Secretary receives a showing on British TV this evening (10.35pm Channel 4) and, to celebrate the showing, I ask your patience for a gratuitously naked post. Maggie Gyllenhaal received acclaim for her brave and sexy portrayal of Lee Holloway, even pleasing one of her most brutally honest critics, brother Jake: 'I remember one of the first movies she did, which will go unnamed, and when I watched it, I said to her, 'I can't tell you any other way, but you were really bad.' And she started crying, she was so hurt. And then, with Secretary, it was just like, 'You were extraordinary!' And she was. But she knows I'm honest, and she knows that I love her.' You can read more about Maggie's view of the film's perception here, in an interview in which she makes the ritual of afternoon tea sexy.
Watching Maggie in the role couldn't have been easy and Jake has said he watched it through his fingers: 'When asked how he feels about seeing his sister in a naked scene, Jake confessed: "It's great I'm sort of saying, 'Yeah, it's right. Show them what it's all about!' But as a brother, I still hide my eyes and I still say, 'Oh, my God!' And I know she does too when there are love scenes that I'm in."'
Although several of Jake's directors have taken the surprising step of covering him up in more layers than is surely necessary, others have seen the light and permitted a glimpse and, in the case of Jarhead, even a wiggle. As Jake says in the fun feature below for E!'s hunt for the sexiest movie star: 'I do like getting naked on set'. Jake's reaffirmed his comfort in his own skin was repeated in his Jarhead interview for Conan O'Brien (the interview which also featured Jake singing showtunes ala Bono and miming his jellyfish sting-saving behaviour).
The Santa hat dance clearly got the attention of the critics and the questions were thick and fast: 'If you knew me at all you'd know there's absolutely no preparation involved in the act of getting me naked!... It was a scene that was written and as an actor you normally go through and read the dialogue - the only dialogue in that scene was, "Merry Christmas," - so I was like, "Oh, whatever," and then I'd just get onto the next scene where, you know, we had a lot of dialogue. I was more interested in those until I was sitting there naked in the middle of the desert with a Santa hat on my crotch! No real preparation involved. And no fear!'
And for Brokeback: 'All the training paid off and I feel confident in my body and having no clothes on. Think of that more figurative than literally.' Jake told a German site that having a stuntman jump off the cliff for him in Brokeback (unlike Heath) was nothing to do with not wanting to be seen naked - he wanted to avoid the risk of getting hurt so close to the casting for Jarhead, but 'You're welcome to write I'm a coward!'
But Jake is not one for gratuitous nudity in movies ('I'm not shy about taking my clothes off, but if I'm going to see pictures of myself naked on the Internet, I would love to feel like there was a reason for it, that it was of service to the story'), perhaps to the disappointment of director of Bernardo Bertolucci.
Bernardo had Jake very much in mind for Dreamers: 'in London, before I decided to do anything, I met Jake Gyllenhaal. I liked him very much. I saw him on stage and then it was clear that Jake would have been so tortured about showing his body. It became clear almost immediately after a few days. I know that he was one of those very meticulous actors who wants to know everything and wants explanation. Every time there was a scene that was sexy, I would see myself trying to explain [to him.] It was impossible. I don’t blame him because I would have reacted in the same way. I cannot be naked in front of a camera.'
Bertolucci does point out, however, that even French actors have baulked at Bernardo's naked demands. ('Did they ask Reubens why he was painting naked women?' It seems to me that they knew very well why Reubens was painting naked women.) You can read a lot more of Jake discussing this project in his famous ladies' loo interview with Susan Sarandon.
Jake joked about turning down the role, comparing the demands of Bertolucci with those of Emmerich on The Day After Tomorow: 'Yeah, it was like when I was auditioning for Bertolucci, he was like, 'you're going to have to get naked in this movie. If you don't want to get naked then you can't do it.' Roland was like, 'look, this is a movie about the environment, and if you don't want to help the environment and get out of your car and recycle, you can't be in this movie.' It was a very similar discussion (laughs). I know there's no irony in print, either.'
When Cosmopolitan asked Jake back in 2006 how he coped with nudity in films, he replied: 'Well I'm naked every day so I cope with it. It's not so hard for me.' And if this made him a secret naturist? 'Yeah [laughs]. I like to take off my clothes at the end of the day, I like to put them on at the beginning of the day and I prefer to keep them on throughout the day.' Finally, Jake once spoke of how he reacted to criticism: 'It is ego-boosting and ego-destroying: the smallest compliment can send you smiling and happy running naked in the woods.' Jake, you're a fine actor.
Includes pictures from IHJ.