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Peter Sarsgaard Talks About His Role in "Jarhead"

Peter Sarsgaard on "Jarhead," Playing a Marine, and Working with Jake Gyllenhaal


Peter Sarsgaard Talks About His Role in

Peter Sarsgaard as 'Troy' in "Jarhead"

© Universal Pictures
Peter Sarsgaard on Training for “Jarhead:” “Honestly, I was more fit at the beginning of 'The Dying Gaul' than I was at the beginning of this movie. My regime... Jake's was, I think, 500 push-ups he said today to somebody. I was like, 'I don't know. I think that sounds a little fudged to me.' Maybe like five sets of 100 push-ups over the course of a day? Mine was more like five sets of 100 cigarettes a day.

I talked to this guy before we were starting. I got cast really at the last minute before doing this, and I was doing 'Flightplan' at the time. So I was rehearsing this, doing boot camp for this, and filming 'Flightplan' all at the same time out here. I met this guy, Fabian, he was one of our technical advisors, and I said, 'Look at all these guys. They're all like 22, 23-years-old. They're all totally ripped.' I could run as far as a lot of those guys, but in terms of the push-ups and stuff, I was like, 'I don’t know.' And he said, 'Well, look at me,' and he's like a totally normal looking guy. He said, 'In the end, the only thing that matters is this' [making a trigger gesture with his finger]. I was like, 'Right.'

I sort of started more thinking about that part of it, like that amongst the guys, that I might be the one who really was the most capable of killing. I started thinking like, 'They might be able to do push-ups, but can they kill? I can kill. I know I can kill.' And so I think that that makes the last part of the movie, the climactic moment of the movie, more powerful if I have described myself to myself as Troy, as the authentic killer. I am the one who can do it. I'm the one who can do it without it affecting my soul. I know I can do it. I'm a professional at it. It raises the stakes for the end.”

Peter Sarsgaard on the Group Insanity That Settled Over the Cast: Director Sam Mendes says there definitely was a kind of shared insanity that affected the cast during the filming of “Jarhead.” Asked to share a personal example of what Mendes was referring to, Sarsgaard said, “I keep telling them about other people, but Jake reminded me of one that I did. I wasn't drinking for the first half of the movie because I was trying to get fit quickly, because for 'Flightplan,' I kind of didn't care what physical shape I was in. It's not like I gained weight for the movie, but sometimes I'll lose weight for a movie. So I was trying to get fit quickly, so I wasn't drinking.

Well, I got fit enough, we're in Mexico and there was a lot of stress and I decided one night to start drinking again. I had a couple margaritas... Jake started drinking beer at that point and I had some margaritas, maybe only two or three. And there was a thing that was like a fountain in the middle of the courtyard. We're staying at this not-very-nice hotel that had like a fountain and it looked like it could be a pool, but it was not actually a swimming pool. And he says I finished my margarita and I put it down. He said he was in mid-conversation with me and he said I just walked over to the edge of the pool and with all my clothes on, just walked into the pool and went underwater for a little bit and then came up and walked into my room totally wet. And he said he was in the middle of talking to me about something. So that actually happened, I realized, and I sort of blocked it out.”

Peter Sarsgaard Says He Has a New Appreciation of What Marines Go Through: “I think what the movie gave me an appreciation for were all the things that I never thought about that they're going through. Obviously we don't have real bullets or anything like that and we are only in Mexico, we're not in Iraq, so you can fly out on a weekend, maybe, and see your girlfriend, although there wasn't much of that. But it gave me an appreciation for the little things. Just like carrying all that stuff, walking around, having to have everything that is yours on your person. You know, kind of the mental toughness that it takes and how that can take a lot out of you.

I think what's interesting about the movie is that these guys get all pumped up to kill and then they go and they just sit there, and you don't ever think like that's a casualty of war, too. You think a casualty of war is watching your friend get shot. It certainly is. Or shooting someone else. And it certainly is. But I think what's interesting about this movie is it's like, 'Alright, let's assume you didn't see any combat. It still will change your life forever and in some ways that you might not be to happy about.' It opened my eyes to that.”

Page 2: Peter Sarsgaard on His Friendship with Jake Gyllenhaal and the Real Life 'Troy'

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