Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t believe great actors need to destroy themselves for art


Jake Gyllenhaal covers the new issue of DuJour Magazine to promote Nocturnal Animals, the Tom Ford film where he plays dual characters. Jake has gotten good reviews, and the film is well-received overall. I’m not sure if Jake is in for a big awards season, but I could see the film being up for some Best Picture awards, and Jake might come out to support the film in general without being personally nominate for anything. While I’m not a Jake super-fan – I could take or leave him, honestly – I ended up feeling a little bit sorry for him in this DuJour interview. Maybe he was just in a weird head space when he spoke to DuJour, or maybe he really is just this quiet, serious, lonely, solitary figure. Throughout the interview, there are near constant references to his isolation and loneliness, to the extent that the DuJour journalist even pulls back and avoids asking a question about Heath Ledger. You can read the full piece here.

Why he signed on to ‘Nocturnal Animals’: “I read it and was immediately like, ‘Yes. I’m in.’ That was actually a very difficult experience for me, emotionally, because there was no opportunity for retribution. I don’t think I ever really [did] get out of it in a way. It’s not like I’m walking around in character all the time, but I think the mood definitely [was] pervasive in everything that I did while I was making it. But, I think film, generally, in my opinion, is a lonely place. I found sadness in the fact that everything was about aesthetics in this world. I was living in a space where I was like, ‘Where is the truth here?’ I walked through it like that the whole time—and I think that’s where Tom [Ford] wanted me to be.”

He’s learned that his great love is the theater:
“I did one show on the West End in London when I was 22 years old. And then was convinced by a lot of people at a certain age, when I was very impressionable, that it was more important to be doing movies. I’m thankful for that because, you know, it’s wonderful financially—but I think my heart has always been on the stage.”

He doesn’t want to be a self-destructive actor: “I think I came to the realization that acting is not just one thing. There is not just one way… There’s this growing notion—there always has been with actors, in particular—that the real great ones are the ones who mess themselves up somehow. I’ve always wanted to dispel that idea. I really don’t condone the idea of hurting oneself.”

Seriously, theater is his great love: “You can spend your life looking for this idea of what you think love looks like. Or you can actually open yourself up to the things that are capable of loving you, and that you are capable of loving. And that means people who are of like minds. Finding the space that you love—I think that’s the biggest thing that I feel.”

He’s an isolated man: “My imagination is becoming more and more important to me. When you go too far into the reality of something, you kind of destroy your imagination.”

[From DuJour]

The quote about his imagination being important to him came after the writer’s riff about how Jake seems to be very in-his-head these days. It’s not that Jake is rude at any point – if anything, he seems very polite and professional. It just seems like he needs something light in his life. Everything is too serious, too heavy, too isolating. That being said, he doesn’t seem unhappy. Maybe this is just a weird promotional tour.

“There’s this growing notion—there always has been with actors, in particular—that the real great ones are the ones who mess themselves up somehow.” I get that. Actors and artists tend to glamorize the idea that their art is supposed to be an act of self-immolation by various means (alcohol, drugs, chasing the adrenalin rush). At least Jake seems to be making a conscious choice to avoid that.

Nocturnal Animals Screening

Jake Gyllenhaal during an appearance on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!'

Photos courtesy of WENN

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88 Responses to “Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t believe great actors need to destroy themselves for art”

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  1. Joss RED says:

    He’s right about great actors… which, by the way, he’s not one of them.

    • Maria_ says:


    • ichsi says:

      Have you seen him in Nightcrawler? Or Prisoners? He really grew on me because of those movies.

      • tegteg says:

        Haven’t seen Prisoners, but he was incredible in Nightcrawler and I’m saying this as someone who didn’t think he had any talent before I saw that movie.

      • Kitten says:

        Seriously. He’s a FANTASTIC actor.

      • Stacy Dresden says:

        Nightcrawler is an important film.

      • Esmom says:

        I just loved him in Donnie Darko, an early role. I think he’s always been pretty talented.

