WAMG Talks To JAKE GYLLENHAAL: NIGHTCRAWLER
Open Road Films latest release NIGHTCRAWLER is already getting a lot of attention for the amazing performance given by leading man Jake Gyllenhaal… and the film doesn’t open until next Friday!
Read Michael Haffner’s Fantastic Fest review HERE.
Last week WAMG sat down with Gyllenhaal (in a small roundtable) to discuss the film. Check it out below.
NIGHTCRAWLER is a pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling — where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.
One of the good things she was just saying about you is that you would make a great director. Do you have any ambitions do to that, at some point?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Well, my father’s a director. My mother’s a director, too. I know from a certain amount of experience, from watching a lot of people do it, who are extraordinary at it, because I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who are really good at it, that it would be presumptious of me to say that I would be good at it. At a time when I am looking to be presumptious, then maybe, yeah. I don’t know if that’s now. But I would like to try my hand at it, at some time.
I was going to ask you, when it came together to piecing together Lewis, did you do some research in the way motivational speakers talk and position themselves? Because I saw some of the hand movements that you were doing for your character.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Yeah, well, the hand gesturing, all that weird gesticulation… It was a bit of… You’ve met Dan Gilroy? And I talked a lot about there’s somebody who I based a lot of the character on, who used his hands a lot. But Dan, when he talks, he stands really straight, and he’s very thin. There’s something about him, he uses his hands a lot. So no, I didn’t study anybody who does self-help. The words kind of guided me there. Because there’s these strange punctuations, about it, and I kind of followed to a t the punctuation. I did not veer off one word, or one period, or any commas, throughout the whole thing. I think, in that way, it needed me to be very specific. So if there was a period, I would make sure to say a period. Sometimes my hands did it for me.
What about that movement that you would do with your hair? I noticed that was a kind of transformative movement. Is that something you decided, reading the script, or is that something you decided, “I like that!”.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : That just happened one day. There was one point when I had the idea with Dan. There was some point where I thought, “What if, when Luke is headed into filming, that his hair gets in his way?” Because my hair was pretty long at the time. And there was a moment in the movie, when the hair was all in my face, and I’m filming, and I just thought, so often, when you’re driving, it’s sort of more dangerous when you’re driving with your knee. So there were a lot of inspirations that were coming from all over the place, from this movie. So I said to Dan, “Wouldn’t it be great when I was talking to Rick in the car, while I’m giving him speeches, that as I’m talking, as we all do, when you’ve lived in L.A., or driven a car in L.A., I’ll drive with my knee while I’m putting my hair up.” Yeah, exactly! There’s something about it, where I thought he was a ninja, that he thought that he was a ninja. It’s like, before he did anything, where he stole that bike, he’s a ninja! He went in, and was like, “Let’s go!” That just came out. Dan loved it.
In building this character, at times it seemed like this is Norman Bates, who’s gone into TV movies. Is he a sociopath? Is that why, with this character, do you think there was that, to him?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : My belief is, in using that word, I think it takes the onus off of us, in the creation of Lou. He’s our creation. Without our need for information, without our need for information of all sorts, in a world where unimportant information is now important, and important information is now unimportant, and it all exists on the same plane, we just need to feed and consume, in that way. That people like Lou can thrive. He’s a product of a generation where jobs are, I wouldn’t necessarily say, now, as scarce as they have been, but definitely scarce, and they are transforming the idea of what someone does, as so different. The other day, I wrote an article and I post, it’s like, there’s a job that is changing the idea of a whole generation, who are coming into the world going, “What is a job? What do I do? How do I get a job?” And Lou is a product of that. The choices he makes; he’s kind of a walking metaphor, that’s how I look at it. So I wouldn’t say, as soon as you say, “Oh, he’s a sociopath.” It just sort of makes it go, “Oh, he’s over there. Don’t worry. We don’t have to deal with it.” In a way, I think he’s a product of… he does what he does. He is enabled by Nina, Renee’s character. He’s enabled by the guys at the head of the station, and they are enabled by us. There’s a world where we maybe could live, ideally, where someone who wouldn’t end up being the head of a huge major network. But I feel like, in the world that we live in now, he probably would.
