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Zodiac - Jake Gyllenhaal interview

Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac

Compiled by Jack Foley

JAKE Gyllenhaal talks about playing San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith in Zodiac, his preparation for the role and working with a director like David Fincher.

What attracted you to the role of Robert Graysmith and to this movie?
I think at first I didn’t know anything about this story. I didn’t know about Zodiac. I didn’t know about Robert Graysmith. I did know about David Fincher. I’d met with David a few times about other things and he sent this to me and I read the first draft of it, which was very different from the later drafts that he got his hands on.

The first draft is very much a sort of cop thriller with your typical characters and I thought it was fascinating. The murders terrified me and just thinking of David doing the movie, I was totally in. A couple of months went by and he started working on the script and I read a draft that he had done and it was 200 pages long. It was this sort of opus and the murders were still terrifying and yet there was still all this character stuff in between and all of it was real. All of it was real stuff that actually happened and I just thought: “This is amazing.”

Was the research process something you really got into knowing this is based on true events?
When you’re working on it as an actor, it had less to do with me obsessing about the facts than why he found it so fun. I think Robert found it actually fun. I think that’s what’s hard for people to understand is that this man enjoyed searching for this person, whereas a cop would have done it because it was his job, or a journalist would have done it, as it was his job. He really had fun. It was like a kid at a candy store kind of, which I thought of an interesting duality or an interesting juxtaposition to your normal detective story.

What was it like working with a director like David Fincher, who is so well known for his visual style?
I think his visual style definitely takes precedence. As you can see in the movie it’s an extraordinary vision. I think this movie in particular was different for him in that he wanted to be more for the actors. And he gave us a space in which we could work. But he knows what he wants; he’s very clear about it and in a lot of ways that discipline’s sort of like working on Shakespeare. You have to stay within the iambic pentameter; you have to stay within the rules, but within those rules I think are amazing discoveries.

Do you feel that audiences are ready for a return to this more in-depth look at character and plot?
I don’t know. I hope they are. I think what’s interesting about this is, like I said, you have these sort of gruesome murders that go along and I think that – at least for me as an audience member – keeps me up. That keeps me interested and then the character stuff, the story stuff, fills it all in.

What was it like working with Mark Ruffalo?
Well, we only have a couple of scenes together. David’s put together a kind of unlikely trio. And with Mark and with Robert [Downey, Jr.], they’re highly experienced, much more experienced than I, andI was learning from them every day. I mean, particularly, Robert I worked with a lot more, so Robert’s sort of like working in the eighth dimension. He’s sort of like Tinkerbell. He’s like the court jester kind of dancing around you all the time but constantly inspiring. Just imagine Robert with buckets and buckets full of inspiration, handing them over to everybody he works with and as an actor it’s extraordinary.

You have so much dialogue and so much screen time in this film. Was that grueling for you as an actor?
We shot non-CGI movie in six and a half months, 110-day schedule, where you’re talking most of the time and it’s a story about finding a serial killer. It was grueling in terms of the mindset you had to be in. And particularly with David, there’s a sense in his movies that there’s an interesting numbness in them. I think that comes from him. There’s something in him and I think his process brings that out, too. The takes he does and the way he does it forces you into this sort of state and within that state is a David Fincher movie.

I think it’s interesting for the people involved because there are some people who revel in it and there’s some people who are disturbed by it. And we worked on it for six months. But the audience gets to experience it for two and half hours, which I think is a big jolt to you when you’re in that world. I don’t know if I would ever want to go back into the Zodiac world again but it’s quite a world to be in.

Read our review of Zodiac

Read our interview with David Fincher

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