How Slashing His Hand Punching A Mirror Made Jake Gyllenhaal A Better Actor

If you want an actor to throw himself into a role like a cliff diver into a pond, then call Jake Gyllenhaal. His dedicated method acting has seen him lose 30lbs for Nightcrawler, during the shoot for which he ‘improvised’ by punching a real glass mirror and slashing his hand. He followed that up by building 15lbs of ripped muscle for boxing flick Southpaw. But what can exiting your own comfort zone give you?

RISING You play a scientist on the International Space Station in Life – would you make a good astronaut?

JAKE GYLLENHAAL ‘No, I don't have the right personality to be able to go into space. You need incredible patience and a very meticulous personality, like that of a stamp collector. I have trouble just sitting still. I always need to be in motion and I wouldn't last very long being confined to a spacecraft or space station. I get anxious just thinking about the idea.’



RISING Do you see astronauts as heroes, then?

JG ‘I admire the bravery of the scientists who do that because they're facing death if something goes wrong. I still have very strong memories of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded in flight in 1986. Like a lot of people, that day really broke my heart. Every culture has its heroes and I believe that astronauts are true heroes of the modern era.’


RISING The scientists in Life seem to bite off more than they can chew – do you agree that ‘curiosity kills the cat’?

JG ‘Well, curiosity is one of the most important things that drives me. That's also what defines humanity to a large extent – we have this need to explore and discover things. But that can also be an act of hubris to go past our limits and not appreciate the consequences of that effort. Sometimes our curiosity can get the best of us. But personally I think that curiosity is what keeps you alive and awake, and makes life much richer.’


‘Astronauts are true heroes of the modern era’


RISING How would you describe your character and his sense of fascination

with the creature?

JG ‘He's trying to communicate with it and learn more about its intentions. He has his own fears and I found it very interesting being able to show how his terror is in some way overcome by his fascination with the creature, and facing that terror.’


RISING You and Ryan Reynolds became close friends while making the film. Why did you get along so well?

JG ‘We spent most of our time suspended in the air on wires (to simulate the weightlessness of being in space) and dealing with a lot of serious things, and trying to create tension on the set. But those are the films where you just crack up all the time and we couldn't spend more than a few minutes together before we would start laughing. I feel like I’ve found a friend for life!’


RISING You’re known for playing unconventional roles – is fighting convention something you've always done?

JG ‘I think we're all always fighting convention in a way, or we're not and then we succumb to that. Ultimately all that matters is what you as an individual believe in, regardless of what other people tell you you should believe. I guess in a way that's something I'm trying to do as an artist, but all humans beings should be doing that because if we did we'd have a totally different world.’


RISING Does that sometimes mean you take things too far?

JG ‘I'm hardest on myself. I'm very passionate about what I do and I can't take the easy way out. I just can't... Acting offers you an opportunity to find catharsis through the way you express the emotions of your characters and by behaving in ways that you wouldn't dare to in your own life.’


‘Life is all about discovery, risk and exploring new aspects of yourself’

RISING You’ve always been willing to push yourself to the limit in films like Nightcrawler, Southpaw, and Everest. Is that something that you feel driven to do?

JG ‘I've always been anxious to challenge myself as much as possible. For me, life is all about discovery and risk, and exploring new aspects of yourself, as well as the world in general. I’ve never wanted to do things that were easy or too comfortable. I feel that’s the way you grow as an individual because you're forcing yourself to exit your comfort zone.’


WHAT NEXT? How are you going to take yourself out of your comfort zone today? Read RISING’s report on ‘Why Fear Is The Last Thing You Should Be Afraid’ of, here…