Following up with questions, this movie is kind of about two people going to the TV, and what they’re doing. How do you see the journalism, and the entertainment, as kind of so close, and journalism has changed. The journalism…
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : There’s sort of part of the same answer that I would give, the same thing that I just said. I think the difference between what Lou does, he’s dealing with life and death. Though I think that there is a sense of no one taking responsibility. We’re all just in it. We’re all just needing information, and getting it. I think whatever shocks us is what we’re bound to go towards, even if we don’t want to. We’re still terrified by it, and interested. It’s the same idea as moving past an accident.
It’s kind of understandable. The teams he’s following, and the people…
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : I think that idea is very different. When you’re talking about celebrity culture, you’re dealing with life and death. When you’re following somebody who’s going about living their life, it’s not comparable.
Can you talk a little bit about working with Rene? As a person, and as an actress, and as your partner in this? And her touching your knee?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Oh yeah, she did do that in one scene. Well, in the restaurant scene, that’s actually a perfect example. Her husband, Dan, gave her very little to survive with in that scene. I would say that I was given, Lou was given a figurative 50 calibre machine gun, with his words, and she’s given a spoon. So I walked into that scene, expecting to just win, just because I’d been given all those words. And eventually he does win that scene. But Renee came in, and made it a struggle for me, in that, even with close to nothing to defend with, she was like a fierce competitor. The choices that she was making, moment to moment, even when she touched my leg, she must have said that to you, that was a choice she was doing, under the table to me, that no one would see, to mess with me. Because she knew that she needed to try and win something. As actor to actor. And I love it! There’s nothing I love more than another actor who is going to sideswipe me, sweep my leg, because I mean, it’s fun! She does it in so much fun, so much play, it’s not like dangerous. It’s so playful. When we rehearsed, with her and Dan; they’re so loving, the two of them, just so positive and loving. I would come and rehearse and do a speech with her, a scene, and she’d be like, “Oh my God, you’re just so great!” And then I’d be like, “Can we just do the scene?” And she’d be like, “Nope, I mean, Danny, isn’t he just so wonderful?” I’d just be like, and he would go, “I know, I told you! I told you!” Guys, we’re doing a scene! It was like that with them, and particularly with her. She’s been very, she’s separated herself from the whole Hollywood thing, as much as she can, and she’s really creative, and very sensitive, and very loving and open. When you think about her in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ and stuff, there’s a real intimidation factor about her beauty, and her charisma and stuff, but I think, deep down inside, she just likes to garden, and chill out and stuff. I love that side of her, in the scene, because it’s that side of her, seeing the real human side of her, that makes her so fearless in that scene. So it was great fun to work with her.
Can you talk about the look on your face, because it looks like…? Is it some effort on the make-up person, or is it just the camera?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Can we talk about your face? [Laughs] Who did that?
Is that the first time you lost some weight?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : I have an extraordinary make-up artist, who’s working with me on this movie ‘Prisoners’, right now. And then he came, and he was nice enough to come and work with me on this movie. We had extraordinary department heads; from Rob Elswit, who shot our movie, all the way to our production designer. Every single department head, it was nuts! It was a 7.5 million dollar movie! The fact that we had all these people working with us was insane. So Donald, who did my make-up, I also worked on character with him. It was very important. It’s not about anything other than the creation of a good feeling inside. There’s no continuity with how we worked. There’s emotional continuity, given the scenario, and the scene and the day and the moment, has nothing to do with anything besides that. He was helpful there. We did subtle things. We made subtle choices and stuff. One of the biggest things that Lou really only sweats once in the movie, and that was a very particular thing, that we talked about often. In the times when he’s giving his speeches, or when he’s talking to Riz, or when he’s under pressure, when he’s with the police officers, when they’re questioning him, he’s in the interrogation room, he does not sweat. The only time that he sweats is out of excitement, when he’s going through that house. When he comes out of that, and he runs down that hill, and he’s driving away, is the only time that you see him sweaty. Because he’s fucking psyched! Every other exchange, there’s this cool confidence to him. So those types of things, as far as my face, and the choices that are made, losing weight and stuff. That was just months of, as we were getting into shooting, I would do stuff like run to set, and at a certain point I was just running through Griffith Park all the time, eight to fifteen miles a day, and I was just training myself as a coyote, with all the coyotes and stuff. And then my face just changed, I think. I don’t think I was really even aware, until a few months ago, and we were going through all the cuts. You start to separate from all the characters, and go like “Wow!” The place where you are mentally, it has so much less to do mentally than it does, physically. I can go back there at any moment and remember. I can go back to that Chinese restaurant, Like the scene of an accident, or something.
