Tag Archives: Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal: Time-Tripping in Source Code

Talking with Jake Gyllenhaal, star of the science-fiction thriller “Source Code” on a sunny March Friday at South by Southwest in Austin, I asked him if he was able to enjoy SXSW at all or if he was busy with the promotional dog and pony show for “Source Code.” The actor — hair cut short, smiling — waved off such concerns: “Listen, the wonderful thing about SXSW is you’re able to just be yourself and go around. There’s no dog and pony show here at all. That’s what’s wonderful about it. I love Austin.” This, of course, was just a few hours before the now-infamous “Urinalgate” incident where a “fan” tried to take Gyllenhaal’s picture after the premiere of “Source Code” while the actor was, uh, freshening up.

But before all of that, Gyllenhaal was immensely eager about “Source Code” and his director, Duncan Jones. “Duncan and I met just because he had a project he was interested in me for that he wrote, and I just wanted to meet him generally — because you never know. We met, and it was a very fleeting meeting, very short. I thought, ‘That guy’s cool. Who knows if he’s even interested?’ Then, ‘Source Code’ came up, and they went, ‘Who are the people you would love to work with?’ And I went, ‘I think Duncan Jones would be amazing for this.’ They said, ‘OK, we’ll roll the dice and see if he responds.’ Four months later we were doing the movie.”

And Gyllenhaal was playing Capt. Colter Stevens, a U.S. soldier plunged into a new experimental program. The program aims to stop a large terrorist attack by putting him in the last eight minutes of the experiences of a man who died in a previous terrorist attack. It’s a mix of adrenaline and IQ, with Gyllenhaal as an everyman against fate. “That idea was fascinating to me, and the idea of the ‘source code’ itself, which was this scientist invented a computer program that allows you to go into somebody else’s body for what would be the last eight minutes of their life — that computer program encapsulated a spiritual idea that fascinated me.”

It’s not the first time Gyllenhaal has played fast and loose with space-time, in the wake of “Donnie Darko.” I asked him if he read the script for a project like “Source Code” in a different way. “The most difficult day was the first day, because (Jones) decided to shoot the movie in sequence — I think for clarity for himself, because there are so many variations going on all the time, and particularly the first establishing variation is the most important. On the first day, we had schematics of the patterns of each one of the passengers, because depending on the angle of what was being shot and how my character would affect them, we’d have Source Code 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and I had it in my script — the visual idea of each character and how I could even improv, affect them and not mess up Duncan.”

Gyllenhaal laughed recalling Jones’ drive to clean up the plot of “Source Code”: “He was staying in this hotel; we’d meet up or he’d come to my house, and he would have pulled out things, and I would go, ‘But that was such a great scene.’” Gyllenhaal laughed, imitating his director’s rationale for his cuts: “‘I understand, that was a great idea. Believe me, it won’t make sense.’”

From my article at The Rundown

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Duncan Jones: Directing Source Code and the Mysteries of Sci-Fi

After the surprise success of “Moon,” director Duncan Jones knew he wanted to step his game up a little and jump from shooting in the U.K. to the U.S.A. “As far as the choice to do ‘Source Code‘ in order to experience filmmaking here in the U.S., Hollywood-scale filmmaking, that was a conscious choice. I came out of a little British indie film. The opportunity was to go for it, work with a collection of incredibly talented actors through a mini-major studio situation and experience that side of it, which I did, and I’m glad I did. I think I came out of it fairly unscathed. I certainly appreciate how that side of filmmaking is done. I had Jake on my side, which made a huge difference. In fact, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t know that Jake was on my side.” I pointed out the irony that Jones wanted to get engaged in the American film industry, and the second he did that, they shipped him off to Montreal. He laughed, “Well, that is the American film industry now.”

