Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Oscar Dark Horse: Jake Gyllenhaal Talks Must-See 'End of Watch'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 19, 2012 at 12:21PM

Of all the dark horse Oscar hopefuls this year, none deserves more consideration than Jake Gyllenhaal for his role as an LA cop in David Ayer's "End of Watch." It's such a competitive year for leading actors that I hope this performance in an admittedly small but well-reviewed indie film will be seen. Critics groups may give it some attention.
1
'End of Watch'
'End of Watch'

Of all the dark horse Oscar hopefuls this year, none deserves more consideration than Jake Gyllenhaal for his role as an LA cop in David Ayer's "End of Watch." It's such a competitive year for leading actors that I hope this performance in a this well-reviewed indie film will be seen. Critics groups may give it some attention.

Jake Gyllenhaal, time to dance

Major movie stars have a hint of danger about them; Gyllenhaal, who hits 32 in December, is one of many boyish American leading men who are earning gravitas as they age. "End of Watch" marks Gyllenhaal's finest and most aggressively mature work to date.

Gyllenhaal was raised with sister Maggie in L.A. by director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner in a rich artistic soup of an environment, with people like Steven Soderbergh living over the garage. Gyllenhaal has always embraced theater as well as film, from the 2002 play "This is Our Youth," which won him the London Evening Standard Theater Award for outstanding newcomer, to his well-reviewed recent New York stage debut in the off-Broadway play 'If There Is, I Haven't Found It Yet.'

Gyllenhaal broke out so early as a teenager in the 1999 true story "October Sky" that it took a while for him to grow up on-screen. After Richard Kelly's strange 2001 psycho-drama "Donnie Darko" earned him an Independent Spirit nomination as Best Male Lead, Gyllenhaal burnished his acting cred by playing a series of sensitive, sweet young men in low-budget indies such as "The Good Girl," "Proof" and "Lovely & Amazing."

While it was not Gyllenhaal's finest hour, the 2004 disaster epic "The Day After Tomorrow" marked the actor's biggest global hit to date: a total $544 million. He scored critical raves for two 2005 films, Gulf War actioner "Jarhead" and Ang Lee's tragic gay romance "Brokeback Mountain," opposite Heath Ledger, which earned $178 million worldwide and scored Gyllenhaal the supporting actor BAFTA and his first and only Oscar nom.

His biggest misfire to date was the $200-million would-be franchise "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," a well-made but featherweight B-movie adventure from Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike Newell. After losing "The Dark Knight" to Christian Bale, "Spider-Man" to Tobey Maguire, and passing on "Avatar," Gyllenhaal took on a major action role in a summer tentpole, or so he thought. Instead, many reviewers argued that Gyllenhaal was miscast, and despite his buffed-up physique, failed to carry the action adventure.

Thus far Gyllenhaal has been viewed as a likable leading man best suited to naturalistic dramas. And like most actors his age, there's a gap between his thespian bonafides and his ability to put butts in seats. While Gyllenhaal earned upbeat reviews in dramas "Brothers," "Rendition," "Zodiac" and "Love and Other Drugs," the films disappointed at theater wickets. But he ably carried Duncan Jones' time-travel thriller hit "Source Code," opposite Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan. (I interviewed him at the time.)

During "Source Code," Gyllenhaal decided to get serious about his future roles and ignore studio paydays. He's working with Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Oscar-nominated "Incendies") on two films: "An Enemy" is in the can and "Prisoners" is in prep. (No longer in development is musical "Damn Yankees," in which middle-aged Joe Boyd sells his soul to the devil to become a young baseball slugger; I'd have liked to see Gyllenhaal, a trained singer, do this one). 

Whether or not "End of Watch" ends up at the top of Academy voters' screener piles, we can be sure that Gyllenhaal's best work is still to come.

Gyllenhaal called me on the phone from New York:

Anne Thompson: You're on a roll: you got your best reviews to date for your latest film 'End of Watch' as well as your off-Broadway play 'If There Is, I Haven't Found It Yet.'

Jake Gyllenhaal: I don't read them. I find it overwhelming; the stage work is still alive, so those type of things get in your head. It's best not to think in terms of that, it ends up affecting you, whether it's good or bad. So I stay away and do my work.

AT: Did you make a recent change in your approach to choosing projects?

JG: It was a perfect storm of a lot of things happening. The reality of life itself was hitting me hard, at 30. It was not a calculation. I had spent the majority of my 20s blessed by being able to work consistently. I grew up thinking I understood the business of making movies. I got to a point where I said, 'What do I want my life be? It's about more than career.' So I don't put my career before my life anymore.

In my 20s, I did start off very young, there was a sense of searching for identity anywhere. The movie business presents you with an identity and you put it on. You play different characters. As an actor it's rare to find someone in my age range who is able to define themselves clearly at a young age.

There's that my parents got divorced two years ago; I have two nieces now. I started looking at work as trying to learn about my life as opposed to strategizing. I never thought about my work that way, never with a sense of objectivity. I was inspired by a piece of writing or a director or a character. It was not a question or discussion of doing one big one, one small one.

What has really happened: I was saying to myself, 'how do I feel most free?' If I am blessed with the opportunity to do good work, studio or indie, most of the time it has to do with the interaction with the director, to try to help the director toward the vision he always had. I have to do more than expected from the character I'm trying to play.

This article is related to: Academy Awards, Awards, Awards, Career Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.