THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET BACK HOME
PHOTOGRAPHY HEDI SLIMANE / TEXT ELLIOTT DAVID
JAKE GYLLENHAAL ON CONSCIOUSNESS, CRAFT, AND THE SEARCH FOR EXPERIENCE
It’s been raining, and the truck is trying to hit full speed from a dead stop, spitting earth and gravel at the limitations of torque and physics. The words “I’m not gonna let this motherfucker get away” are running through Jake Gyllenhaal’s mind as he gets dragged, one hand on the tailgate, about the length of a first down. Thing is, nobody on the set of his next film, Prisoners, told him to do this: not director Denis Villeneuve, not the guy behind the wheel (Hugh Jackman), not even himself. But it’s what would have been true.
In the film, the driver of the truck is a father pursuing his child’s abductor and Jake plays a detective set on—in this moment—preventing homicidal vigilantism. If this wasn’t fiction—if the father was real, if the cop was real, if the kidnapped children were real—the truck is there, so he’d grab the truck. “So I grabbed the truck, he drove off, and I just held on. Everyone was like, ‘Oh my god!’ And I said, ‘Did you get that? That was crazy.’ And it wasn’t even in the frame.”
It’s not the decisions you make but the decisions you witness yourself act upon that reveal your real nature. A glimpse of the subconscious can articulate identity at its core. So the question is: how do you manifest that? Jake Gyllenhaal loves this question. And so he ends up getting dragged by a truck, out of frame, without even realizing what he’s doing.
“I was searching for an experience. I was looking for an experiment,” he tells me over beers at Spain bar in the West Village, legendary authentic shithole for the New School writer and philosopher set. He’s referring to his motivation to sign on to Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve, with whom Jake would immediately work again on Prisoners. “I needed something way out of the box and I didn’t know what that was necessarily, and I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. I feel like that’s always a good place for me. Whenever I’m not sure what I’m looking for, I always find something interesting.”
With the September release of Prisoners, and Enemy about to make the festival circuit, Jake is well into his second decade of filmmaking. His Hollywood heritage has been rehashed a hundred times, but quickly: son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe–awarded screenwriter Naomi Foner, Jake and his sister, Maggie (both of whom have Oscar nominations themselves), grew up around a top tier of actors and filmmakers like Sidney Lumet, Steven Soderbergh, and Paul Newman. “I come from a family of people who make films,” he says. “When I think about the most important thing I took away from my family, it’s the idea of the power of a story, and the influence that it can have in all of its many forms. I believe there’s nothing that can make you discover what love is more than a story.” vman.com