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Jake Gyllenhaal & Denis Villeneuve Talk The Birth Of Their Intense Collaboration & Its Extension With 'Prisoners'

Photo of Rodrigo Perez By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist September 19, 2013 at 4:32PM

While it’s been favorably (and superficially) compared to David Fincher’s “Seven,” and “Zodiac,” Warner Bros. dark drama, “Prisoners” is such a different kind of beast that those assessments don’t really capture the essence of this harrowing kidnapping and family drama. Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Academy Award-nominated Foreign Language filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”), perhaps the most apt correlation is the fact that “Prisoners” is the darkest mainstream studio film since Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” And arguably, it’s much more emotionally bruising as it taps into some extremely haunting primal fears.
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Prisoners

I read the “Prisoners” script ages ago and you're absolutely right, the character you have on screen there is completely different from the character on the page. It seems like you guys really fleshed that out.
Gyllenhaal: One of the coolest aspects was because we had already explored the darker side of things in “Enemy” and discussed it so much, Denis was really open to the idea of this history of a character that we would never explain. So we talked a lot about [my character Loki’s] history so when these scenes come where he has to shut his mouth and listen and gather clues—which is what Loki does—both Denis and I knew exactly how he would respond and he allowed me to improvise because we had done so much improv already on “Enemy” and he trusted me.

Creating the character was this weird evolution from the very beginning. Denis was so patient with me. This process was an internal investigation and exploration of who the character was and then it started to evolve outward—how you feel like the character should look like and so on. I don't think we decided even total wardrobe or hair or exactly how he looked until after the first day of shooting. We shot the first day and we covered me up in every possible way and we were still exploring and the second or third day we found it. He was so unflinchingly patient.

I subconsciously felt all that, but could never really verbalize it, but yes, the inner life of Loki—there’s a lot going on there...
Gyllenhaal: He's always covering up.

Villeneuve: This is the beauty of cinema when you feel something and you get the whole world and feel the pressure and dimension of that world and that's why I love to work with Jake because he's able to bring that world to life just by understanding those things exist beneath the surface.

Prisoners

Gyllenhaal: I think Denis and I also both deeply believe in the unconscious and the power of the unconscious and we live in the cinematic world, at least in popular cinema where everything needs to be supposedly explained or brought to the surface structurally and consciously so that people understand what's happening. But I think we long for that as an audience, that unconscious connection and the choices we make suddenly and his attention to detail.

Denis has taught me a deeply important thing—he’s helped me discover the unconscious connection between the director and the audience. And he allowed me to explore these ideas because we both understood and respect that idea and you could see that in his work directing “Prisoners.” That attention to detail, particularly in places where only a handful of people could be able to masterfully guide that story and keep that tension, I think that's because we were working in a kind of elevated harmony. Without a doubt that added to this experience.

You guys unleashed these two intense movies on the public during Toronto. How can you possibly follow this up? Maybe you'll have to do a comedy together.
Gyllenhaal: A musical, that's our next project.

Villeneuve: I think it's going to be a dark violent film about the unconscious again.

“Prisoners” opens in wide release on Friday, September 20th. Check out a new featurette below

This article is related to: Prisoners, Jake Gyllenhaal, Denis Villeneuve, Hugh Jackman, Interviews, Interviews, Interview


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