      • kibbles says:

        It’s clear he takes his art seriously. He was a good child actor (October Sky, Donnie Darko) and he has grown to receive critical acclaim for both his stage work and his movie roles. I’ve seen Prisoners, Nightcrawler, Demolition, and Enemy – Gyllenhaal delivers strong performances in all of these movies. He’s much better than many male actors his age who have now become bigger stars because they go for more mainstream blockbusters while Gyllenhaal has honed his craft in smaller budget more critically acclaimed films. He seems like someone whose star has fallen somewhat, therefore, falls under the radar during awards season.

      • lee says:

        @kibbles he was a good child actor, but he was 20 years old when he filled Donnie Darko so I’m not sure that counts! He’s a great actor, though, imo.

      • Paula says:

        +1 to me he’s one of the best actors around.

    • bluhare says:

      Not if you believe the story about Laurence Olivier. There’s a story about him when he was working with Dustin Hoffman, and Hoffman is method, I think, and in character all the time. I can’t remember the conversation, but they were talking about it, and Hoffman must have said something and Olivier said, “that’s why they call it acting, my boy.”.

      • Jellybean says:

        I think Hoffman was running long distances everyday so he could play a marathon runner. I don’t mean running to get the right physique, but running to get his head in the right place before a scene.

      • tegteg says:

        I just googled this and read it and it’s amazing! Apparently Hoffman stayed awake for 3 days to achieve “emotional verisimilitude” with his character who hadn’t slept in 72 hours. Olivier said to him, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?” I LOVE it. Shade by Olivier – that should be a fragrance for men. The article implied that Hoffman was so embarrassed that he later attributed the lack of sleep to partying.

      • bluhare says:

        Thank you for getting the quote right, tegteg! I should have googled it to get it right. Posthumous apologies to Lord Olivier.

      • giulia says:

        For me hoffman is the better actor, so…

      • spidey says:

        I do think Olivier had a rather high opinion of Olivier!

      • Hazel says:

        In case anyone was wondering, the movie was Marathon Man.

      • spidey says:

        @ Hazel – yes, the one with the cringy dentist’s chair scene!

    • sage says:

      He may not be great yet, but he is really good at his craft.

    • Adele Dazeem says:

      I think he’s one of the best of his generation. Lower profile, but to me that’s a GOOD thing, not a bad thing.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Opinions vary and all that but nope, no, in this you are completely, utterly, hopelessly wrong. I kid of course but not really. Jake is one of THEE best actors working today.

  2. Lucy2 says:

    I like him, I think he’s been making very interesting choices in films in the last few years.
    I think he’s just very private, and it comes off as serious or isolated.

    • Jellybean says:

      He has made some interesting films and I like him as an actor. I don’t worry too much about interviews. I have seen press tours where the person being interviewed has said the same thing or told the story several times and it can be written up or presented in such widely different ways that you would think it was different people saying the words. The actors have good days and bad days and they get tired through the day. Some interviewers are not that good at getting an actor to open up and others have their open agenda that colours the whole exchange. That said, I hope he is happy and keeps making films.

    • Kitten says:

      He was great in the recent Fresh Air interview he gave.

      • misery chick says:

        @ KITTEN-I had no idea he did a Fresh Air, will find now, thanks so much!

        Been noticing Jakey since City Slickers; I think he’s one of the best.
        Favorite movie is “Brokeback Mountain”; he broke my damn heart. Loved him in “Love And Other Drugs” and “Bubble Boy” (not-so-secret guilty pleasure-please don’t judge!!). Love his choices and I appreciate him always trying something different (looking at YOU, Tom Cruise!).

        I’m in my damn mid 50′s and still find myself getting lost in his eyes…and his crooked smile…💕

  3. LAK says:

    Laurence Olivier agrees.

  4. Jellybean says:

    I don’t think it helps when awards give a ridiculous amount of credit to actors who mess themselves up physically with massive weight/muscle loss and gain. Seriously, for two performances of equal merit they will give it to the one who ‘suffered’ for their art every time. How many people here could actually sit through the suffering porn that won Leo his oscar? Then you have the Christian Bale, surely he has lost a few years of life expectancy as a result of this silliness and Matthew Mcconaughey has never looked right since his oscar winning performance. I have reached the stage where it just irritates me and I generally avoid those films altogether.

    • lightpurple says:

      I find this rather confusing coming from Jake considering how he altered himself for Nightcrawler and Southpaw.

