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TORONTO - Like everyone, actors make good choices and bad choices in their career. At this moment, Jake Gyllenhaal is working on a string of great choices. Since the back-to-back 2010 misfires "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" and "Love & Other Drugs," he has starred in the well-respected box office hit "Source Code," earned critical acclaim for the surprise success "End of Watch" and should have one of the biggest hits of his career when the ensemble thriller "Prisoners" opens later this month. Plus, he recently took a major creative chance with "Enemy," an experimental drama he shot with his director Denis Villeneuve before they collaborated on "Prisoners." Both "Enemy" and "Prisoners" debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where the Oscar nominee sat down to talk, mostly, about the latter.
"Prisoners" is a moody, slow-burning thriller (thank you Roger Deakins) featuring a stellar cast of Oscar favorites including Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo and Maria Bello. Gyllenhaal admits he was interested in the script and reuniting with Villeneuve, but the longtime Lakers and Dodgers fan made a sports analogy about joining the ensemble that just makes too much sense to ignore.
"Look, you're on a team, hopefully trying to play in the major leagues," Gyllenhaal says. "I know a lot of people are gonna hate me for saying this, but it's not bad to be on the Yankees. You walk in and you're like, 'The lineup's pretty good. I'm pretty sure I'll get on base and probably hit home.' [Laughs] I think that's nice and I think [when] you're in every single scene it's like you're alone on a raft. And I think you want to feel like you're all…a part of it."
Granted, we're assume he's referring to the Yankees teams of the past 15 years or so and not the team on the verge of playoff elimination this season. On the other hand, an all-star cast can only mean so much. When it really comes down to it, it was Gyllenhaal's earlier experience with the "Incendies" director that sealed the deal.
"I think what really drew me to it was how extraordinary it was when we were making 'Enemy' together," Gyllenhaal says. "He is just so amazing and loving and as a human being I sort of consider him a big brother. I love him and hate him at exactly the same time. He can say probably the same thing about me. But, creatively, I think we were just totally simpatico. I would try something or I would experiment with something or give him a suggestion or an idea and he was always fascinated by it. It would always inspire him into something else."
Gyllenhaal continues, "'Enemy' was much more of an experiment. It's an experience. I'm not even sure I'd call it a movie in a certain way; it's just a journey through the unconscious. It really is, and I think no one should go to it expecting to use their conscious mind."
The passion you hear in his voice regarding "Enemy" and "Prisoners" should completely explain why we haven't seen Gyllenhaal in another potential franchise flick since "Prince of Persia" (Hollywood would certainly give him multiple chances to headline one) or following the "one for them, one for me" mantra that's working so well for many of his peers. As he emphasizes toward the end of our interview, "Even if you make a product, that experience, that process, is what you remember."
For more from a highly energized and enthusiastic Gyllenhaal check out our complete interview embedded at the top of this post.
"Prisoners" opens nationwide on Sept. 20. "Enemy" is currently looking for a U.S. distributor.