I will do pretty much anything for a film; Jake Gyllenhaal is being tipped for big things in 2006 including a possible Oscar. Eileen Condon meets the actor.
HIS name might not be the easiest to pronounce but you'd better get used to it as Jake Gyllenhaal looks set to be the one to watch in 2006.
Barely weeks into the New Year, he already has not one but two Oscar-tipped movies. And if anything will prove this young actor's versatility it's Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain, as the two films couldn't be more different.
Jarhead, from Oscar-winning British director, Sam Mendes, stars Jake as a rough and ready Marine sent out to fight in the first Gulf War, while Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee, is the gentle, gay love story of two Montana cowboys (Jake and Australian actor Heath Ledger).
Both films have caused controversy - Jarhead for its brutally nihilistic portrayal of American Marines and Brokeback for the intimate love scenes between the two male leads.
But far from being concerned, Jake is one actor who is delighted to be pushing back boundaries.
"When the story and the people involved are as good as they are, then I will do pretty much anything for a film," he says with his endearingly lopsided grin. "If you don't believe it you only have to look at the past few movies I've done and you will understand it."
Even so, the actor admits he did have some trepidation when it came to getting intimate with Ledger.
"I wondered if he could do those scenes," he says. "But we talked a lot, and when it came to doing them it felt like we were both, 'Are you ready? Yeah, let's go' and we went straight in at the deep end. We knew we had to consummate this somehow because it's not just a story about friendship. We knew we were going to have to commit," he adds.
The chemistry obviously worked because the film has already won a clutch of Golden Globe nominations and there's talk of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jake, who turned 25 just before Christmas.
It's a pretty impressive start to 2006 for the star, who until now has been known for his intense and brooding roles in films such as Donnie Darko and Moonlight Mile.
Though he proved he was more than capable of big blockbuster fare in 2004's explosive The Day After Tomorrow, it's Jarhead which will really show moviegoers he's got the brawn as well as the brain.
The film is based on the book of the same name by real life Marine, Anthony Swofford who wrote about his mind-numbing exploits serving in the deserts of Saudi Arabia during the 1990 Gulf War, aged just 20.
Jake, who stars as Swofford, says of all his recent roles this was the one he fought tooth and nail to get.
"I'd read the book and came away really moved by it. It was purely emotional and without any of the cliches of other war stories," he recalls.
"When I heard Sam was directing the movie, I thought, 'There's no way I'm going to get that part' but strangely enough, a couple of months later I heard he wanted to meet me, so we met and I did a reading for him and it was horrible and I didn't hear anything, so I rang him up and said, 'I am the person for this part and I would do anything to play it'.
"A month later he told me I got the part. He made me wait though," he adds.
Landing the role meant the star had to undergo a dramatic transformation, beefing up his naturally lean physique and shaving off his luxuriant mop of jet black hair.
"Yeah, I was at first a little terrified of myself without the hair," he says, rubbing his hands through the newly restored locks. "But then I really got into it. It really empowers you. And I remember putting on my flak jacket for the first time and feeling all the energy in my body turning inward.
"I'm so used to not having to protect myself like that and it gave me a great insight into what these guys go through for real."
Jake and his co-stars, who included Flightplan star Peter Sarsgaard and Oscar-wining actor Jamie Foxx, were also put through their paces in a four day boot camp at a real Air Force base.
"We were running drills and sleeping out in the field," Jake grimaces.
"They did the necessary beating up and then the rest of the movie was that too. I mean, the first day was me getting my head slapped 100,000 times and getting it slammed into a chalkboard, so that kind of gives you an idea of what was to come," he adds with a laugh.
Suffering for his art has certainly paid off for the handsome actor. He's now overtaken sister Maggie as the most famous member of the talented Gyllenhaal household -their father is director Stephen Gyllenhaal and mother is screenwriter Naomi Foner.
But while things go from strength to strength on the career front, Jake's love life is looking less than rosy as he recently broke up with Spiderman actress Kirsten Dunst. The pair also split temporarily earlier in 2005, but this time it looks as if it's over for good.
Though he's not discussing where it all went wrong with the blonde beauty, it's doubtful the handsome star will be on his own for long. He's now regarded as one of the biggest heart-throbs in Hollywood, as well as one of the most talented.
It's hardly surprising then that he's more than a little excited about what's to come in 2006.
"Sam Mendes and Ang Lee have changed my life regardless of the result of any of these films," he says with a big grin. "I'm so happy with the response that has happened with Brokeback and we're just beginning to see how people are responding to Jarhead. But to me the processes of both movies have changed my life and that's what I take away with me.
"Everything else is just fun. It feeds the ego."
And just to prove he's not letting any of it go to his head, ask him what war movies inspired him in real life and quick as a flash he retorts. "It's got to be Navy Seals and GI Jane -they taught me everything I need to know about war."
BROKEBACK Mountain opened nationwide on January 6. Jarhead opens on January 13.
In Sam Mendes's Jarhead, Jake plays Anthony Swofford a marine in the first Gulf War' Jake as Jack Twist in Ang Lee's highly-anticipated Brokeback Mountain' Jake with his actress sister Maggie at the premiere of Brokeback Mountain' Jake Gyllenhaal's two new films have caused controversy