When Hollywood wants versatile and credible it calls Jake Gyllenhaal – no better is that shown than in ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’, where the 38-year-old plays Mysterio, recruiting Peter Parker (Tom Holland) to face elemental threats from another dimension.
Since making his movie debut at the age of just 11 years old in 1991 comedy-western, ‘City Slickers’, Jake Gyllenhaal has never been far away from the limelight – it’s just that he doesn’t like it.
He avoids the glitz and glamour of fame as much as he can, but it never stops him delivering box office smashes alongside indie cult flicks, such as the RSNG-approved sci-fi brain twister ‘Source Code’. RSNG caught up with him to find out why he thinks Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man yet...
RSNG So, what can you say about your character in Spider-Man: Far From Home?
JK ‘Well, I play Mysterio and he is brought in back Nick Fury to help stop the threat to the world called ‘The Elementals,’ who are creatures Mysterio knows and he wants to make sure that the world is safe from them. Mysterio is the only person who seems to know them in a way no-one else does.’
‘Mysterio then teams up with ‘friendly neighbourhood, Spider-Man’ and unfortunately, he has to make him more than that friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.’
RSNG What has it been like working with Tom Holland as Spider-Man?
JK ‘I have got to say that I think that he is the best Spider-Man yet. There is nobody who is more professional, there is nobody who does most of his own stunts. There are moments in this movie when we are in the middle of a scene and he did a double back-flip into the scene, and I was like: “What the…?” Then, he did the scene with me!’
RSNG You have been in a lot of movies, some huge films. This seems to be a new era of comic book films. What is special about this one?
JK ‘I think that there are a lot of things and just the size of the movie and the scope of it and I think what is cool about Spider-Man is that I really do think that he is incredible. The vision that John Watts has for the movie is so funny and so fun, and you get the opportunity to kick ass.’
‘He made it such a great atmosphere for everyone when we were working together, so we could all play around and joke around and a lot of those things ended up in the movie.’
‘A lot of great relationships were developed from working on the movie together and our actual friendship is in the movie, which is pretty cool.’
‘‘That’s what I want to do in life – feel things intensely and be real. That’s also the feeling I’m trying to bring to my work’
RSNG We believe that you have a superhero suit?
JK ‘I do have a new suit and it has lights. But sometimes during filming, the lights didn’t work properly, and Tom told me that they were just lighting up like a disco, in random colours.’
‘I have had such poor vision since I was a kid that I couldn’t see them. So, everyone on set was just looking at me weird as if they had no idea what was going on. Neither did I! However, the coolest thing about this suit is that there are some major secrets in it. But that is all I can say about it at the moment…’
RSNG Given the art-world horror satire theme of Velvet Buzzsaw, how difficult is it to seperate the machinery of finance from the movie making experience, in order to free those creative energies?
JK ‘I think tackling a movie like this with a subject such as it is, there is absurdity and it is wild in a lot of places, and to give the director the creative freedom, and also the financial freedom, to be able to tell a story like this with such a cast is unmatched anywhere.’
‘It’s a different time for movies. I think that they are one of the only places that is fully supporting, financially in particular, that kind of vision.’
‘But at the same time, I would say that Hollywood is a real community. I think there is a space in which the boldness of Netflix is amazing and I also think that there is a real community of filmmakers that they still have to win over, and are. I think that that is a really interesting journey and I think that it is fascinating to watch.’
RSNG Does that arrest the financial strain?
JK ‘I think so. I know what you’re getting at, and it’s the whole divide between creative influence and financial reward. The whole irony here is the ones who can afford to be creative are the ones who have already played the big cards and made the money. It’s as if to say you can’t just be creative and free without having gone for the big smash in the first place.’
‘It shouldn’t be like that – the creative space should come first, and I guess with true independents it does, but if you want to do something purely for the varying subjective pleasures of an audience – and take the risk that some will like it and most may not – then that’s an expensive experiment. In a sense, someone with money is the wrong person to lead that forward, because it’s finance that middles everything. It’s a mass of contradictions.’
