Jake Gyllenhaal: I’ve punished my body for roles but method acting is all in the mind

alistair foster
Acting skills: Jake Gyllenhaal says bulking up for a role has nothing to do with acting: David Slijper/courtesy of Esquire

Jake Gyllenhaal says he tells actors who ask him how they should go “method” that it is all in the mind — despite drastically altering his own appearance for film parts.

The actor, 36, lost 30lb to play an obsessive journalist in 2014’s Nightcrawler before putting the weight back on — and an extra 15lb of muscle — for boxing movie Southpaw the next year.

But he said that when he is asked by fellow stars if they should change for a role, he responds in much the way Laurence Olivier did to method actor Dustin Hoffman — try acting.

“Some actors have asked me, ‘Hey, I know when you get into something you do a lot of preparation — I’m doing this role, do you think I should go and jump off a building?’,” Gyllenhaal said. “I’m like, ‘No! Use your imagination!’”

The star, who was born in California, told Esquire: “I’ve grown up thinking somewhere that if you’re really doing something great it has to be punishing in some sort of way.

“After a few years of really pushing in different areas, pushing my body physically, pushing my mind, going a little too far in spaces, I’ve realised that joy is a huge part of it.”

Method: Jake Gyllenhaal says method is all in the mind (David Slijper/courtesy of Esquire)

But the actual weight gain and loss, he said, was what people were really interested in.

“People always say, ‘I’ve heard you’re very committed to your roles, you’ve lost weight’, which seems to be some, like, magical, extraordinary thing ... people just love talking about the physical part of it. ‘What did you do to get in shape for this thing? What did you eat?’”

Read the full interview in this month's Esquire (David Slijper/courtesy of Esquire)

In new sci-fi thriller Life, he plays an astronaut — and spent days on set attached to wires. He said: “It was very fun to do physically.

"In terms of the emotional world, in terms of conjuring feelings up while floating on wires, it proved to be a little more difficult than I thought it was.”

Gyllenhaal spoke about a conversation he had with Barack Obama in the White House in which the then-president asked him to “bring some levity or joy” to difficult times in the US. However, he refused to add his name to public rancour against Donald Trump.

He said: “I’m a wealthy white male and right now what’s important is not what I think.

"But I will say I don’t like it when people say, ‘You shouldn’t hear what an actor has to say about something, let the politicians talk,’ because the irony is we have elected a celebrity as a president, so that doesn’t work any more.”

Read the full inteview at www.esquire.co.uk.

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