      He also has Stronger coming out next year. I suspect he didn’t alter himself too much to play Jeff Baumann (he still seems to have all his limbs) but that’s going to be more serious, isolated, lonely, sadness. The guy needs to try comedy.

      • Jellybean says:

        Good point.

      • Abbott says:

        And didn’t he smash up his melon on a mirror in Nightcrawler?

      • RussianBlueCat says:

        I have heard how some actors find doing comedy very difficult. You can have the best script, but if you don’t have a comedic flair it does not translate on screen.
        Meryl Streep in “Death Becomes Her” I thought was fantastic and one of the few actors I think can do both serious and comedic roles. Then you look at Lucille Ball who had perfect timing and a knack for comedy.

      • I Choose Me says:

        I know I’m extrapolating here but I think what his interview is saying that he’s been guilty of this in the past and is now at a place where he realises it’s not necessary. At least that’s what I read from his quote down below:

        “I think I came to the realization that acting is not just one thing. There is not just one way…

        And further in the Interview: The serious, with a capital S, actor, who has been intensely working his tail off throughout his career, is ready to loosen his grip a bit. “I sort of went, ‘wait, there’s another way of doing it. Time to play a little more, have a little bit more fun in what you create.’”

    • KB says:

      Matthew McConaughey has looked old and drawn ever since that weight loss. Mila Kunis has talked about how losing all that weight for Black Swan changed where she gained weight afterwards. She lost her boobs and just gained the weight back in her stomach and hips. I’m not sure how pregnancy has changed that since though.

  5. Esmom says:

    I didn’t read the whole piece but he’s always struck me as more serious than happy go lucky. I don’t know that I got loneliness or isolation from the excerpt, just thoughtfulness. It also sounds like making the movie was an intense experience and that’s also reflected in his words.

    That photo of him looking grumpy with the big bouquet is kinda ridiculous.

  6. Sixer says:

    Not sure if he’s talking about physical transformations – if so, I think these are sometimes necessary to an extent but not to the ridiculous levels some take it, which then get valorised and are held up as somehow heroic.

    But I think he probably meant more method vs presentation acting styles? I kind of prefer the results from instinctive/method than those from the classical/presentation styles. But again, there’s empathy making for a good performance and there’s valorising destructive behaviour. Former = good. Latter = bad.

    I suppose it’s just being on the right side of the various shades of grey, really.

    I like little Jake, even if he is overly earnest.

    • lightpurple says:

      Perhaps that is what he means. As I mentioned above, I found it confusing if he were applying it to physical transformation because he has altered himself for films.

      I like little Jake too. Although he is 5 feet 11 and unlike most actors, I think he is the actual claimed height. He was here in Boston this past year filming Stronger and friends said they were surprised at how tall he was.

      • Sixer says:

        I don’t know why I think of him as little! He just seems to want to be a background figure, you know? And in an industry of relentless self-promoters, there’s something very likeable about that.

        I think he probably does mean it in a behavioural sense. I was thinking of some of DDL’s reported bad behaviour on set because he was “in character” or something like that.

      • Lama Bean says:

        I think he’s talking mental as well-Shia lebouf jared Leto style. I suspect he watched Heath Ledger devolve while he was filming Batman (??) and that’s what led him to this conclusion. Kind of feel like he never got over heath’s death.

      • SilverUnicorn says:

        I also associated his comments to actors like DDL who are always ‘in the role’, which seems incredibly stupid to me… They should try acting lol (sorry Sir L. Olivier!’)

      • Sixer says:

        Lama – Yes. Ledger and Labeouf are good examples.

        Silver – the thing is, I am inclined to enjoy more instinctive performances over classical ones. I’d rather watch Hardy or Fassbender than Hiddleston or Olivier, for an example. But not if the actor is taking it way too far and being destructive towards themselves or others.

      • lightpurple says:

        @Lama Speaking of Heath, we really don’t see enough of Michelle Williams. We saw Manchester by the Sea yesterday and although she has about 10 minutes of screen time, she delivers an unforgettable, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking performance. When we were leaving, my friend asked where Michelle could just come up with so much pain and my response was: Heath.

        And I always think of Jake as small too. It wasn’t until I saw Demolition that I realized he’s not.

