Jake Gyllenhaal

Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal (/ˈɪlənhɔːl/;[1] born December 19, 1980) is an American actor and film producer. Born into the Gyllenhaal family, he is the son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner. He began acting as a child, making his acting debut in City Slickers (1991), followed by roles in his father's films A Dangerous Woman (1993) and Homegrown (1998). His breakthrough performances were as Homer Hickam in October Sky (1999) and as a psychologically troubled teenager in Donnie Darko (2001). His most widely seen film to that point came with the disaster film The Day After Tomorrow (2004).

Jake Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal at the premiere of Spider-Man: Far From Home in 2019
Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal

(1980-12-19) December 19, 1980
EducationHarvard-Westlake School
Alma materColumbia University
  • Actor
  • film producer
Years active1991–present
Parent(s)Stephen Gyllenhaal
Naomi Foner
RelativesMaggie Gyllenhaal (sister)
AwardsFull list

Gyllenhaal won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing Jack Twist in Ang Lee's romance Brokeback Mountain (2005). His career progressed with starring roles in the thriller Zodiac (2007), the romantic comedy Love & Other Drugs (2010), and the science fiction film Source Code (2011). He continued to gain acclaim for Denis Villeneuve's thrillers Prisoners (2013) and Enemy (2013), and he received nominations for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his roles as a manipulative journalist in Nightcrawler (2014) and a troubled writer in Nocturnal Animals (2016). His highest-grossing release came with the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), in which he portrayed Mysterio.

Gyllenhaal's stage roles include a Broadway production of Nick Payne's drama Constellations in 2014. In addition to acting, he is vocal about political and social issues.

Early life

Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal was born on December 19, 1980 in Los Angeles, California, the son of film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner (née Achs) and film director Stephen Gyllenhaal.[2][3] Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, his older sister, appeared with him in the film Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal's father, who was raised as a Swedenborgian, is of Swedish and English descent and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family.[4] Jake's last ancestor to be born in Sweden was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal.[5][6] Jake's mother is Jewish[7][8][9][10] and was born in New York City to a Jewish family from Russia and Poland.[11][12] Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself Jewish.[13][14] On his 13th birthday, Gyllenhaal performed a "barmitzvah-like act, without the typical trappings", volunteering at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to give him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle.[15][16] His parents insisted that he have summer jobs to support himself, and he thus worked as a lifeguard and as a busboy at a restaurant operated by a family friend.[17] Gyllenhaal said his parents encouraged artistic expression: "I do have parents who constantly supported me in certain ways. In other ways, they were lacking. Definitely, it's in expression and creativity where my family has always been best at."[18]

Acting career

Early career

As a child, Gyllenhaal was regularly exposed to filmmaking due to his family's deep ties to the industry. He made his acting debut as Billy Crystal's son in the 1991 comedy film City Slickers. His parents did not allow him to appear in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks because it would have required him to leave home for two months.[3] In subsequent years, his parents allowed him to audition for roles but regularly forbade him to take them if he were chosen.[17] He was allowed to appear in his father's films several times. Gyllenhaal appeared in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman (along with sister Maggie); in "Bop Gun", 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 the 1993 film Josh and S.A.M., a little-known children's adventure.[19]

Gyllenhaal graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1998, then attended Columbia University, where his sister was a senior and from which his mother had graduated, to study Eastern religions and philosophy. Gyllenhaal dropped out after two years to concentrate on acting but has expressed intentions to eventually finish his degree.[3] Gyllenhaal's first lead role was in October Sky, Joe Johnston's 1999 adaptation of the Homer Hickam autobiography Rocket Boys, in which he portrayed a young man from West Virginia striving to win a science scholarship to avoid becoming a coal miner. The film earned $32 million and was described in the Sacramento News and Review as Gyllenhaal's "breakout performance".[19][20]

2001–2004: From Donnie Darko to the London stage

Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal's second film, was not a box office success upon its initial 2001 release but eventually became a cult favorite.[21] Directed by Richard Kelly, the film is set in 1988 and stars Gyllenhaal as a troubled teenager who experiences visions of a 6-foot (1.8 m) tall rabbit named Frank who tells him that the world is coming to an end. Gyllenhaal's performance was well received by critics; Gary Mairs of Culture Vulture wrote that "Gyllenhaal manages the difficult trick of seeming both blandly normal and profoundly disturbed, often within the same scene."[22][23]

