Thursday, August 23, 2012

Theater construction

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.


UltraViolet said...

Jake and Jon Lesher on EoW:

Producer John Lesher said while filming the movie which was shot last summer in some of the roughest parts of LA, they grew to love the area and called it home by the end of filming. They received lots of love from neighborhood where it was shot. While developing the script a year a and a half ago they met Gyllenhaal and since that he has been a brother on film.

Gyllenhaal who is also the executive producer on the movie is extremely proud of how it turned out. One of the biggests aspects of the movie is the friendship between him and co-star Michael Peña. Gyllenhaal stated, "The heart of the movie is relationships and the friendship forged between me and Michael Peña over the period of time we spent our lives together is very meaningful to me". The relationship betweeen Gyllenhaal and Peña is extremely moving and shows the bond police officers have with their partners.

Chica said...

Thanks fpr posting the links tothe interview UV. At $100 a ticket, it's a bit too expensive for my budget but my birthday is next month and I know what I'm going to ask for from my BF!

This is so exciting and Jake must be anxious, I hope the rehersals are going well.

Can't wait for Jake to start doing the talk shows for EOW.

UltraViolet said...

Great NY Times story and a couple of pics::

Updating the post now.

bobbyanna said...

I'm smiling at the
"Gyllenhaal who is also Executive Producer..." phrase. YES!

Chica, I hope you get your B'day wish!

UltraViolet said...

Edited to include the pics and some quotes. I could have just put the whole story. Fascinating stuff. I love the part at the end, about how Jake comforted Annie Funke, the actress playing the lead role.

Interesting tidbit about how Jake e-mailed with one of his Columbia professors for An Enemy. Interesting take on where Jake is in his career and how he's reassessed. At some point, I'd love to know how Jake feels about what are perceived as his missteps.

It's also interesting that his Exec Producer role was awarded retroactively.

I hope all of these moves lead Jake to a good place.

UltraViolet said...

Forgot to say that the way the play came together was also intriguing. As were the tidbits from the writer and director about Jake's involvement and casting (in the blog interviews, not the Times story.)

Some sightings:

New York is amazing so far, have seen Times Square, museums, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, and lastly Jake Gylenhal smiled right at me while he was chillin on his phone....kinda made my day since I haven't seen one celebrity yet!!!!
10 hours ago

Just met Jake Gyllenhall on the subway! Been an eventful day! :-) x
9 hours ago near New York, NY ·


WHAT!!!!! jealous! x

And from tumblr - this is a pretty cool story, if true:

This one time, 3 weeks ago, while travelling around the U.S. I was on the Jitney bus, coming back to New York from the Hamptons. My friends and I met a middle aged man. We talked to him the entire trip. He introduced us to his children and made great chat. We said we had tried to see a Broadway show, but couldn’t get tickets. He wanted to make sure we had a good time in NY, and bought us tickets to Wicked. He then insisted on recommending a restaurant for us to go to after the show to “make a night of it”. He made a reservation, and put his credit card down at the restaurant, where I had one of the most amazing meals of my life. The BEST PART? I sat down, and immediately realised I was sitting not 2 metres from Jake Gyllenhaal. Directly in his eyeline. And he in mine. Not too shabby for a night out in New York.

Monica said...

Wow what a wonderful interview. thanks!

Anonymous said...

wonderful interview, UV. John Lesher likes Jake so much to have made him an Exec producer. I do hope they do the gambling movie together.

I wish I could go see the play but I can't afford it. I hope this will not be the last play Jake does. He did break his promise once about doing a play for every movie he did. Maybe he can make a new promise to do another play.


UltraViolet said...

Reaction to EoW from critic David Ehrlich:

END OF WATCH: so that's definitely one way to start your day. Beyond that, mum's the word until TIFF.
11:01 AM - 23 Aug 12

When people mention a film that is under an embargo, if they like it, they usually hint that they do. So is the absence of a hint the hint? I guess we'll have to wait to see!

Another reaction:

Saw "End of Watch" **ing Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena directed by David Ayer. Keep your eyes on this film. Releases in Sept.

I will certainly keep my eye on #EndofWatch. Can't wait. As a Jake Gyllenhaal 's fan, I'm glad that people enjoy it!

Think it would be safe to say that Jake Gyllenhaal fans will like #endofwatch.

UltraViolet said...

Hopefully Jake will have a good experience and do lots more plays. I like the 3 to 1 ratio :)

UltraViolet said...

From twitter:

On the subway with Jake Gyllenhaal, the dude was trying so hard to not get noticed. Then ran of the train at his stop like a druggy.
6:31 PM - 23 Aug 12

Also, the EoW official site has been updated. Still not much there, but at least we know they remember it.

Anonymous said...

Ana Newman ‏@ananewman1

Surrrrrreeelllllyyyyy not...... jake gyllenhaal sitting next to us @maddiephillips9 (again) #comingbackforseconds #reconizeme???

Sag Actor said...

Jake sounds like he is at a good place in his career, great news that he seems to be doing some producing as well.

Interesting times head for him and his fans. The reviews for EOW has been realy positive , looking forward to the reviews for his play.

Office of Nancy Pelosi said...

We are getting spoiled again! I love reading how If There is I Haven't Found It Yet came together.

I love the mature and serious Jake we are seeing now and it's fascinating reading how he feels about his career now and the direction he wants it to go.

Anonymous said...

The poster

Scott said...

Good luck Jake on your preview opening. Really nervous for you. And this means good luck, "break a leg".

Scott said...

Good luck Jake on your preview opening. Really nervous for you. And this means good luck, "break a leg".

Hagen said...

Jake about Terry: "I fell in love with the character at the start. He brings a sadness to the play, and I'm drawn to that darkness. He's a real avoider, like everyone in the play. Perhaps that disconnection is what connected me to him. I love his techniques of avoiding, how he speaks in short sentences and unfinished thoughts. The way each character talks looks differently on the page. I love the architecture of the words."

UltraViolet said...

Thanks, GC. And ditto to Scott's sentiments.

Thanks for the quote, Hagen. It is fascinating to hear Jake talk about his character. The way he describes Terry's speech can often be applied to Jake's.

New post.