‘A movie like Velvet Buzzsaw, the scale of this movie, the vision of this movie and the ability for the filmmaker and a mind like Dan’s to express itself and to get it to an audience – an international audience, something I think that Netflix does in an indecipherable way, but in a very magical way, is extraordinary to me.’
‘I think we spend too much time trying to evaluate and judge everything in life when we shouldn't be comparing’
RSNG Which of your habits would you most like to change?
JK ‘We are in an era of constant appraisal, and if it doesn’t come from the wider world I often find it will come from within, and that does frustrate me. I think we spend too much time trying to evaluate and judge everything in life when sometimes we shouldn't be comparing things.’
‘For instance, there are many ways to play a character and many different possible interpretations – who is to say which one is correct? When I did Sunday in the Park with George on Broadway, Mandy Patinkin was sitting in the audience at the premiere, although I didn't know it. In 1984, he played the same character and after the curtain came down, he came backstage and hugged me and my co-star Annaleigh Ashford.’
‘I don't know how long we hugged, but it felt like five minutes at least. And that was one of the most beautiful and important moments in my career. That's the kind of connection actors are looking for. That's the real moment where you feel successful.’
‘What I do know is I always try to give the best performance I can. I try to do as much preparation as I think I need to do to accomplish that.’
RSNG How would you label yourself as an actor?
JK ‘I’m not at all interested in becoming the kind of actor who needs to worry about his box-office performance with each film. That defeats the purpose of what you want to accomplish as an actor. Of course, you need to have some sort of standing that enables you to get cast in bigger budget films, but the main goal is to find good stories and directors who have a strong vision, and interesting sensibility.’
RSNG How is your mindset towards fame, recognition and all those things these days. It's no secret that fame isn't your favourite part of the job?
JK ‘It’s part of it, I don't like it, I don't hate it. I'm more than happy to take pictures if it's at the appropriate time, you know but not when I'm in the middle of a conversation with my friend, they're telling me something and I have to break away or in thinking about something on the subway. Then I'm like, yeah not right now if you wouldn't mind. And they're like, well he's an asshole! Haha.’
‘I find when they come up looking for pictures, it's always about them. Like if someone wants to come up to me, tell me they hated what I did in that movie, say they liked it, I like the words, I like the interaction. But people don't really want to do that, they tend to focus on the likes for the picture. I like to communicate.’
RSNG How do you keep yourself active when not training for a role?
JK ‘I basically look at everything I did for Southpaw and ensure I never do anything remotely resembling that! My everyday routine is nothing special. I think you know if, at the end of the week, you haven’t quite done enough. That’s when I’ll know to switch it up.’
‘I think the point with a busy schedule and one that doesn’t necessarily follow any order is that you give yourself leeway to do less, or more as time and energy allows. The build-up to a movie is very different – everything is in a structure; but outside of that I feel I need to be flexible and versatile, physically and mentally.’
RSNG Who do you look up to and why?
JK ‘My sister. I came to acting because it was a way of wanting to feel closer and more connected to my family. I saw film sets as a way of becoming close to a kind of family, where you’re bonding with other people because of circumstances but where it still feels like a real family. My life is now very much about wanting to feel close to my family, to be close to my nieces [the children of his sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal].’
‘I’m much closer again to my sister and my mom and it feels so good to have that feeling of closeness and being part of that. I felt strange when my parents got divorced. I was 30, and I didn’t expect that, but when my sister had her two beautiful kids I wanted to be around her and my nieces; I wanted to develop a bond with them. For me, that’s about being real and feeling real things.’
‘That’s exactly what I want to do in life. Feel things intensely and be real. That’s also the feeling I’m trying to bring to my work.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Jake Gyllenhaal in the trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home (spoiler alert: don’t watch if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame yet.)