After the critical success of Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal's next role was as Pilot Kelston in 2002's Highway alongside Jared Leto. His performance was described by one critic as "silly, cliched and straight to video".[24] 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 and Amazing with Catherine Keener.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] The film was panned by critics, with one calling it an "empty-headed, chaotic, utterly tasteless atrocity".[28]

Following Bubble Boy, Gyllenhaal starred opposite Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon and Ellen Pompeo in Moonlight Mile, as a young man coping with the death of his fiancée and the grief of her parents. The story, which received mixed reviews,[29] is loosely based on writer/director Brad Silberling's personal experiences following the murder of his girlfriend, Rebecca Schaeffer.[30]

Gyllenhaal was almost cast as Spider-Man for 2004's Spider-Man 2, due to director Sam Raimi's concerns about original Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire's health.[31] Maguire recovered, however, and the sequel was shot without Gyllenhaal.[32] (The actors—who later played brothers in Brothers—resemble each other enough that Gyllenhaal has jokingly complained about cab drivers often calling him "Spider-Man.")[33] Instead, Gyllenhaal starred in the blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow in 2004, co-starring Dennis Quaid as his father.[3][34]

In his theatrical debut, Gyllenhaal starred on the London stage in Kenneth Lonergan's revival of This Is Our Youth at the Garrick Theatre in 2002.[35] Gyllenhaal said, "Every actor I look up to has done theatre work, so I knew I had to give it a try."[36] The play, which had been a critical sensation on Broadway, ran for eight weeks in London's West End. Gyllenhaal received favorable critical reviews and an Evening Standard Theatre Award in the category "Outstanding Newcomer".[37][38]

2005–11: Brokeback Mountain and other roles

In 2005, Gyllenhaal starred in the critically praised films Proof, Jarhead, and Brokeback Mountain. In Proof, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, Gyllenhaal played a graduate student in mathematics who tries to convince Paltrow's character to publish a revolutionary proof to a problem puzzling the mathematicians' community. In Jarhead, Gyllenhaal played a violent U.S. Marine during the first Gulf War. He also auditioned to be Batman for the blockbuster Batman Begins[39] and came close to getting the role,[40] but Christian Bale was ultimately chosen for it.

In Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal[41] and Heath Ledger play young men who meet as sheep herders and embark upon a sexual relationship that begins in the summer of 1963 and lasts for 20 years. The film was often referred to in the media with the shorthand phrase "the gay cowboy movie",[42] though there was differing opinion on the sexual orientation of the characters. The film won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. The film went on to win four Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy of Film and Television Arts (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 for Syriana. 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. Also for Brokeback Mountain, he and Ledger won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Kiss" in 2006. Shortly after the 2006 Academy Awards, Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy in recognition of his acting career.[43]

Gyllenhaal expressed mixed feelings about the experience of being directed by Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain but generally had more praise than criticism for Lee's directing style. While complaining of the way Lee tended to disconnect from his actors once filming began, Gyllenhaal praised his encouraging direction of the actors and sensitive approach to the material.[44][45] 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".[46]

When asked about his kissing scenes with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal said, "As an actor, I think we need to embrace the times we feel most uncomfortable."[47] When asked about the more intimate scenes with Ledger, Gyllenhaal likened them to "doing a sex scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to".[41] Following the release of Brokeback Mountain, rumors circulated regarding the actor's sexual orientation. When asked about such gossip during an interview, Gyllenhaal said:

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.[48]

Gyllenhaal narrated the 2005 short animated film The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,[49] based on Mordicai Gerstein's book of the same name about Philippe Petit's famous stunt.[50] In January 2007, as host of Saturday Night Live, he put on a sparkly evening dress and sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from the musical Dreamgirls for his opening monologue,[51] dedicating the song to his "unique fan base... the fans of Brokeback".[52]