      • Jellybean says:

        Amy Adams has made some interesting points on this lately. Since American Hustle she has completely changed her outlook and she thinks it has actually had a positive effect on her performances. Now she comes to set fully prepared, she works hard and then she goes home and switches off completely – no stress and no taking work home. It came up a lot in Arrival interviews because it seems everybody involved had the same attitude, to the point where many of them brought their kids to set because there was no shouting and no tension and everybody was supportive of each other. It is interesting that both David O’Russell and Denis Villeneuve make films with strong female leads, but they are at the extremes on how they think their actors can achieve the best performance; O’Russell ramps up the stress to the point of hysteria and verbally abuses the actors, Denis remains totally calm and rewards his actors with ‘I love what you have just done’, leaving them craving his good opinion. I can’t imagine actors like Tom Hardy being able to function at either of these extremes (he would probably punch DOR and irritate Denis and his crew), but I know what I would prefer.

      • zinjojo says:

        Everyone must wonder about Jake G’s height! A while back, I heard a segment on This American Life with Ira Glass, and it was about Jake’s height — evidently, there are websites that obsessively track the height of celebrities and there was a big thing about Jake’s actual height. IIRC, he confirmed to This American Life that he is indeed, 5’11″ :)

      • kibbles says:

        He was measured on Conan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_MZy7vBTo

        This is the podcast The Mystery Show that brought up his height: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/case-5-source-code/

    • Turtle says:

      The Hollywood Reporter has more of those actor roundtable things going up now for awards season. The most recent one (I think) has best-actress contenders. And Isabelle Huppert is talking about “Elle,” which has rape scenes and is very intense and full of vengeance. And she talks about NOT taking the characters home and separating her real life from her work life. She’s very calm and matter-of-fact and professional about it. At one point, Emma Stone leans forward and asks her to expand on the point. It’s fascinating.

  7. Jayna says:

    I am a massive Jake Gyllenhaal fan. He is building a great and ecclectic body of work. I see everything he does, even the odd movies that are small. His choices are usually very interesting as far as the roles he takes or how he inhabits a character as an actor.

    • MrsBPitt says:

      I think Jake is so underrated!! Prisoners, Southpaw, but, in NIghtcrawler, especially, he was amazing!! I love him!!

    • manta says:

      Same for me. Jarhead made me a fan his further choices were smart ( Zodiac or Source Code were great). I even enjoyed the less succesfull Rendition and he made me watch a Hathaway film (Love and other drugs). I see Prince of Persia as his only faux pas.

      • Jayna says:

        @Manta, he was good in the sci-fi thriller, Source Code. Did you know David Bowie’s son directed it?

  8. SusanneToo says:

    I love those hydrangeas. Just gorgeous.

    • Kitten says:

      Hydrangeas are my obsession. Have you ever seen the antique blue ones? They are so gorgeous–you can sometimes find them in the floral section at Whole Foods. They dry so beautifully too.

      • SusanneToo says:

        My grandmother had hydrangea bushes-blue ones, but not sure about antique. I love all the colors, though. And pansies, which Grandma had in her flower bed.

    • Birdix says:

      We have hydrangeas that only flower around the edges–the center doesn’t open up. At first it reminded me of male pattern balding, but now I’ve grown to like it.

      • Kitten says:

        Oh the lace variety? I bought one by accident one year and I have to admit, they grew on me.

        Around the Boston waterfront where I run there are the most incredible fuchsia and deep purple hydrangeas. The variety in color never ceases to amaze me….

      • Esmom says:

        I have those, too, Annabelle is their name, I think. Here in the midwest you typically only see the big ones in pink, not very deep pink. My first trip to the Pacific Northwest I was dazzled by the deep blue ones everywhere. Apparently if you amend the soil to be more alkaline or acidic you can change the color. Too much work for me!

      • lightpurple says:

        And the white ones can be quite lovely.

    • Sixer says:

      Heehee. Hydrangeas are like the old lady flowers in the UK. If someone has a bush in their front garden, you can pretty much guarantee they are a pensioner! FWIW, I also like them although am not a pensioner. Only blue ones though.

