We've spent some time over the last few days thinking about Brokeback Mountain, swapping stories and memories about our first viewings which, for many of us, I'm sure, was our first proper introduction to Jake Gyllenhaal and what he's capable of on the silver screen. Jake has talked about how Jack Twist made him re-examine his attitudes towards love, just as Jack did for the rest of us, but it interests me and surprises me that Jake has said that the role closest to him in character is that of marine sniper Anthony Swofford in Jarhead, who seems as far removed from that lonely, hopeful cowboy as two men can be.
Jake physically transformed himself to play Swoff and, having overcome the initial shock of getting that jarhead cut on camera (something I can hardly bare to watch!), seemed to revel in this newfound physical power and even the aggression that came with it. The most infamous expression of this was during a scene between Jake and Brian Geraghty that cost Jake a piece of his tooth. Jake has described what happened honestly: "And so I, for some reason, just started hitting him, and I just got so angry that he had chipped my tooth. And I just started hitting him. And we didn't talk for like a month, actually, after that. It's actually a testament to Brian because Brian is nothing like the character he plays. He's just amazing in that scene." Jake has also said: "The day that I lost my tooth was a very, it was a really interesting day. It was a point at which I realized that, I had told Sam before we started, I was like ‘I’ll throw up in the sand for you. I’m going to do anything I can for you, but I never thought I would chip off my tooth for you because that’s permanent.’ Vomit’s vomit but your tooth’s gone." Brian Geraghty is possibly too charitable: "Well we had a little time apart from ourselves but I mean, it was a very intense scene where he almost kills my character. ...Everything was fine. We took it to the limit. Hopefully when you see the film you’ll acknowledge that. We’re better for it."
It's the idea of a bootcamp which seems to have dominated Jake's thoughts, both from the moment when he won the role and through the shoot. It was boot camp and what he might face there that motivated his strenuous daily training regimen of running, swimming, biking and lifting weights. Jake talked of his fears of boot camp in Happenings magazine (November 2005): "I knew they were going to try and do stuff to me, so I wanted to be physically there and ready. And then we got to bootcamp and I realized I was in shape and I thought 'Oh, they're going to beat me up. They're going to do whatever they're going to do and they're really going to screw with my head.' And I was ready to get a barrage of insults and all that and I had really prepared myself and they did do that, but the way, I realized, they really got me was they'd be nice at times and I'd be like: 'Oh, they like me. Oh, that's cool.' And they'd be like 'Bam!' And you'd be like, 'What?'.
During the whole week at boot camp, Jake says he had no more than ten hours sleep "and my head was just in such a weird space." Because the movie was filmed chronologically, Jake's first day was spent having his head slapped about and thrown into a board. Therefore, Jake's transformation mirrored that of Swoff and the Jake we see at the end is quite possibly not the same man.
What stands out is that Jake managed to cope with this type of brutality because he was protected by the director Sam Mendes. "He made me feel like nothing I could do was wrong... I just remember being like: 'What? Really? You really want to know what I think?'... so Sam kind of surrounded you with a sense that nothing you could do was wrong and in doing that you could take any risk you wanted... I've never felt calm and cool and collected. Sam sets a tone that's very like you're free to be who you are."
It is almost as if Jake sees his selection for the role and then the gruelling rehearsals and shoot as part of his progression towards adulthood. "[Sam] saw that there were things that probably other people, other directors, hadn’t seen before and he wanted to push. Just the idea of wanting me for everything that I could give, that I could just do whatever I want and not be wrong, gave me the opportunity to go to a place where I think - in knowing that you’re a stable enough human being - that whatever choice you make is going to be okay. I feel that’s part of what being or becoming a man is, in knowing that the choices that you make, you have a good enough conscious time to do that, whatever you do will be alright. And that’s what Sam sort of like ushered me into."
I think we will see a strong contrast in Rendition - I believe here we will see an actor, of ourse always ready to learn, but one who has become that man.
"Then there was also just being around a lot of people who I really respected and looked up to. People like Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, who are in my opinion, really admirable men. And also our military advisors who are, to me, people who have been and seen some really incredible and awful things and are still kind, caring, really cool people and particular grown ups. So I just looked up to all them, and the things they did I tried to emulate at times. Then it was just a process of growing up. Sam opened me up to that. It’s weird because I think on movie sets, people tend to act immaturely, or they’re allowed to. Sam would actually ask for the opposite so we just, that’s how it went."
In the Happenings interview, Jake is asked what he's happy to talk about. "Like any cognizant, relatively healthy human being, I know that there are things that I like to keep to myself and there are things that I know I don't mind sharing with people. I don't mind sharing the reality of this movie because everything about it changed my life. So, it's not like a problem for me to share the things that were ups and downs. We bickered as much as we celebrated on the movie. I don't think there is anything to hide. There are things that aren't that interesting to people that I try to keep to myself."
The filming of Jarhead was hot on the heels of Brokeback Mountain and inevitably Jake has been asked to compare the two experiences. Honesty, bluntness and openness characterise Jake's answers. In the RadioFree interview: "Both Sam and Ang have changed my life regardless of the result of any of these films. The processes of both movies have changed my life, and that's what I take away with me. And everything else is just fun. [laughs] And is a laugh, sometimes. And feeds the ego." In Happenings, Jake says of starring in two such remarkable films, "It's extraordinary. I worked with two really extraordinary filmmakers and you can't get anything but something interesting from both of them... We worked really hard and both of them made sets that were intimate and their own. We never knew if they were going to succeed or not, whether they were going to be good movies or not, it just seemed like they were. It's a freaking great feeling." To quote a famous quote: "Frankly you don’t say no to Ang Lee and you don’t say no to Sam Mendes, and you beg both of them no matter what you’re doing in either of the movies. Whether you’re wearing a Santa cap over your dick or whether you’re making love to Heath Ledger. You just don’t say no to them, that was why. I think that both stories are written by… I mean the short story of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and the book of ‘Jarhead’ are just two of the most kind of extraordinary pieces of literature."
For those of us who will never look at a Santa cap in quite the same way again, Jake finishes his Happenings interview celebrating that other legacy from Jarhead - The Body: "I like to think of (myself naked) as more figuratively, than literally, but I think that there it is and I'm fine with it and all the training paid off and I'm confident in my body and it having no clothes on it." Glad to hear it.
Includes pictures from IHJ.