In 2007, Gyllenhaal starred in David Fincher's mystery thriller Zodiac, which was based on a true story. He played Robert Graysmith, a San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist.[53] In preparation for his role, Gyllenhaal met Graysmith, and videotaped him to study his mannerisms and behavior.[54] Gyllenhaal starred opposite Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and Reese Witherspoon in the October 2007 release Rendition, a Gavin Hood-directed political thriller about the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition.[55] In 2009, he appeared with Tobey Maguire in Jim Sheridan's remake of Susanne Bier's 2004 Danish language film Brothers.[56] In 2008, it was announced that Gyllenhaal would star in the comedy Nailed, which he filmed in South Carolina with Jessica Biel,[57] as well as Doug Liman's as yet untitled film about the race for lunar colonization.[58] The following year, Gyllenhaal played the lead role in the movie adaptation of the video game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and released by Disney on May 28, 2010, and in the romantic comedy Love & Other Drugs, released on November 24, 2010, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination.


In 2012, Gyllenhaal starred alongside Michael Peña in David Ayer's film End of Watch about two Los Angeles street cops.[59] The film was released on September 21, 2012 and received positive reviews, with Roger Ebert saying that "End of Watch is one of the best police movies in recent years, a virtuoso fusion of performances and often startling action",[60] and Salon.com's Andrew O'Hehir stating that the film was "at least the best cop movie since James Gray's We Own the Night, and very likely since Antoine Fuqua's memorable Training Day (which, not coincidentally, was written by Ayer)".[61] To train for the role, Gyllenhaal took tactical training and participated in actual police drives with co-star Michael Peña to help establish the language of the characters.[62]

Gyllenhaal appeared in two films directed by Denis Villeneuve in 2013 – Gyllenhaal described meeting Villeneuve "as if I'd met an older brother".[63] The first of films to be released, the thriller Prisoners, starred Gyllenhaal as a detective named Loki in search of the abductor of two young girls, one of which is fathered by Hugh Jackman's character. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers praised Gyllenhaal's "exceptional" performance in the film.[64] In their second collaboration, Gyllenhaal starred in a dual role as a history teacher and his doppelgänger in the thriller Enemy.[65] In 2014, he produced and starred in the crime thriller Nightcrawler, receiving a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for the latter role.[66] In 2015, he starred in Antoine Fuqua's sports drama Southpaw,[67] Baltasar Kormákur's Everest, an account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster,[68] and Jean-Marc Vallée's romantic comedy-drama Demolition.[69] He was also on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[70][71] In 2016, he starred in Tom Ford's thriller film Nocturnal Animals.[72]

In 2017, Gyllenhaal starred in the science fiction thriller film Life, as astronaut David Jordan,[72] played a supporting role in the action-adventure film Okja,[72] and headlined the drama Stronger, about Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman.[72] In 2018, he starred in Paul Dano's drama Wildlife and the western The Sisters Brothers.[72] in 2019, he reunited with his Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy in Velvet Buzzsaw.[73]

Gyllenhaal played comic book supervillain Mysterio/Quentin Beck in the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[74] It ranks as his highest-grossing release.[75]

In the Summer of 2020, Gillenhaal is set to star as George Seurat in the play Sunday In The Park With George at the Savoy Theatre in London.[76]

New York stage

Gyllenhaal's Off-Broadway debut occurred in 2012 in Nick Payne's If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre.[77] Gyllenhaal debuted on Broadway in 2014 in Payne's Constellations at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre opposite Ruth Wilson, also in her Broadway debut.[78]

Gyllenhaal joined John Mauceri and David Denby in Adam Gopnik's podium discussion in February 2016 at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center about Leonard Bernstein's breakthrough conducting performance in Carnegie Hall on November 14, 1943; accompanied by Jeanine Tesori on piano, he sang "Maria" from West Side Story.[79]

He appeared in four benefit concert performances of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Sunday in the Park with George at the New York City Center on October 24–26, 2016. Annaleigh Ashford performed "Dot" and Zachary Levi was "Jules".[80][81] Starting in February 2017, Gyllenhaal and Ashford reprised their City Center performances on Broadway at the reopened Hudson Theatre.[82]

He had been scheduled to appear in Lanford Wilson's Burn This on Broadway at the re-opened Hudson Theatre under the direction of Michael Mayer in 2017.[83] It was announced in October 2016 that the production has been postponed until the 2017–18 season, because of scheduling conflicts with Gyllenhaal.[84] However, in December 2017, a new production of Burn This was scheduled for 2019 with Adam Driver in the role of Pale. Gyllenhaal's production was reported to be "scuttled".[85]