      • third ginger says:

        Sixer, I’m replying to something earlier. I don’t think DDL [world's greatest actor: my crush for 30 years] has ever had any genuinely
        bad behavior, just what some people would consider eccentric. Now, Dustin Hoffman got the reputation for being what my mother used to call a “pill” I always love your posts and you named 3 of my favorite actors[Hardy, Hiddleston, and Fassbender] I enjoy each of them for different reasons. Fassbender likely has the most range. Hiddleston is a smart young man who makes interesting choices. Hardy is simply riveting. Lord Olivier played my ideal man[ I know; what the hell is wrong with me?] Maxim de Winter in perhaps my favorite film REBECCA. Finally, I love Jake G.

      • Sixer says:

        I don’t particularly see either style – classical or method – as better. It’s just a taste thing, you know? And I’m liable to enjoy the best of the best in either category. I think tales about DDL – and Hardy for that matter – behaving badly on set are likely wildly exaggerated as is the way of celebrity gossip, but I would place a bet that the pair of them can be a real pain to colleagues.

      • Jellybean says:

        Sixer, they are indeed old lady flowers or at least the mop head ones are. I only like them in woodland planting, I hate them in front gardens. I do like white ones, but even those I prefer when they are the lacecap forms. I could go on for ages about garden design – but I wont.

      • annetommy says:

        I find Daniel Day Lewis overrated. I just don’t get the adulation of his acting, or the multiple Oscars. He’s perfectly fine in a number of films; but, for example, in There Will Be Blood, for which he won an Oscar, I thought he was so over the top. Positively hammy. Paul Dano was better in it. Jake has made some great choices and is very good in Nocturnal Animals.

    • spidey says:

      If you have pink hydrangeas and you would prefer them to be blue you need to apply aluminium sulphate before they bud.

  9. JulP says:

    Just saw Nocturnal Animals last night and Jake was amazing in it! I’m surprised he’s not getting any awards buzz. As someone noted above, he has been making some very interesting choices over the past few years and has proven that he is a very versatile actor (I still can’t get over his oscar snub for Nightcrawler. I think he had the best performance that year).

    I also agree with him re: actors “suffering” for their art. There’s no need to rip out a tooth or lose a dangerous amount of weight for a role. All movies require us to suspend disbelief a bit, and I wouldn’t have had an issue, for example, with Matthew M. being at a normal weight for DBC. It wouldn’t have affected my experience of watching that film at all (likewise, Anne H. in Les Mis – she was already thin, she didn’t need to lose more weight!) But I also think actors are willing to drastically change their appearances because, as another poster noted, it makes for a better awards campaign.

    • MrsBPitt says:

      Yes, how did Jake get snubbed by the Oscars for an amazing performance in NIghtcrawler, but Bradley Cooper was up for that POS movie American Sniper! By the way, Jake was up for a Golden Globe for Nightcrawler and Cooper, was not up for Sniper, Then, when the Oscar nom’s came out. They had dropped Jake for Cooper! The Oscars never get it right, IMO…

  10. Bettyrose says:

    He’s adorable. He’s the shy nerd who needs rescuing.

    • Kitten says:

      Yes you and I always rep the Jakey Love around here, Bettyrose.

      • I Choose Me says:

        I’m hurt Kitten. How could you not include me in the Jake G fandom? If there is a club I’m so in it.

    • nnnn says:

      “He’s adorable. He’s the shy nerd who needs rescuing.”
      And this is why romance novels still sell… Women’s insatiable need to rescue and mend and make better!

      Girl, he’s gonna cheat on you. Break your heart. You see him as a project, he sees you as a hole. Don’t do it.

      SNAP OUT OF IT (the Cher slap)!

      • bettyrose says:

        nnnn – LOL! I’ve never been into romance novels. but I freely admit I was that girl in my teens/early 20s, looking for the wounded bird who needed rescuing, I outgrew that long ago, but Jakey totally brings out that instinct in me. Call it nostalgia?

    • kibbles says:

      I think he comes off seriously in print interviews, but he is adorable in live interviews. Whenever I see him on Ellen or the night shows, he usually makes me laugh. The funny thing is that I didn’t really notice him at the height of his popularity around a decade ago, but now I have been trying to watch all of his recent films.