The way things are, like it or not, when the film comes out, you will be asked to make an indictment against this business, and how we cover stories, and how we put out information.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Just like you get to make an indictment of us, and what we put out.
Are you comfortable being put in that position? Have you thought about what you will say, or how you feel about that? Obviously, it’s a work of fiction, but is there reality in there, and do you define it as okay? I’m just thinking of this question as I’m saying it, but I can see it now, on CNN, or one of those shows, assuming we stop getting ebola, and say, shooting each other? Is there possibly some conversation on that?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Well, my form of communication is through the movies that I make. That’s one thing that I can say. I consider that to be, as much as I consider that to be entertainment, and it should be entertaining, that’s why I think, this movie is actually really fun to watch, and entertaining, as well as I feel like it’s some kind of commentary. I feel like when you can get the two in a movie, I feel like those are the types of movies I want to make. I believe that movies are political, no matter what. I think that if you’re going to escape, or you’re going to overtly deal with something political, it’s still political, because there’s stuff going on all the time. And I think I was taught and raised that it’s important to know, to be informed, and to make choices based on that, from a number of different standpoints, not just one. So I don’t think it’s necessarily, I don’t think any story’s good unless there’s a bit of indictment somewhere. There’s a… unless there’s some kind of comment; I would say indictment is the wrong word, I would say commentary. Dan Gilroy has a point of view. And I think he’s created this character, as i’ve said before, to shine light on the fact that I don’t think a character like Lou could exist, unless we really created him. There have been people who have seen the movie, and have come up to me, who do work in the media, and said stuff like, “I would buy the footage that Lou…” I’m like, “Wow! That’s interesting to me. That’s fascinating,” but at the same time, it’s true. You can go anywhere, on any news site, and scroll down, like you even said, we don’t want to read half of the things that we have to read. And I’m sure you don’t want to cover it. But it’s important that people know it. I have been more moved by the media, emotionally, my heart has swelled, as a result of stories that I’ve read, and I’ve been disgusted at the same time, in different stories that I’ve read. And I think that’s what’s beautiful about the job that you all do. That we’re all part of it. I feel the same way about movies. There are movies that do the same thing to me.
In the movie, L.A. is kind of its own character, and it’s beautiful. Can you tell me how you describe L.A., and how that played into your character?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : L.A. is where I was born, and where I was raised. So it’s filled with all of that stuff for me, my childhood and stuff, driving around L.A… it means that, everytime I’m here, I live in New York, now, I flew here just a few hours ago. Every time that I fly in, it’s… I love L.A. I don’t want to quote Randy Newman, but… The movie would not have been able to been made, anywhere else. This is a Los Angeles movie. It’s a movie about the world, and I think that L.A., from my experience of L.A. has every single culture in it. I mean, it’s just this extraordinarily vast melting pot. And also the topography of it is really important, because there’s also the desert outside, and there’s the city, the metropolis. And Dan and I talked a lot about this, that the borders from space of Los Angeles, it goes from like electric to total darkness, into the desert. You know, there’s the green grass, and the lawns we created, are all man-made, and outside of that, is wilderness and the animal kingdom, and the wild. They come in, these animals come in at night. Who, who lives in L.A., has not had an exchange with a coyote? You know what I mean? Anytime that I talk to somebody who’s seen the movie, and said that I based this character off of a coyote, they go, “Oh!” Because it’s like, who hasn’t been eyefucked by a coyote. You know? They are not intimidated by you at all? In fact, they’re looking for the most vulnerable aspect of you. And they’re a beautiful animal. I have grown to love them, because I’ve done so much research, and felt like I was one of them, while I was playing this character. But they are ruthless, you know? And because they are also starving.
Are you living in New York because you’re living there, or are you living there because it’s a cool city?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : I live in New York because my family lives there. My nieces live there, my mother lives there. My family all lives in New York. And my family is more important to me than where I live, but they all happen to be there, but it happens to be a wonderful city, too.
Are you excited about Broadway?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : Am I excited about Broadway? I’m so excited, I can’t wait! I did a show about a year and a half ago, with the same writer and director, on a different show. It’s my favorite place to be, is up on stage. Like every musician gets to go on tour, you know what i mean? In my acting, the movie is my album. The theater is the live show, and so I can’t wait. That’s a different animal! That’s the animal, I always want to come out and they say, “Cut!”
What’s the name of your play?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL : It’s called ‘Constellations’ by Nick Payne.