He’s been a Persian prince, a Marine (twice), a gay cowboy, a boy in a bubble and a time-traveling teenager, but Jake Gyllenhaal never took the lead in a conventional romantic comedy — not until last week’s release of “Love and Other Drugs.”

Gyllenhaal plays a fun- and money-loving pharmaceutical rep who falls for Maggie (Anne Hathaway), an artist looking for a no-strings-attached boy toy to temporarily take her mind off her early onset Parkinson’s disease — an illness that hasn’t seen a lot of big-screen time. Gyllenhaal was in New York recently to promote his new film and explain what drew him to the unusual premise.

“The first love scene I read, I just thought, this is the only reason why I want to do this film,” Gyllenhaal jokes, referring to the considerable amount of time he and Hathaway spend in the buff.

But kidding aside, Gyllenhaal says the script, penned by director Ed Zwick, was a big part of what drew him to the role. “I think that’s a rare thing, when an actor can read [a script] and just be like, ‘That’s it, yes!’” says Gyllenhaal. “And that’s what happened.”

As might be expected, the opportunity to share screen time again with Hathaway, his female romantic interest in “Brokeback Mountain,” was another big incentive for him.

“Sometimes there’s just chemistry between people,” says Gyllenhaal. “I remember vibing with [Anne] the minute that we started working with Ed, not only as actors but as intellectuals, too.”

While barely hinted at in trailers, Parkinson’s disease is practically its own character in the film, a factor that also resonated with Gyllenhaal.

“It’s nice that this story makes it clear — particularly to a younger generation, I hope — that the stakes are always high in love.”

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