  11. nnnn says:

    Growing more and more tedious by day… he and his ‘AAAAHHHRRT’ give me no pleasure as a spectator nowadays.

    btw, his bestie killed himself for a role. Maybe address Heath and his demise if this is the big proclamation you’re gonna make to promote your image?

    Comes off cowardly.

    • Kitten says:

      He addressed Heath’s death in depth on a recent Fresh Air interview. Talking about it yet again within the context of an interview to promote his movie would be crass as hell IMO.

    • Anon33 says:

      Nnnn, He doesn’t owe you or us a god damn thing. If he doesn’t want to talk about Heath he doesn’t have to.

  12. kibbles says:

    I heard a rumor that he had depression several years ago. He appears to be a method actor and he’s played some seriously dark roles in the last five years. To get into those roles for a serious actor like him must mess up your emotional and physical health a bit. Hope what happened to his friend Heath Ledger reminds him to not descend to far into the darkness and to keep himself healthy.

  13. third ginger says:

    A great Movie featuring Jake is ZODIAC, a film that was criminally overlooked for awards. It also stars RDJ and one of our finest American actors, Mark Ruffalo.

  14. Jayna says:

    Has anyone ever seen the movie “Enemy”? He is the lead in the movie. He plays two characters but they look alike, are doubles. I rented it solely because of Jake Gyllenhaal and my love for the roles he picks.

    It is a psychological thriller, with psychological in capital letters. His acting is so distinctive for both characters that you never just see one person, him. You differentiate them easily. The ending is very bizarre, shocking. I had to go online for discussions and debates about the meaning of the ending.

    But he is really great as both characters. It’s a 2014 movie. I rented it on Amazon.

    • Jayna says:

      I forgot to add that I had to watch it again, because there was so much debate about the meaning and ending and the director said in an interview, ““If you look at Enemy again, you can see that everything has an answer and a meaning.” So I eventually watched it again knowing what I knew from watching it the first time and from reading all of the comments online pointing out things and analysis of the movie. I spent a lot of time reading online dissecting of the movie and interviews with the director and Jake.

      • Esmom says:

        Sounds really interesting, Jayna, I am off to check it out. Thanks!

      • Jayna says:

        @Esmom, it’s not a great movie. I consider it a good movie of its type. It’s an odd, quirky, very slow indie. I wouldn’t recommend for everyone. I watched it solely for Jake and liked it because it had me thinking a lot afterwards. I often like those kinds of weird movies.

        Diehard Jake fans would like it.. And for explanations and dissecting the meaning of the movie, Reddit has a really good thread line on the movie. Slate Magazine had a poor explanation of their version of the ending, but the commenters had many great fleshed-out points of view.

      • Esmom says:

        Hi again, Odd, quirky and slow films are actually right up my alley. And you sound like me, diving into articles and blogs and discussions when you enjoy something. I’m in the midst of that right now with The Leftovers, which I have been bingeing over the last week. The last time I can think of being really obsessed with something like that was the Serial podcast, both seasons. Reddit has some really good discussions on those.

  15. Mannori says:

    the greatest actor in the world DDL has lived a quiet familiar life with wife Rebecca Miller for 20 years. That we know, he’s not into drugs booze hookers or any self destruction behaviour, like most of the so calle method actors are now, and whom clearly do it just as a self condescending way to enjoy debaucheries in the name of their “art” and they mostly do it and promote it themselves: look at me, I ate dirt to play a soldier, or I slept inside a horse cadaver to play a survivor…etc etc….it’s always “look at what I did for my art”….DDL never did that

    • siri says:

      Actually, DDL is known for his extreme sort of preparation. For The Unbearable Lightness Of Being he learned Czech (although he doesn’t need to speak it in the film), for The Last Of The Mohicans, he learned how to build canoes. In Sheridan’s My Left Foot, he spent almost the entire shoot in a wheelchair. He called people by their film name, and wanted to be fed by others. For Lincoln, he studied old photographs, saying: “I looked at them the way you sometimes look at your own reflection in a mirror and wonder who that person is looking back at you.” I call this quite obsessive, and he definitely talked about it, too.

  16. TalkingAbout says:

    Phenomenal actor. He is one of a kind – great one stage and great on camera. He can do so well both.