Jake Gyllenhaal discusses his latest role in the Jerry Bruckheimer produced film based on the popular video game
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is best known for his work in dark and dramatic films such as Donnie Darko, Moonlight Mile, Jarhead, Zodiac, Rendition, Brothers and Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. However, Gyllenhaal is no stranger to big summer blockbuster movies either having starred opposite Dennis Quaid in Roland Emmerich's disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow. Now the actor returns this summer with another surefire blockbuster hit as the star of super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer's adaptation of the classic video game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, opening on May 28th. In the film, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, an orphan who is adopted by the king and raised as one of his own. When a close confidant betrays the King, Dastan must go on a quest to bring the King's betrayers to justice and protect a magical dagger, which has the power to reverse time. We recently had a chance to speak with Jake Gyllenhaal about the exciting new film, is preparation for the role, his character's motivation and working opposite acting legend Sir Ben Kingsley. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, your character does a lot of jumping and flipping around in this movie, how much Parkour training did you have to do to prepare and was it what you expected?
Jake Gyllenhaal: It was the first type of training that I started to do which was I guess a little bit Parkour. First I was I working with gymnasts, starting to work on landings and things like that while I was doing regular cardiovascular training and other things for the role. I didn't really start doing the serious Parkour stuff until we got to Morocco and we started choreographing the scenes on the top of Kasbahs and all the sets that we were shooting in. I think the hardest part of doing it is really the focus, sort of being present and training your mind to not worry about whether you're going to make the landing but just focusing on being present in the moment.
You're best known for your dramatic film work, so how is preparing for a large-scale action adventure like this compare to how you've prepared in the past on other projects?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Well it required a lot of technical work that I usually do in movies but this was learning how to do the rudimentary aspects of Parkour. Learning how to swordfight, which involved learning martial arts and learning choreography, really complicated choreography and having two swords that I use. Learning how to horseback ride proficiently in a way that I could do stunts and learning a British accent. On top of all of that, on a movie of this size when you make a different choice, like if you block out a scene for instance and you make a different choice in the middle of the day and you say, well maybe I should be over here, if you make that choice it affects a thousand more people. Then we'd get on to set and there'd be these massive sets built that were two-hundred and fifty feet high with like every intricate detail done so that they could shoot anywhere and then thousands of extras. I would get suited up every morning and it'd take forty minutes to put on my costume. I had these crazy intense boots that I wore that were like all Parkour style so that I could do the stunts. I think you can see it on the poster a little bit but it had all these different things that were attached to my costume and it took a long time. So it was kind of like getting prepared for some big sporting event.
Can you talk about the difference between doing a film that is based on a popular video game as apposed to some of the other films that you've done? Is there more pressure for you knowing that you are portraying a character that so many fans have grown up playing in the game?
Jake Gyllenhaal: You know it's a very difficult form of research and it required me playing the game three or four times a day, which you know is a very, very difficult job. A lot of people don't know this but acting is just so hard! I just want you to know that practicing the game, playing it three or four times a day and getting paid to exercise, it was just really tough. No, there wasn't much difference actually, that's the interesting thing. If you're playing a character that's based on a book or someone that's even been alive, you have to give as much attention. You have to focus just as much as you would if it's a videogame character or if it's a real life human being, that's at least how I feel.
Your character in the movie starts off a little bit cocky but learns to be more humble through the course of the film, can you talk about his subtle transformation?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I don't know if he really loses his cockiness throughout the whole film? I hope he maintains it just enough but I think what happens is he realizes the importance of this dagger, his destiny and he realizes how much his family means to him. At the beginning of the movie he's an orphan who's rescued by the King and when he has the potential of losing this family that has brought him in and basically saved his life, when that's threatened I think he starts taking his life and the lives of others around him much more seriously. But I think he still maintains a little bit of wit and humor throughout all of it.
What type of message do you think that young people who are coming in to adulthood and want to recognize their own potential as they grow can take from the lessons that your character learns in the film?
Jake Gyllenhaal: I think specifically for the character of Dastan, like I was saying before, he was an orphan and he was brought into the royal family by the King because of a good deed that he did and because he was pure of heart when he did this deed. I think a lot of things kind of threaten us all the time and you know to not listen to your own heart to make choices that are about what other people think are cool or what other people say are cool. You know the lesson or the moral of this movie for Dastan is to follow his own heart and to influence other people around him like his brothers and his family to follow theirs too. When you do and when he does help the other people around him it all works out for the best. Ultimately it's not painless but it's for the best and I hope that kids and families, but particularly kids, can take away that if they listen to their heart they'll never really go wrong.
Finally, when playing the hero in a movie like this, how important is it to have a really great villain to go up against like Ben Kingsley's Nizam and what was it like working with the Oscar winning actor on the film?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Well you know what? There are a lot of villains in this movie. They may be actually ones that you would never expect. I would say there are maybe ten or fifteen people chasing after the Dagger Of Time and who are not doing it for the right reasons. But specifically working with someone like, I would say for because he is Sir Ben Kingsley. So working for Sir Ben Kingsley it's just incredible. I mean when you work with somebody of that level, that stature, who has that amount of experience, that many years, has done such extraordinary work, its kind of an actors dream come true. The interesting thing about Sir Ben is that he has a real childish play to him. I acted really conservatively around him when I first started acting and he was like, "Come on!" You know, he sits up really straight. He seems so regal but he really likes to kind of get down and dirty with his acting and so I do I so it was great fun and a real honor.