Jake Gyllenhaal

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Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal at Martha's Vineyard, 2006.
Birth name Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal
Born December 19, 1980
Los Angeles, California
Height 6' (1.83 m)
Official site JakeGyllenhaal.com

Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal (born December 19, 1980) is an American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at age eleven, and his short career has seen performances in diverse roles. He has received an Academy Award nomination and won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award.

Gyllenhaal's most notable film appearances began with 2001's cult hit Donnie Darko, in which he played a troubled schizophrenic. In the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, he portrayed a student caught in a cataclysmic global cooling event. He played against type as an angry Marine in Jarhead (2005) and, that same year, he won critical acclaim as a " gay cowboy" in the controversial film Brokeback Mountain.

Gyllenhaal has taken an activist role in supporting political and social causes. He appeared in Rock the Vote advertising, campaigned for the Democratic party in the 2004 election, and has promoted environmental causes and the American Civil Liberties Union.


Early life and education

Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, to film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Achs. Gyllenhaal's father was raised in the Swedenborgian religion and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family; his last Swedish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal. His mother is from a New York City Jewish-American family; she is the ex-wife of Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake's sister, is also an actress. Gyllenhaal was raised in the Jewish faith, and his Bar Mitzvah took place at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to instill in him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle. Gyllenhaal's parents insisted that he had summer jobs to support himself, and he worked as a lifeguard and busboy at a restaurant operated by a friend of the family.

Early career

During his childhood, Gyllenhaal was regularly exposed to the film industry due to his family's deep ties to the trade. As an eleven-year-old, he was cast alongside Billy Crystal for his film debut in the 1991 film City Slickers. His parents, however did not subsequently allow him to appear in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks, because it would have required him to be away from home for two months. In ensuing years, although his parents allowed him to audition for parts, they regularly forbade him to take them if he was chosen.

An exception to this was if Gyllenhaal were to appear in one of his father's own films, and Stephen cast his son several times during his early career. Gyllenhaal appeared in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman (along with his sister Maggie), in a 1994 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, and in the 1998 comedy Homegrown. Along with their mother, Jake and Maggie appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network. Prior to his senior year in high school, the only other film not directed by his father in which Gyllenhaal was allowed to perform was Josh and S.A.M., a little-known children's adventure.

Gyllenhaal graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1998, and then attended Columbia University (which his sister and mother also attended) to study Eastern religions and philosophy. Gyllenhaal dropped out after two years to concentrate on his acting career. He has stated that he hopes to return to school one day to finish his degree. Gyllenhaal's first lead role was in October Sky, Joe Johnston's 1999 adaptation of the Homer Hickam autobiography "Rocket Boys." He portrayed a young man struggling to win a science scholarship to avoid becoming a miner. The film earned $32 million and was described in the Sacramento News and Review as Gyllenhaal's "breakout performance".

Critical success

Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal's second major film, was not a box office success upon its release in 2001, but became a cult favorite with fans. The film, directed by Richard Kelly, is set in 1988 and stars Gyllenhaal as a troubled teenager who, after narrowly escaping death, experiences visions of a 6-foot-tall rabbit named Frank that tells him that the world is coming to an end. Gyllenhaal's performance was received well by critics. Dan Kois, writing in Salon.com, claimed that "Gyllenhaal manages the difficult trick of seeming both blandly normal and profoundly disturbed, often within the same scene".

After the critical success of Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal`s next role was as the lead character in 2002's Highway, a film ignored by audiences and critics alike. Gyllenhaal's performance was described by one critic as "silly, cliched and straight to video." Gyllenhaal had more success starring opposite Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival; he also starred in Lovely & Amazing with Catherine Keener. In both films, he plays an unstable character who begins a reckless affair with an older woman. Gyllenhaal later described these as "teenager in transition" roles. Gyllenhaal later starred in the Touchstone Pictures romantic comedy Bubble Boy, which was loosely based on the story of David Vetter. The film portrays the title character's adventures as he pursues the love of his life before she marries the wrong man. The film was panned by critics, with one calling it an "empty-headed, chaotic, utterly tasteless atrocity".