He appears in Sea Wall / A Life, a double-bill of monologues, on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre, which opened on August 8, 2019. He performs in the section by Nick Payne, A Life, which concerns a man about to become a father. Sea Wall, by Simon Stephens, is performed by Tom Sturridge. Both pieces are directed by Carrie Cracknell.[86]

Personal life

Family and relationships

The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal's immediate family includes his sister, actress Maggie, who is married to actor Peter Sarsgaard, Gyllenhaal's co-star in Jarhead and Rendition and his brother Luke from his father's second marriage. In December 2006, Gyllenhaal and his sister escaped a fire that destroyed Manka's Inverness Lodge, a famed lodge and restaurant in Inverness, California, at which they were vacationing. The Gyllenhaals were among a dozen or so guests who fled after the fire, sparked by a falling tree, broke out at about 3 a.m. Co-owner and celebrity chef Daniel DeLong said the pair were supportive despite having to brave the wind and cold. "Jake was helping me pull things out of the fire" DeLong said.[87]

Gyllenhaal's niece, Ramona Sarsgaard, was born on October 3, 2006. Gyllenhaal has both literal godparents and what he describes as "celebrity godparents". The late actor and director Paul Newman was his celebrity godfather,[88] and actress Jamie Lee Curtis is both his literal and celebrity godmother.[3][88] Other godparents of unknown status include a gay couple[89][90] and cinematographer Robert Elswit.[91][92] Gyllenhaal himself is the godfather of Matilda Rose Ledger (born October 28, 2005), daughter of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, both of whom co-starred with him in Brokeback Mountain.[93]

Gyllenhaal dated actress Kirsten Dunst for nearly two years, starting in 2002.[94] He later dated his Rendition co-star Reese Witherspoon from about 2007 to 2009.[95][96][97][98] He dated singer-songwriter Taylor Swift from October 2010 until March 2011,[99][100][101] and model Alyssa Miller from July to December 2013.[102][103]

Politics and other interests

Gyllenhaal once shot a commercial for Rock the Vote and, along with his sister, visited the University of Southern California to encourage students to vote during the 2004 U.S. election.[104] He also campaigned for Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry.[105] He has said, 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."[3] In an interview for Rendition, he remarked that "it's a sad time when actors are politicians and politicians are actors".[106] For the 2018 midterm elections, Jake Gyllenhaal endorsed Beto O'Rourke in a contested senate race that Ted Cruz won. His endorsement came in the form of a Facebook post that included a picture of him in a "BETO" shirt and lengthy caption that also endorsed Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Kyrsten Sinema, and Jacky Rosen in their respective Senate or gubernatorial elections.[107]

In 2003, Gyllenhaal participated in an advertising campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union.[108][109] He recycles regularly, and said in an interview that he spends $400 a year to have trees planted in a Mozambique forest, partly to promote the Future Forests program.[110][111] After filming The Day After Tomorrow, he flew to the Arctic to promote awareness of climate change.[112][113] Gyllenhaal is the Honorary Chair of the New Eyes for the Needy Advisory Board,[114] and has signed on to help the TV fundraiser Stand Up to Cancer.[115] Gyllenhaal is on the board of directors for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and volunteered in California juvenile detention centers with Scott Budnick.[116]

In his spare time, Gyllenhaal enjoys woodworking and cooking.[117] When asked about being a Buddhist, he has said, "I am not a card-carrying Buddhist, but I do try to practice mindfulness" and that it is his goal to meditate every day.[118][119]

On December 19, 2011, he was announced as a jury member for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival that was held in February 2012.[120]

Media image

Gyllenhaal was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2006.[121] He was also listed in People's "Hottest Bachelors of 2006".[122] Thousands of gay and bisexual men were polled for the 2007 and 2008 "AfterElton.com Hot 100 List". Gyllenhaal was ranked at No.1 in both consecutive years.[123] He was ranked at No.2 on the Gay Wired Magazine poll of male actors who have played gay characters in movies.[124] In April 2012, Shalom Life ranked him Number 6 on its list of "the 50 most talented, intelligent, funny, and gorgeous Jewish men in the world".[125]

Filmography and awards


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