Jake Gyllenhaal is drawn to a challenge. For “Southpaw,” he transformed himself into a ripped, powerful boxer. In “Everest,” he tackled mountain climbing. For “Life” — a sci-fi thriller/horror film about a crew of astronauts aboard the International Space Station who discover intelligent life, then discover it wants to kill all of them — the actor had to spend the entire movie in zero gravity. It was mostly wires and, besides, he doesn’t want you to think it was what you’d really call “hard work.”
It’s kind of weird seeing a movie where an international team is working together. The world seems to be moving towards isolationism right now.
The idea that everybody was from a different country, that everyone represented a different culture and they all had to co-exist, was one of the most important factors for me. We didn’t know what was going to happen to the world with the election when we shot it. So even though it’s a fun movie and it’s terrifying and thrilling, it’s also wonderful to see the world co-exist and fight this thing together.
We’re going to need more movies about that as the world falls apart.
You also have to spend most of the movie in zero gravity, which looks tricky.
I mean, people are always surprised when an actor can walk and actor at the same time, or chew gum and act at the same time. It is odd hanging on wires and trying to have a sort of emotional scene. Every project offers up its own interesting conundrums. Hanging and acting was definitely one of them.
Sometimes I think moviegoers and journalists are too shocked by technical difficulties like that. Maybe it’s not that hard.
I think the word “hard” is used a lot in terms of preparation for a movie. I don’t believe that word should be used with anything having to do with filmmaking. There are trying times and things that make it difficult. But compared to so many other things going on in the world that are hard and difficult, it’s not the right word to use.
Last month NASA locatedseven not previously discovered planets not terribly far away from our solar system. Did “Life” make you even more excited by that news?
I’ve always been interested in news like that. I think we all are. And that’s pretty extraordinary news. I don’t think it had anything to do with being involved with this or not. I did feel, probably falsely, that I knew a little bit more about it than I did before. But in truth, I most likely don’t. [Chuckles]
This has an alien that turns out to be belligerent. They often are in movies, although it’s always great when films depict nice, kind or at least benign aliens.
Perhaps if we responded more like Elliott did in “E.T.”, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten into this situation. [Laughs]
“Donnie Darko” is about to be reissued in theaters. When was the last time you watched that?
A while ago. [Chuckles] But people ask me about it often. It’s still in my life. I still deal with it — not deal with it, that’s the wrong word. [Laughs] But I still answer questions about it to this day.That’s really a testament to the film. It’s lasted.
I feel like I should ask you about another of your older movies, which is “Zodiac.” That’s one of the best films of the last decade. Do you get asked about that a lot?
Only when I’m at film festivals. [Laughs] So many of the smart journalists who are real movie buffs, they really love that film. And [director] David Fincher is extraordinary. It takes that whole psychological aspect of investigation and the need for resolution, and it does something wholly original with it. Love that film.