Following Bubble Boy, Gyllenhaal appeared in Moonlight Mile, starring opposite Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon, as a young man coping with the death of his fiancée and the grief of her parents. The story is loosely based on writer/director Brad Silberling's personal experiences. It received mixed reviews from critics.

Gyllenhaal was almost cast as Spider-Man after Tobey Maguire injured his back while filming the sequel. Maguire recovered, however, and the sequel was shot without Gyllenhaal. Instead, Gyllenhaal starred in the blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow in 2004, co-starring Dennis Quaid as his father.

Marking his theatre debut, he appeared on the London stage with a starring role in Kenneth Lonergan's revival of This is Our Youth. Gyllenhaal said, "every actor I look up to has done theatre work, so I knew I had to give it a try." The play, which had been a critical sensation on Broadway, ran for eight weeks in London's West End. For his role, Gyllenhaal received favorable critical reviews and an Evening Standard Theatre Award in the category "Outstanding Newcomer".

Brokeback Mountain and the future

2005 was a very prolific year for Gyllenhaal, with the actor starring in Proof, Jarhead, and Brokeback Mountain -- all three becoming critically-praised fims. In Proof, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, Gyllenhaal plays a math major who tries to convince Paltrow's character to publish a solution to a problem puzzling the mathematical community. In Jarhead, Gyllenhaal played against his previous roles—where he was often a sensitive but slightly disturbed young man—by displaying an aggressive masculinity as a violent US Marine during the first Gulf War. The public reaction to this film was muted due to Gyllenhaal's simultaneous appearance in Brokeback Mountain. Sam Mendes, who directed Jarhead, said, "He entered at a young age, and he's a good-looking boy, and he's got showbiz family and all that kind of stuff, and he's come up sensing that that was always where he was going to go. But he felt, on some level, that he hadn't earned it. And he wanted to earn it. He wanted to work, and he wanted to explore himself. And I couldn't be more excited about the performance he gives".

Brokeback Mountain, which starred Gyllenhaal, after overcoming initial reluctance and Heath Ledger as two sheep herders who secretly fall in love in the 1960s, won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. The film went on to win four Golden Globe Awards, four BAFTA Awards, and three Academy Awards. Gyllenhaal was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his performance, but lost to George Clooney. Gyllenhaal also won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for the same role and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination and Best Film Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. Shortly after the 2006 Academy Awards, Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy in recognition of his acting career. Most recently, Gyllenhaal was awarded the 2006 Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence by The Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards for his role.

Gyllenhaal expressed some mixed feelings about the experience of being directed by Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain, but overall had more praise than criticism for Lee's directing style. While having complaints about the way Lee tended to disconnect with his actors once filming began, Gyllenhaal praised Lee's encouragement and direction of the actors, and the director's sensitive approach toward the material in the film. At the Directors Guild of America Awards on January 28, 2006, Gyllenhaal also praised Lee for "his humbleness and his respect for everyone around him."

When asked about his kissing scenes with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal stated, "As an actor, I think we need to embrace the times we feel most uncomfortable" and when asked about the more intimate scenes with Ledger Gyllenhaal stated he approached them "like doing a love scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to". Following the release of Brokeback Mountain, rumors circulated regarding the actor's sexual orientation. When asked about such gossip during an interview, Gyllenhaal said:

Jake Gyllenhaal
You know it's flattering when there's a rumor that says I'm bisexual. It means I can play more kinds of roles. I'm open to whatever people want to call me. I've never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don't think I would be afraid of it if it happened.
Jake Gyllenhaal

Also in 2005, Gyllenhaal narrated the short animated film The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, based on Mordicai Gerstein`s book of the same name about Philippe Petit's famous stunt. Gyllenhaal's current project is the upcoming movie Zodiac, directed by David Fincher and based on a true story. He plays Robert Graysmith, a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist and author of two books about the Zodiac serial killer.

There are indications that Gyllenhaal will star in The Space Between, a comedy about a young A&R music executive who is ordered to drop an aging rock star from the record's label. He is also rumored to be in the running to star in The Green Hornet, an action movie about the exploits of fictional newspaper publisher Britt Reid, whose secret identity is " The Green Hornet", a crime fighter dedicated to protecting his city's citizens. Both projects are still in development. It was confirmed that Gyllenhaal was to play Lance Armstrong in a biopic of his life, but Gyllenhaal's agents have denied any involvement in the project. On September 26, 2006 he was announced to play in the movie Rendition, a thriller that takes place in the Middle East. Gyllenhaal will star alongside Reese Witherspoon and the film is being directed by Gavin Hood.

