Jake Gyllenhaal is dreamy. When you tell him this, his big blue eyes dart away in an embarrassed fashion and he just says something about being ‘a big proponent of dreams.’ Not that I just blurted it out or anything. It was a question suggested by our readers. The rest of our interview with the star of Source Code was all business, folks, as he told us about his hefty role in getting the sci-fi thriller made, how close he came to dancing with bears, how hard it is to ask a girl out for coffee, and a troubling update about his next film, David O. Russell’s Nailed. I’m amazed I got that much out of him, since I spent most of our exclusive interview lost in his eyes.
Oh, he’s just so dreamy.
Crave Online: How did you first jump on board Source Code?
Jake Gyllenhaal: What happened was Mark Gordon and Jordan Wynn, who developed the movie, sent me the script. There wasn’t a director [yet]. I read it and I thought it was an incredible read. I mean, the first fifteen minutes were [just] like the first fifteen minutes of the movie: you were completely engaged, like ‘What the hell is going on?’ I was totally disoriented. I put it down actually, thinking that, well, it’s never going to be as good as the way it started. It would probably unspool into some weird romantic comedy, and the character would end up dancing with some, like, bear or something, which actually would have been an interesting ending of the movie anyway.
Crave Online: It would have.
Jake Gyllenhaal: And so I couldn’t not pick it back up, and I did and I kept reading it and it got even better. And I just knew that it would depend on the director, so I kind of attached myself to it thinking whoever was going to direct it, it would depend on that. I happened to see Moon [director Duncan Jones’s first feature], randomly, and loved it. I just thought it was incredible. I just thought he was… His visual sense, the rhythm of the movie, but at the center of it also was this incredible performance by Sam Rockwell. It’s just rare that you get a director…
Crave Online: A lot of sci-fi movies tend to be about the concept. His was about the character.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Totally about the character. I mean everything, everything could have been some sort of figment of his imagination which is exactly what I think makes sci-fi so fascinating. The rules that he created, and just the way everything was done, you know? How it didn’t feel derivative, but it felt like it stole ideas in a really smart way. Everything. And that he had very little money, and he used those resources to make it look extraordinary. All that. So I just thought that I would love to work with this guy. And I had a general meeting with him and he was interested in me playing a smaller part in one of his movies that he was writing. So we kind of just met and I really just loved his personality, and him as a person. I was like, ‘This guy’s great! Duncan’s cool.’ And I said at the end of the meeting, I said ‘There’s this script you maybe could read. I don’t know if you’d be into it, whatever, and I know you only direct movies that you write. But maybe check it out.’ And he said ‘Send [it to] me, I’d love to read it!’ I did. Five days later he’s like, ‘I want to do the movie.’ Part of it also, I should say, was a discussion with the producers who said, ‘Who’s your first choice to do this movie.’ And I said, ‘Duncan Jones would be incredible to do it.’ And they said, ‘Okay, it’s a very clear decision here […] If you want someone like Duncan Jones, clearly we’re going to have a very interesting movie, but we don’t know how commercial it’s going to be, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.’ You know? ‘Doesn’t matter. I don’t care. The guy is brilliant.’
Crave Online: Good for you!
Jake Gyllenhaal: And if he’s brilliant, and he can make a brilliant movie, it will be commercial.
Crave Online: Well, it’s a very commercial script. Did it evolve much from that first draft?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Well, Duncan came on… The biggest thing for him was sort of simplifying it. Because where I also think sci-fi movies tend to get a little outlandish is when people, particularly directors, start to delve into sort of black alleys and these mine fields of ideas that obviously are fascinating to think about, but should be left for the audience to think about post-movie, not during the movie. And he just started clearing things out. There’s the [subplot] with the father, where you saw the father, and he’s like, ‘I don’t want to see the father. I just want to hear his voice.’ And the intention of the bomber, which was always this question mark…
Crave Online: It could have distracted from the point of the story. It’s very clean in the finished film.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Exactly. And the motivation, that big question mark was all of a sudden answered in this super brilliant way. So he started answering all these questions in the script, and also at the same time really cutting off all the questions that would have the movie lose clarity. And then the biggest question was the relationship between me and Michelle, which we, all three of us, worked on pretty intensely. We came to the conclusion that it couldn’t be this big… It was going to be romantic, but it couldn’t be this big thing that you wouldn’t buy. It would end up being a choice, and Duncan and I were really clear about this. What we came to was, it had to be a guy who didn’t ask a girl for a cup of coffee at the beginning of the movie, had to be blown up eight f***ing time to eventually ask a girl out for a cup of coffee. And I don’t know how most people feel, but I feel like when you’re into somebody and you want to ask them out, that’s how it feels. It feels like you’re blowing yourself up eight times just to ask a simple question like that.
