Thursday, August 23, 2012
The New York Times has a profile of Jake Gyllenhaal as he takes the stage for his American theater debut. It's a glimpse into Jake's thoughts as he tackles this role among many:
“I wasn’t really listening to myself about the kinds of projects I wanted to do,” he said in a recent interview, reflecting on the past decade. “I had to figure out what kind of an actor I wanted to be and feel confident going for that.”
He has now come to a few conclusions, and they were evident last month at a table reading for his first outing in New York theater, “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” a dark comedy about an overweight British teenager and her troubled family. The project itself was telling: The play, which will begin performances on Friday from Roundabout Theater Company, is an Off Broadway ensemble work by a little-known writer rather than a famous Broadway drama by a prizewinner like Arthur Miller — the vehicles of choice for Hollywood stars these days.
Hunched over a script beside his cast mates and director, Mr. Gyllenhaal rolled through questions on his mind about a scene in which his character — Uncle Terry, brokenhearted and charmingly roguish — reveals a few of his many problems.
“When was the last time I talked to Rachel?” Mr. Gyllenhaal asked, referring to Terry’s ex-girlfriend. “Did I see Rachel at the funeral, or after?” And then: “I must’ve done something that made her say, ‘I’m tired of this guy.’ What was it?”
These questions, and the many that followed, were the sort that classically trained actors ask as they probe layers of their characters to puzzle out intentions, tones and emotional shades for imbuing a performance. Mr. Gyllenhaal studied at Columbia University for two years before dropping out to become a movie star, and some directors on earlier films, like Ang Lee of “Brokeback Mountain,” have described him as a freestyle actor more than a methodical one.
Mr. Gyllenhaal, who was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for “Brokeback,” said he still revels in experimenting with his take on characters from scene to scene and performance to performance. But acting rigor is increasingly his goal, and perhaps the respect that comes with it.
Mr. Gyllenhaal was careful to say that he didn’t think he needed a career reboot, but the fact remains that his continued celebrity is more about his raw talent and good looks than a proven record of hit films. Hollywood hasn’t seemed entirely sure what to do with him, and Mr. Gyllenhaal sounds at peace with that, saying he wouldn’t want to be pigeonholed as an actor at a time in his life when he is still finding his way.
“What I loved most about working in London, in the theater, there was a real appreciation of potential,” he said. “No one comes out of the gate 100 percent perfect. No one. I have a great sense of comfort onstage because I know taking risks is appreciated.” ...
It was Terry’s capacity for cruelty that appealed to Mr. Gyllenhaal most of all. “The intentions of Terry are very different from anything I’ve played before, especially his vicious side,” he said. “It intrigued me so much, and that was the sign. I want to come home at the end of the day and be wiped out and feel I’ve torn my heart out from acting and feel fulfilled. At this point I don’t have the desire to do anything other than projects that make me feel that way.”
The Roundabout Theatre blog page posted interviews with four major players from If There Is I Haven't Found It: actor Jake Gyllenhaal, director Michael Longhurst, writer Nick Payne and set designer Beowulf Boritt. Some excerpts:
TS: How is the character of Terry relevant to you? Can you share some of your preliminary thoughts about Terry with us?
JG: I love the way he talks, how he moves through the world. He is desperate to pull the truth out of everyone around him, but he is unable to face his own. He is a constant contradiction and like this broken, beating heart with legs.
TS: What did you look for in casting the actors? What specific traits do you need?
ML: Nick’s writing is very funny in a very human way and requires a real knack to its delivery. The punctuation and rhythm of his work is very exact with characters trailing… or, orinteru- and then – then – suddenly changing thought. (Terrible impression of your writing – sorry, Nick!). But it sounds so real and all the thoughts are so in the moment. The script also requires the actors to really bare their souls emotionally. I’m blessed with a company that are really curious, invested, and open. They can breathe comedy into tragedy, and it’s a joy.
TS: What did you look for when casting this play?
NP: I love casting – and casting this production was huge fun. Jake was first. Of course I was familiar with his film work (I had particularly admired his work in Jarhead and Zodiac). And although I’m sorry to say that I missed his performance in This Is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan in London, the play’s director – Laurence Boswell – had mentioned to me in passing that Jake was one of the most natural stage actors he had ever worked with. Then came Michelle, who I was familiar with from her various television roles (she’s brilliant and sharp and extremely funny). Then Brian, and then Annie. Again, I’m sorry to say that I’ve never seen Brian on stage, but was familiar with his film and television work (precise, deeply engaging and, again, very funny). And Annie I’m excited to say I met through the audition process.
TS: Has the script changed since the premiere at The Bush Theatre in 2009? What was the catalyst for those changes?
NP: Yes, the script has changed. I’ve never had a play of mine staged for a second time, so I felt this was a great opportunity to try and improve upon and repair some of the elements that perhaps didn’t quite work first time around. Also, Mike and Jake (and indeed one or two others) had some great thoughts, so I’ve tried to incorporate those into the script. As I mentioned previously, this was one of the first plays I ever wrote and, having had a break of nearly three years from the play, it was great to revisit it and look at it a little more objectively – it was a little like looking at old school photographs and cringing at how my hair used to look!
There's also an interesting post from the Roundabout's Artistic Director on the meaning and making of the play.