Jake Gyllenhaal talks about losing himself into his character in the Tiff movie Nightcrawler, and what he did to lose weight. 

Telling the story of, Lou (Gyllenhaal), a petty thief who discovers the profitable world of the nightcrawlers, a group of photographers and videographers who scour the seedy streets of Los Angeles to get photos of gruesome crime scenes to sell to tabloids. It’s not long before Lou gets himself a second hand camera and joins the nightcrawlers, discovering that he has a disturbing natural gift for obtaining spectacular photos.

“People could call him a sociopath,”Gyllenhaal said of his character in an interview with The New York Times. “But I wouldn’t’t at all. I would call it the birth of an artist. It’s poetry to him.”Gyllenhaal lost himself in playing this character to the point where he found himself acting first as Lou and secondly as Jake.

As with any great actor, Gyllenhaal lost himself in the character, even losing a tremendous amount of weigh in order to bring to like his own vision of Lou as being gaunt.

“I would try to eat as few calories as possible,”he told Variety. “I knew if I was hungry that I was in the right spot. Physically, it showed itself, but chemically and mentally, I think it was even a more fascinating journey. It became a struggle for me.” Gyllenhaal would sometimes skip meals altogether and began jogging from his house to the set every morning in order to maintain the lankiness. “There was a general sense that he was a coyote,”he explained. “I just wanted to live that way.”

Truly dedicated to the role, Gyllenhaal would also go on missions to find specific articles of Lou that suited the 1990s underground atmosphere of the movie and also went on ride-alongs with ambulance-chasing paparazzi, the modern day version of Lou.

“We were in the middle of a scene with a mirror. I hit the mirror,” he explained to Variety. Hitting the mirror was not in the script, but Gyllenhaal went on to explain that it was “just a choice in that moment that happened.”He now has a permanent souvenir from Lou in the form of a long scar from a piece of the glass. “As an actor, you’re constantly true to your feelings and the feelings of a character. The most interesting moments are always the most unexpected. I’m not saying it’s a positive thing to get hurt and have to get stitches in your hand. But to me, the scar is about a certain type of commitment.”


Nightcrawler also stars Rene Russo and Bill Paxton, and is the directorial debut of veteran screenwriter Dan Gilroy. It premieres on September 5 at TIFF.




—Sarah Khan

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