Giddup Jake

ACTOR JAKE Gyllenhaal was practically weaned into showbiz. His Swedish father is a director and his mother a screenwriter; big sister Maggie is also an actress; his godmother is Jamie Lee Curtis and Paul Newman would pop over to the family home for dinner.

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Published: Tue 23 Oct 2007, 11:14 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:48 PM

At just 26 Jake has an impressive resume - he has starred in Donnie Darko, The Good Girl, The Day After Tomorrow and Jarhead, and received an Oscar nod and a Bafta win for playing a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. Since splitting up with actress Kirsten Dunst, he's been seen about town with Reese Witherspoon - the co-star of his latest movie, Rendition.

What is your greatest regret?

I'm too young for regrets. But there was a situation a few years ago which could have become a regret. I was offered a great role by the legendary filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci which required me to do nudity. In the end, I turned it down. I came to the conclusion that I didn't really feel comfortable doing the things that were asked of the character at that point in my life.

It was the hardest decision I've ever made as an actor to say I didn't want to work with one of the best filmmakers on earth.

I thought that I'd regret it later, but it was the best decision I made because I was honest with myself.

What were your dreams as a child?

I remember being in college, knowing I didn't want to go any more. I wanted to try to become an actor. There is something in me, with a risk of sounding cliched, that I just had to do it. I knew from an early age that acting was my path.

I don't think there is anything else I could have done had this not turned out for me.

I like to cook. So maybe opening a restaurant somewhere?

Who taught you how to cook?

My family. My mum and dad are pretty amazing chefs and they spent most of my childhood cooking really extravagant things for my sister and me.

What's the best advice you've received?

It was probably from Eminem. He didn't give it to me personally, but it's on one of his records and he says: 'When you're in it and you've got it, you've got to get as much s**t as you can, cos you never know when you're never going to get it again.'

Who would you like to be stuck with in an elevator?

I know this isn't quite the same, but I was stuck in a women's bathroom once with Susan Sarandon. She was interviewing me for a magazine and we couldn't find a battery for our recording device, so we ended up in a women's bathroom.

I discovered two things that day: that the floor in a women's bathroom is colder than the floor in the men's. And, believe me, I've spent a lot of time on the floor of a men's bathroom, so I should know!

And women pee louder than men do, even though we might not expect it. Maybe it's just American women. I don't know.

Are your parents very supportive of your career?

They are so proud of my sister and I. They are so supportive and happy. I look at my mum's scripts and I look at my dad's films in rough edits. He looks at my performances. He helps me with my performances. My mum gives me notes on scripts that I'm working on. My sister gives me notes on a rough cut of a movie, or if she's on set and I have a question, I can call her. Us being supportive of each other goes without question - but that does not stop us being competitive.

What turns you on?

I would really love to direct one day. I think there are certain actors who love the character and the performance and that's all they want to be a part of.

I love being involved in the story and I love being involved in how the story moves. It's like, so hot. It's almost sexual. When it works right, it's such a turn-on.

Is there anything you are trying to quit but can't?

Thinking so much! I over-analyse things and decisions, although I end up going with my gut feeling. I was once told by a director to take a year off from thinking. That made me really laugh - and really think.

Is it weird for you and Maggie to watch each other's love scenes?

No, she's just like: 'Go Jake!' I think it's been awkward for both of us, in terms of showing our sexuality. So we just root each other on. It's awkward when you're watching it and you just have to turn your eyes away. I think she probably does the same.

I'm too scared to look over to see my parents' reaction, but we recognise the artistic process. I don't think we can pretend to one another that we are not going to have sex like everybody else.

Are you an open book when it comes to emotions?

Yeah, we are all pretty big talkers in my family, even though we're not the best communicators. So I'm quite articulate at skirting the subject as best I can, at least emotionally anyway. I think, as an actor, you have to be open to your emotions - that's how you tap into other characters. Besides, by being so open I've come to terms with how screwed up I am!

The defining moment you realised you were famous?

It has to be the screaming girls. It's nice, because most of the people who come up to talk to me are pretty interesting. I pride myself on making interesting films, as opposed to the type that just draws a huge audience of teenagers, so I think they are pretty smart fans. They always have questions for me, something that hasn't been answered by the movie. They'll scream: 'What's the ending of Donnie Darko? I don't understand!' That is so nice.

What has been your weirdest experience with a fan?

I was getting my car washed and when I went in to pay, the attendant asked if I wanted gas. I said: 'No, I don't want any gas.' I was wearing a hat and I looked up and he screamed: 'You're that guy!' He totally freaked out. He took the gas and he put it in my car and I'm like 'I don't want...' and he was shouting: 'I love your movies!' I said: 'OK, fill it up.'

What do you find attractive in a woman?

An innate quality of being comfortable. That is the biggest thing. Beauty is not always bad. For me, I think it's the comfortable factor. How does she feel about herself? Is she happy? That is so powerful and sexy to me.

What is your idea of heaven?

I have such a great family and I really love to cook for them. I've cooked since I was little. I feel very relaxed in the kitchen. If you can cook with any ingredients you have in your cupboards, then that's a sign of a true chef. I like to cook with any leftovers in the fridge.

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