Little by little, he has acquired the reputation as a sure bet in cinema. By choosing wisely, Jake Gyllenhaal continues to take on more increasingly ambitious roles. He has earned several Oscar nominations for roles such as a cowboy discovering his homosexuality in Brokeback Mountain, a detective in Prisoners and most recently as a freelance crime journalist in Nightcrawler. Previously present in Cannes In Competition along with David Fincher for the film Zodiac (2007), the actor has returned this year as a member of the Feature Films Jury presided over by the Coen brothers.
How do you consider your role as a member of the Jury this year ? Do you appreciate a film with your head or with your heart?
From the very start, the Coen Brothers said to us that the most important thing is to be positive. If you allow yourself too much power, you start to judge. I think I am here to be guided rather than just express an opinion; I want to learn from people who are wiser than I am. It's hard to judge art since people put months and sometimes years into developing their projects.
Jake Gyllenhaal © Getty Images / Ben A. Pruchnie
What kind of cinema enthusiast are you?
I would say that the story is most important to me; I feel like the craftsman of a great film, but I also enjoy being entertained. In a film, it's all about time and how you perceive it.
Are you more attracted to dramatic films or are these roles imposed on you?
I gravitate towards this dramatic style and love working with material that has the depth to allow you to explore or learn something about yourself. And I think you can learn as much from a comedy as from a drama.
In Enemy, your character is subtly expressive, whereas in Prisoners he is full of nervous tics. Is expression more important than words?
I don't see it like that. I like stories that feel new to me, and I am guided by my discoveries. Sometimes it’s all in the screenplay and all you need to do is draw your map and then follow it. Sometimes the screenplay is more abstract and you go to the outside world to look for clues. You then begin to feel what the director wants to say to you.
In the case of Prisoners, the character was not written in a very specific way, so Denis Villeneuve and I added more details based on the story's essence. I wanted to make the character more mysterious since the film was a mystery.
At only 34, your career already spans 24 years; what type of character would you still like to play?
I don’t have any specific desire in this regard. I'm not that instinctively focused. I've never said to myself, “I’ve always wanted to play this or that character." It's the story that counts. I think the universe presents us things, and it’s our choice whether to accept them or not. I much prefer working with directors and artists that I admire. I am a big fan of Spike Jones and the Coen brothers; some share a sense of anarchy, which I really love.
We will soon see you in your new movie Southpaw, in which you are physically transformed; was this truly necessary?
Again, it all depends on the story. In the case of Southpaw, I had to be a boxer, and many extraordinary movies have already been made about boxers. I wanted to look like a pro, so I trained twice a day for five months. I figured that if I trained twice a day, I would get the equivalent of 5 more months' training! I It was inspiring; pushing myself and getting a taste of what it feels like to train as a professional made this job a fantastic experience.
After Southpaw, I did a movie with Jean-Marc Vallée and the physical aspect wasn't as important. It was more about an inner journey. Each director is different, and you have to follow their vision. The last thing you want to do as an actor is to contradict the director's vision.
Your feelings about the Festival?
The ability to be with artists, to grow and exchange ideas with them is fascinating to me. Beneath all the glamour, Cannes really is the only place on earth where you can meet artists who have a different view of the world.
Interview by Charlotte Pavard