Given “Source Code”‘s eight-minute limit for Colter’s journey, and “Moon”‘s one-man cast, I asked Jones if he thinks that, for science fiction, the restrictions in the plot make a film what it is. “I think so, absolutely,” he said. “I think that the mechanics were all there. I think Ben Ripley had a very strong script that they’d obviously been working on a very long time before I got involved. My interest in doing it was because the script seemed smart and incredibly pace-y, which I loved. Having come off ‘Moon,’ which was a bit think-y — it was quite slow-paced in some ways — I’m very proud of it, but I wanted to do something dramatically different, especially pace-wise, and having more than one actor.”

More than one actor, but not that many sets. I asked Jones how sick he got of the train-car set that is the setting for much of the film’s action. “I was the lucky one,” he said. “I had different problems to deal with every day, in a good way, as all directors do. I had things that I had to deal with. The people I felt bad for were the actors in the background. There was a large fellow who had to sit sleeping on a chair on the train for six weeks: That was his job for six weeks. Those background players who were so important to giving you the illusion of repetition, those were the people I felt sorry for, because they literally had to spend six weeks doing the same thing again and again and again.”

More importantly, Jones knew he didn’t want to kill his film with too much jibber-jabber and exposition. “It’s very evident that you can’t sit there and explain to an audience how this particular sci-fi conceit works,” he said. “You really have to say, ‘Trust me, this is what it is. There’s some technology that does it. Now follow the story; now go with the characters.’ I think it was the right decision to make. There’s always that argument about how much exposition is actually necessary, and my instinct is always to strip it out as much as possible. It’s not the reason we’re sitting there in the cinema watching a movie. We’re there to engage with characters, empathize with them, and be told a story.”

From my article at The Rundown

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Michelle Monaghan of Source Code Talks Time and Travel

Michelle Monaghan, lanky and relaxed in a gray tank top, talked about her work in “Source Code” — specifically, the pleasures of being blown up over and over again in the film’s central explosion. “It’s pretty funny, because there’s a particular scene where my lips go” — Monaghan rubberized her cheeks in slow-mo — “like that. I remember it was one of our final days of filming, and they go, ‘Do you want to do this special effect?’ I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely I want to do this special effect.’ It’s really, really cool where they shoot a lot of fast, quick air — it’s an air gun, or whatever — but it makes your face completely morph. They played it back at a ridiculously slow speed. We’re all watching — the crew and everyone — and I was literally watching my mouth cover my nose; my cheeks were out to here. It was the first time I ever realized I needed braces.”

And Monaghan also appreciated the fact that “Source Code” is ultimately driven by its ideas, not by its face-smashing special effects: “That’s what I found really appealing. Obviously, this is a sci-fi movie and it’s very thought-provoking and leaves you pondering a lot of different things, as sci-fi does. It’s a gray area. It’s a real character-driven movie, and thematically, it’s about living your life to the fullest, and it’s a real love story at the heart of it. Maybe it’s a new trend where everything’s not just straight sci-fi but it’s sci-fi infused with a little dose of romance or drama, a little more heart. It’s not as cerebral. You’ve got to have a little bit of heart, and it was really nice to see that Duncan (Jones) put that as a priority, as well. It wasn’t all a technical, cerebral sci-fi journey, but it was a journey of the heart, as well.”

And a journey without much luggage or variations in scenery, as we only see Monaghan through the same eight minutes — and in only one outfit, and only on one train set. She laughed. “Oh my gosh. The outfit: I lived in it for about 6 weeks or 2 months. It was crazy. We got really used to the train rather quickly, but I have to say it was on a gimbal and it moved all day. It was one of those things where you get off the thing, Jake and I would step down, and we’d both do one of these” — Monaghan wobbled woozily — “and hold onto each other. We’d sit there and watch playback, and he and I would both be swaying like this, like we’d been riding on a train for 12 hours. We’d rock back and forth. There was a fast mode and then a faster mode and then the fastest mode. You know that feeling: It was relentless. It wanted to put us to sleep. It was challenging after lunch.”