Personal life


Members of the Gyllenhaal family have worked together on many Hollywood projects. His sister Maggie played his on-screen sister in Donnie Darko, and appeared with him in A Dangerous Woman, a film which their father, Stephen Gyllenhaal directed. Maggie is engaged to actor Peter Sarsgaard, Gyllenhaal's co-star in Jarhead. On October 3, 2006 Maggie gave birth to a girl, Ramona Sarsgaard. Both Gyllenhaal and his sister admit to sibling rivalry in their younger years, but often share problems and advice now. Jamie Lee Curtis is Gyllenhaal's godmother. He has repeatedly referred to his godfathers being a gay couple. He is the godfather of Matilda Rose Ledger (born October 28, 2005), the daughter of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, both of whom costarred with him in Brokeback Mountain.


Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis and Gyllenhaal dated in 2001,, but his most notable relationship has been with actress Kirsten Dunst. The couple met through Gyllenhaal's sister, began dating in September 2002, and were reported to have officially broken up in July 2004; however, the relationship remained off and on up until December 2005. Gyllenhaal faced Internet blog gossip regarding his relationship with friend Austin Nichols, who also appeared in The Day After Tomorrow. He has been linked to several famous women, including actress Natalie Portman and Gretchen Bleiler, an Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding.

Internationally viewed as a sex symbol, Gyllenhaal was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2006. He was also listed in People's "Hottest Bachelors of 2006".

With Dunst, Gyllenhaal shares a German Shepherd named Atticus, which they rescued from a Los Angeles dog shelter. Gyllenhaal also owns a Puggle named Boo Radley. Both dogs are named after characters from the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird, one of Gyllenhaal's favorite novels.

Politics and other interests

Gyllenhaal is politically active; he shot a commercial for Rock the Vote, and during the 2004 U.S. Election, he visited the University of Southern California with his sister to encourage students to vote. He also campaigned for Democratic candidate John Kerry. He has stated, however, that "it frustrates me when actors talk politics; I’m political and I make choices in my movies that I think are political. I try and say things with what I do. Rightly or wrongly, young actors have all the power."

Raised in a family concerned with social issues, Gyllenhaal has campaigned on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a cause which his entire family strongly supports. Environmentally conscious, he recycles regularly, and said in an interview that he spends $400 a year on having trees planted in a Mozambique forest, partly to promote the Future Forests program. After filming The Day After Tomorrow, he flew to the Arctic to promote awareness of climate change.

In his spare time, Gyllenhaal enjoys woodworking and cooking. He has stated "[I am] not a card-carrying Buddhist, but I do try to practice mindfulness"; he makes it his goal to meditate every day.


Year Title Role
1991 City Slickers Danny Robbins
1999 October Sky Homer Hickam Jr.
2001 Donnie Darko Donnie Darko
Bubble Boy Jimmy Livingston
2002 Highway Pilot Kelson
Moonlight Mile Joe Nast
The Good Girl Thomas 'Holden' Worther
2004 The Day After Tomorrow Sam Hall
2005 Brokeback Mountain Jack Twist
Jarhead Anthony Swofford ("Swoff")
Proof Harold 'Hal' Dobbs
2007 Zodiac Robert Graysmith


Year Group Award Result Film
2001 Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead Nominated Donnie Darko
Chlotrudis Awards Best Actor Won
2002 DVD Exclusive Awards DVD Premiere Award, Best Actor Nominated Highway
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Breakout Star - Male Nominated The Good Girl
Young Hollywood Awards Breakthrough Performance - Male Won
2006 MTV Movie Awards Best Performance Won Brokeback Mountain
Best Kiss Won
Screen Actors Guild Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
National Board of Review Best Supporting Actor Won
Critics' Choice Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated
BAFTA Best Supporting Actor Won
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Satellite Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor Nominated
Americans for the Arts' National Arts Awards 2006 Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence Won
Satellite Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor Nominated Jarhead
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