Gyllenhaal and the Jarhead cast seemed to have been deeply moved by their time spent training to portray Marines in Jarhead, the gritty drama based on Anthony Swoffords book about his experiences in Desert Storm. Catching up with the much-in-demand Gyllenhaal at the films world premiere, he shared with me what it was like to get ready to play Tony Swofford and what life was like on the set of Jarhead:
Jake Gyllenhaal on the Physical Aspects of Starring in Jarhead: I trained first before we started shooting. I did a lot of physical training. I was swimming and biking and running and lifting weights, stuff like that. And then we went to boot camp and we went through a rudimentary, I guess, boot camp. The process of it was about a week. They did the necessary beating up and then the rest of the movie was that, too. I mean, the first day was me getting my head slapped 100,000 times and getting it slammed into a chalkboard. That kind of gives you an idea.
Jarhead co-star Peter Sarsgaard claimed they had to go on a 50 mile hike, to which Gyllenhaal responded, 50 mile hike? Is that what Peter said? The smoker We did go on a long hump at the very end of our week of boot camp. We basically went through what they go through in six weeks but in a week - very, very quickly and just getting a taste of it. And at the end, we were running drills. We were in teams and we were taking hills and things like that. And we were sleeping out in the field but had to hump out to the field. So we got all of our gear together and went for a pretty long hike. I dont know about 50 miles, but Ill go with 50. Ill go with that. That sounds intense."
Jake Gyllenhaal on the Experience of Shaving His Head for Jarhead: I was at first, I think, I was a little terrified of myself without hair. And then I just felt bad ass. It just really empowers you. It was the beginning of a real sense of empowerment that Sam [Mendes] just fed and let grow, you know? He really gave us room and gave us all confidence in ourselves. That shaving of our hair was, in a way, a kind of similar process or parallel process to boot camp or the process of becoming a Marine.
Jake Gyllenhaal Explains His Decision Not to Meet with the Real Tony Swofford Before Shooting Jarhead: I think I felt like Sam said to me two weeks into rehearsal, he said, Now its time to put down your books and now its going to become your own experience. I dont want you coming up and referencing, you know, the book and what happened here and there. Its going to be our own process and our own experience.
I think Bill Broyles wrote the script, and also Tony who wrote [the book], recognizes a sort of artifice in the character. Recognizes that I had to also personally say, This is going to be half me and half him. Im going to go through his experiences and see how I respond and try and be as honest and as present as I can. If I kept asking Tony, if I called Tony up in the middle of the night and said, How did you feel here? What happened here and what was really going on?, I think that one) it would have taken the helm away from Sam as a director. And I think for me it would have taken my personal response of the experience away.
Jake Gyllenhaal on Working with Director Sam Mendes: This movie in particular was all about us experiencing things realistically. Really feeling them and really experiencing them. He just encouraged us to come in everyday and have new ideas and give him new ideas. To me, I think thats like ultimately the only thing a director can ask of an actor. Forcing them to go one place or another is not ideal. Its saying, Heres a space, feel free within it. Do whatever you want.
Jake Gyllenhaal on What He Brought to the Character That Wasnt Necessarily in the Script: I dont know if I can explain that really, you know? I just said to myself everyday, Im going to show up no matter how Im feeling and Im going to feel however it feels to be wherever I am and really try and be honest to that. Im not going to try and follow a structure. And I dont think this movie follows a structure and I think that mindset is very much the mindset of the movie.
I dont think a Marine knows everyday what theyre going to encounter, just like a human being doesnt know everyday what theyre going to encounter. And I didnt while we were shooting the movie. Its a small thing in comparison to what a real Marine goes through, but I was just trying to respond as truthfully and honestly and hope that the main ideas and the ideas of a Marine would all follow suit with that.
Jake Gyllenhaal Interview Video from the World Premiere of "Jarhead" - Play the Video