On Culpable, the movie of Netflix that since its premiere last Friday appears among the most viewed on the platform, Jake Gyllenhaal, its protagonist and producer, is in all the scenes. Although other characters appear on the screen at times, the focus is always on its officer Joe Baylor, a police officer forced to answer calls in the Los Angeles emergency service until a pending trial is resolved, of which viewers will learn details as they the plot progresses. Filmed in 12 days in October last year when the pandemic forced renewed quarantines and isolations, the idea of making a movie in a single location and with few actors on set seemed the best possibility to return to work. And, since her film debut at age 11, it seems that Gyllenhaal likes nothing more than working.
From that first role in which he played Billy Crystal’s son in Friends … always friends (City Slickers) until his intense portrayal of the angry cop, the career of Jake, son of screenwriter Naomi Foner and director Stephen Gyllenhaal and younger brother of actress / director Maggie, took unexpected and interesting paths. Plays on off Broadway, an Oscar nomination for his role in Secret in the mountain, musicals, Tony Award nominations as a performer and producer, more than 70 films to his credit and even several songs edited in the compilation of the musical work Sunday in the Park with George, who was performing in New York, ready to move her to London’s West End, when the global health emergency put his plans on hold.
But of course, the Los Angeles-born actor who, since his days as a university student – he attended Columbia University for two years -, resides in New York, seems to have an inexhaustible energy to chain one project after another. Perhaps his drive stems from his early days in the Hollywood arena, a post-adolescent stage in which the movie industry didn’t seem to know what to do with him. After notable performances in cult films like Donnie Darko (available on Amazon Prime Video) and in independent films like A good girl where he shared scenes with Jennifer Aniston, Gyllenhaal appeared to be ready for the big leagues, the big-budget movies that are expected to sweep the box office on the opening weekend. A feat that the actor has so far failed to achieve. His first break came with the film catastrophe The day after tomorrow, which did not achieve the box office impact that the study expected of it.
And although by that time Gyllenhaal had already made his London theater debut, an experience that excited him far more than the prospect of becoming an A-class star, he still kept trying: he cast to become the new Batman ( role that went to Christian Bale) and Spider-Man, which was left to Tobey Maguire. Over the years, of course, Gyllenhaal would have his revenge with the Marvel superhero – already in the hands of Tom Holland – by playing the villain Mysterio in Spider-Man: far from home.
While Hollywood did not finish deciding whether he was interested in his expressive eyes and his interest in eccentric characters, too peculiar to fit the pre-established molds, the actor planned his future on stage and in independent cinema. Until the character of Secret in the mountain, the melodrama directed by Ang Lee and starring Heath Ledger, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. The golden mention plus a couple of leading roles in films by important directors such as Anonymous soldier, by Sam Mendes and the brilliant Zodiac, by David Fincher made the studios, once again, decide that he was the protagonist of those tanks that they deploy in theaters during the boreal summer. His new opportunity, the video game adaptation The Prince of Persia-The Sands of Time it was a critical and public disaster that made him reconsider his career as an actor.
“At that time I was not listening to myself in relation to the projects that I was interested in doing. He first had to figure out what kind of actor he wanted to be and have the confidence to land those roles. At the beginning of your career it is difficult to know what you want and asking questions is not something that is very well received in Hollywood where everyone seems to know what they are doing, “said Gyllenhaal in an interview with The New York Times in 2012, to the time that already felt more and more close to the theater and more and more far from the expectations of stardom that others had for him.
In the cinema that meant making genre films such as the very interesting and entertaining 8 minutes before dying Duncan Jones, satire Deadly scoop Dan Gilroy and the drama Rematch, written by Kurt Sutter, creator of the series Sons of Anarchy, and directed by Antoine Fuqua. With this director he returned to work on Culpable, adapted by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) from the Danish film The blame, written and directed by Gustav Möller, who will soon make his Hollywood debut with Snowblind, starring precisely by Gyllenhaal.
Of course, in the midst of his professional searches and beyond his elusive luck with the box office, the actor became a favorite target of the paparazzi. His walks in Manhattan with Kirsten Dunst when he was his partner or, years later, in Los Angeles with Reese Whiterspoon, appeared from time to time in a magazine but The fury for capturing his image reached the highest point when he began dating America’s girlfriend: Taylor Swift. Curiously, the media frenzy caused by the romance of the singer and the actor lasted much longer than their courtship. In fact, the fire of curiosity seems to fan itself over the years. Is that after the relationship ended, Swift composed and released one of her most successful albums, Red, about the end of the relationship. With sales of more than a million copies in the first week of release, the album had fans of the singer track data about the break with Gyllenhaal in the lyrics of his thirteen songs. The general consensus among Swifties, the singer’s fans, is that the songs “State of Grace” and especially “All To Well”, tell details of the relationship that almost ten years after it ended, circulated on the networks again when Swift announced the reissue of her album “Breakup,” as he called it in Rolling Stone magazine.
The truth is that Gyllenhaal, unlike many of his self-absorbed and volatile characters, seems to take the whole fame thing quite lightly. And although he does not usually dedicate himself to comedy, his appearances in Saturday Night Live, the sketch cycle Inside Amy Schumer and in the special John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch (available on Netflix), where he plays the most frantic children’s entertainer, Mr. Music, shows that he has a talent for humor. And the music too. Although in the projects ahead you probably have no chance to prove it.
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Last year, in addition to Culpable filmed Ambulance, an action film -another remake of a Danish film-, directed by Michael Bay in which the escape of some bank robbers in the ambulance of the title is told. In 2022, in addition to the film he will make with Möller for Netflix, he will also headline with Jessica Chastain The Division, a science fiction film adapted from a video game and will play producer Robert Evans in Francis and the Godfather, a Barry Levinson film about the production of The Godfather in which Oscar Isaac will play the director Francis Ford Coppola. And as if all that was not enough to occupy her days, she is also thinking about the possibility of following in the footsteps of her older sister, who debuted this year as a director with The Lost Daughter (premieres on Netflix December 31). Because, of course, after a thirty-year career as an actor and producer in film, theater and TV, the next challenge is to see what is behind the cameras.
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Jake Gyllenhaal, the actor who “fails” in Hollywood and who responds with more and more work