She also had to shoot week upon week of scenes approximately 8 inches from Jake Gyllenhaal. That, I joked, had to become tiresome at some point, didn’t it? “No. He’s got those beautiful eyes,” she said. “We really hit it off. It’s a lot of time to spend together with somebody and not really know — you might get along, you might not get along. He’s such a pleasure to work with, and he’s one of the most supportive actors that I’ve ever worked with. He’s got an amazing sense of humor. That’s what got us through. He was great.” Monaghan smiled. “And he is easy on the eyes.”

From my article at The Rundown

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Prince of Persia (3/5) for MSN Movies

“Of all the parlor and acrobatic tricks we see in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” the new mystic adventure from director Mike Newell, none of them are as graceful, or impressive, as how deftly the film itself jumps over our low expectations. From its announcement, “Prince of Persia” offered several moments of pause to the prospective theatergoer: The casting of Jake Gyllenhaal — who, while a talented actor and strong screen presence, is as American as monster trucks and high-fructose corn syrup — as the Persian noble Dastan. There’s also the film’s origin as a well-loved video game, which has been established, through the history of the sub-genre, as perhaps not the best possible starting place for moviemakers. Finally, there is a plot — where a good but poor child is set among a royal Middle Eastern family, comes into possession of great magical powers and saves the kingdom while earning the love of a princess — which sounds suspiciously close to Walt Disney’s “Aladdin” without the presence of an animated Robin Williams.

And yet, I had fun while I was watching all of the above claptrap unfold across the wide screen — or, perhaps, more than I’ve had at other recent big-screen spectacles, so perhaps it’s only the baseness of its peers that makes this “Prince” seem even slightly regal. The fact is that Newell and his actors make no attempt whatsoever to reflect any kind of reality — whether in the realm of cultural sensitivity or applied physics — but instead aim to reflect and reinvent our collective cultural hallucination of Middle Eastern adventure, from “Thief of Baghdad” to “Lawrence of Arabia,” from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to the tales of the “Arabian Nights.” “Prince of Persia” is brisk, broad and bloodless, and, when compared to other intended summer blockbusters, somewhere between harmless and adequate.”

From my full MSN Movies Review

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MSN Movies' 12 Best Films of the Decade — and My Top Ten

Zodiac

3. ‘Zodiac‘ (2007)

“Zodiac” opens with San Francisco, on the Fourth of July, fireworks bursting in the darkness — the City at night in America. Two lovers park, a stranger walks to their car and then comes the fear. And then comes the blood. David Fincher’s most grown-up film, going past the pyrotechnics he’d brought to “Seven” and “Fight Club” and somehow still burning cold and cruel, “Zodiac” tracks the infamous, never-caught “Zodiac” killer who stalked ’70s San Francisco, with cops (Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards), journalists (Robert Downey Jr.) and concerned (perhaps too concerned) citizens (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the frantic, futile hunt. Insidious and intimate, “Zodiac” still spirals out to show all our works (cities, governments, newspapers, families) disrupted, defeated, denied by one madman with the will to kill. It intertwines the police procedural, the newspaper chronicle and the detective story, and pulls those strands tight to choke the climax and closure our movie-taught minds make us expect and our innocent hearts make us hope for. Technically brilliant (Fincher recreates ’70s San Francisco, where he grew up, with subtlety and splendor), “Zodiac” plays like a master class in movie making (the rock ‘n’ roll fervor of Scorsese, the raw-nerve suspense of Hitchcock, the smart cynicism of Pakula) yet is also unmistakably Fincher’s, with its urban claustrophobia and articulate poetry of the unspeakable. Methodical, maddening, blackly humorous and truly terrifying (a scene in which a young couple’s Tab-commercial sunshine rendezvous is cut short by a striding killer horrifies and haunts), “Zodiac” reached back to the past to lay bare the greatest fear of our wounded, wary present moment: The terror of not knowing when the terror will be over.”

From the Full List at MSN Movies

My Top Ten:

  1. No Country for Old Men
  2. Children of Men
  3. The Wrestler
  4. Zodiac
  5. City of God
  6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  7. Far From Heaven
  8. The Lives of Others
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Brick

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