent-up at the lack of action his platoon are seeing, the next jumping around to gangster rap before descending into stunned silence at some of the visuals the war has to offer.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: While Gyllenhaal and co-star Peter Sarsgaard play brothers in arms in the film, they are in fact brother-in-laws in real life, Sarsgaard is married to Jake’s sister Maggie Gyllenhaal.
The American remake of the Swedish drama Brødre sees a collection of stars on cracking form. When Toby Maguire’s marine goes missing in Afghanistan, his wife, Natalie Portman is left alone and distressed looking after their two children. Thankfully Maguire’s brother, Gyllenhaal’s Tommy, is on hand to help out. However, what starts as comfort soon turns into something more romantic. Gyllenhaal’s performance here is brilliant understated, leaving much of the histrionic drama to Portman and Maguire. Instead Gyllenhaal opts to play the strong silent type – warm and cuddly when needed – but a rock when others are at their weakest.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: When Toby Maguire injured his back on the set of Seabiscuit it was thought it he would be unable to return as Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Gyllenhaal was in negotiations to replace Maguire before the actor made a recovery and was able to return for the film.
End Of Watch
From director David Ayer, the man who wrote the scintillating Training Day, comes this cop thriller with a difference. Gyllenhaal plays cop Brian Taylor who, along with his partner Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), patrol the dangerous streets of L.A. gangland. The whole film is shot with an almost documentary like feel, with Gyllenhaal capturing many of the moments with a handheld camera that he and Pena address directly. The chemistry between the two leads is stunning with Gyllenhaal giving his character a cocksure, gung-ho attitude that never loses sight of the friendship at the centre of the film. Add to this a wonderful on screen romance with Anna Kendrick and End Of Watch is one of Gyllenhaal’s finest.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: To prepare for the film Gyllenhaal went on a 12 hour ride-along with L.A. cops and actually witnessed a murder.
Love & Other Drugs
Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a pharmaceutical rep who meets and falls for Maggie, played by Anne Hathaway. But Maggie seems only interested in using Jamie for sex and he soon learns it’s because she is suffering from Parkinson’s. This rom-com drama might not be to everyone’s liking but there is no denying that Gyllenhaal and Hathaway sparkle on screen together. The film’s best scenes are in their natural charm as a new couple still learning things about each other while trying not to take life too seriously. Gyllenhaal injects so much charm and natural wit into Jamie it’s hard not to fall for him, even when he is a slightly sleazy pusher of Viagra.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: This was the second time Gyllenhaal and Hathaway played an on screen couple after they played husband and wife in Brokeback Mountain.
The Good Girl
Carrying on from his success as Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal took the role of Holden – a cashier in a department store who is convinced his life echoes that of Holden Caufield in Catcher In The Rye – opposite Friends star Jennifer Aniston. Like Darko, Gyllenhaal injects a degree of distance into his performance, with a glazed expression that hides the troubled youth beneath. But, like so many of his roles, it’s Gyllenhaal’s chemistry with his co-star that makes the film sizzle. While their love maybe forbidden, there is something hopelessly romantic about seeing Aniston and Gyllenhaal quietly brooding for each other.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: While his character Holden might be obsessed with Catcher In The Rye, in reality Jake is more of a To Catch A Mocking Bird fan, apparently naming his two dogs after characters in the book: Boo Radley and Atticus.
Based on the stage play by David Auburn and directed by Shakespeare In Love’s John Madden, Proof allows Gyllenhaal to bring a wonderfully warm geeky quality to proceedings. The film sees Gywenth Paltrow as a woman whose mathematician father has recently died. While she’s convinced she’s inherited her father’s insanity, Dobbs is there to lend a comforting shoulder, with more than a hint of romantic interest.
Gyllenhaal Trivia: Gywenth Paltrow isn’t the only one with a famous family. Gyllenhaal can boast Jamie Lee Curtis and Paul Newman as godparents.