Crave Online: It does. That’s the hardest part. I was really interested in your relationship with Michelle’s character, because your character can evolve throughout the story. She’s stuck in that eight minutes. She can’t change, so you can only get to know her slightly better.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Well, obviously [there’s the] conceit that I would learn more about her and her personality as we went along… so that I could eventually make that choice a lot more easily, and recognize that what she wanted me to do was ask her out for a cup of coffee. […] In her not changing, what I believe about it – and it’s something that’s open for interpretation – the way that I really connected with the material, was that… I think it’s what Colter says at the end, which is, ‘Quantum physics, parabolic calculus, whatever it is. These things exist. They have to, if you feel them. They have to.’ And so I believe he actually, somewhere, communicates with her between those universes. That somehow fate brought those people together. Even in the third Source Code, you notice when we enter the third Source Code, that her arm is up on the chair instead of in the first two, when her arm is down.
Crave Online: Huh!
Jake Gyllenhaal: And I feel like, slowly as you go on, more and more you see that there’s a change in her. There’s some change, even though they’re going back to the same [eight minutes]. So I don’t know, there’s these little things, but her job was incredibly difficult. And we knew that tracking that relationship was going to be the hardest thing. So we also, on another end, we improv-ed a lot, we experimented with a lot of ideas, we shot a lot of different types of takes. And then you had you the master, Paul Hirsch [editor of The Empire Strikes Back], editing upstairs while we were shooting, going like, ‘That idea’s interesting. Let’s explore that.’ So we were all kind of working together…
Crave Online: So you were working together, but you have no scenes actually in the same room with Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. Were they on the set at all, or on a video feed?
Jake Gyllenhaal: We rehearsed beforehand. We rehearsed for about a week with everyone in the cast before we started shooting the entire thing, and then we did six weeks in the train – we did that in chronological order – and then we moved on the pod. Vera came back, we rehearsed again, and then she recorded her dialogue for me to listen to while I was in the pod. But that didn’t really work for me very well. She came back, actually, for the first maybe day or two of [shooting in the pod] and she would read with me. She was in another room, I never saw her, and I had an audio feed so I could hear her responses. She could hear my responses and respond to me. She saw the camera angles but I couldn’t see anything. She had two monitors by her and a microphone, and vice-versa when I did her coverage on the opposite end. […] But when she left and we had another few weeks of shooting, I found that what worked best was when I sort of talked to myself, where I was playing like a kid, in my imagination, with how she would respond. All I saw was a green screen, and also Duncan always wanted me to get a little crazier and crazier and go more wild. And there are some wild takes that are not in the movie…
Crave Online: I had this image in my head of a deleted scene in which just you can’t take it anymore and just shoot everyone on the train.
Jake Gyllenhaal: (Laughs) – That’s what Duncan wanted the second [sequence] to be! He kept being like, ‘Just make it weirder and weirder and weirder and weirder and weirder and weirder,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay. Get me a gun.’ And he’s says, ‘Okay, it’s in a glove box up on the second floor.’ I don’t joke about the whole dancing with a bear in the clouds kind of thing, because if we could Duncan and I probably would have gone there.
Crave Online: Well, it’s a concept that could have gone anywhere, and it’s really very grounded here. Before I came down here I asked our readers if they had any questions for you. One question that I thought was interesting: Your father’s a very talented director [Stephen Gyllenhall, director of Paris Trout and Losing Isaiah], what someone asked was if you had any interest in pursuing that a some point.
Jake Gyllenhaal: Yes! Yes, I definitely want to direct at some point.
Crave Online: Is there anything you’d want to get into…?
Jake Gyllenhaal: Like a genre or story?
Crave Online: Anything that’s like, ‘If I ever go into directing, I kind of want to do this.”
Jake Gyllenhaal: Well, I would say one thing in this movie that I was very clear about, that Duncan and I share in common, is a real sense of comedy and drama, and vice-versa. If I’m going to do something, obviously I love action, but I love sort of a real human world, where there’s drama but it’s everything is a bit comedic. Somewhere in that world. I know it’s very general, but that sort of seems to be where I feel most confident.
Crave Online: What do you have coming up? I know you did a David O. Russell movie [Nailed, co-starring Jessica Biel]…
Jake Gyllenhaal: Sort of. I mean, I don’t really know what’s happening with that movie, and I don’t think either David or Jessica Biel or I know exactly what’s happening. It’s not really in any of our hands…
Crave Online: Has it been shot yet?
Jake Gyllenhaal: It’s been shot but there’s a scene missing from it. But David is not currently on that movie, so I follow my director, not anybody else. So right now I’m just waiting to hear from David to see how that’s going to go […] Your guess would be as good as mine. And then I have a movie that a movie that I’m prepping for now, it starts in July, that David Ayer wrote. He wrote Training Day. I play an LAPD officer. It’s a story about a partnership between two cops. It’s an amazing script. Amazing. So that’s next.