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The Day After Tomorrow - I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to do it

Feature by: Jack Foley

JAKE Gyllenhaal may be better known for his eye-catching roles in independent films, such as Donnie Darko and The Good Girl, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t leap at the chance of appear in a blockbuster like The Day After Tomorrow.

Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster epic may have seemed like an unlikely choice for the rising star, but it actually represented a major opportunity to indulge a passion.

"I love big movies and I always have," he maintained, in a recent interview. "I love watching them, and I’ve never been a cineaste, preferring just small, independent films.

"In fact, there wasn’t really any hesitation on my part," he continued. "It was just whether I would have enough to do – whether it would just be a movie about the weather, or be a movie about human relationships, with a character you want to watch. I read it and I thought it was awesome."

Gyllenhaal stars as love-struck student, Sam Hall, the estranged son of Professor Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), a climatologist who has been warning his colleagues that the planet is heading for meltdown caused by global warming.

However, father and son are forced to reconcile their differences when Sam finds himself trapped in New York on the eve of a new Ice Age, prompting his father to mount a desperate rescue attempt, as a nation comes to terms with its own failure to prevent such a dramatic climate shift.

The film serves as both a timely environmental warning, at a time when the Ozone layer continues to be damaged, and fuel consumption grows, as well as an intense family drama, played out against spectacular scenes of natural disaster.

The film opened in cinemas on May 28 and immediately caused a storm at the world-wide Box Office, courtesy of its scenes of tornadoes wreaking havoc on Los Angeles, and a tidal wave devouring New York.

But as much fun as Gyllenhaal had while filming the bigger set-pieces, he maintains that it was the smaller elements which drew him to the project.

"The problems within the family, with people not paying attention to each other, are the same thing we do to the environment, and I thought that was an interesting idea," he maintains.

"I don’t think it’s completely in the film, but I approached it that way. I thought it was a beautiful metaphor. It’s like, if we could figure out the problems in our family, we could help the bigger picture."

But while the actor remains steadfast in his opinion that venturing into the mainstream was the right thing to do, he confesses to having been advised against it, by one of his illustrious former co-star, Dustin Hoffman, who appeared in The Moonlight Mile.

"He was saying ‘You don’t how many offers you’re going to get. Just wait it out and don’t be impatient’. But I said, ‘Dustin, I really want to make this movie’.

"I think he’s been through movies that haven’t been his cup-of-tea – he’d rather be the storm in the movie than the storm itself! And I totally respect that. But I grew up with those movies.

"I go every Summer to all of them. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to do it. It’s a lie to say it’s a career-movie, or it’s a lie to say the character was amazing – I just wanted to be in a movie like that."

As to whether he thinks the movie will do for his career what Titanic did for Leonardo Di Caprio’s, however, he becomes slightly less enthused.

"With a story like that [Titanic], their love story was the centre of the movie. But with this, the central relationship is father-and-son, and I don’t think there’s ever been a huge public response to a father-son love story, in the way there would be to a love story. So, no, I’m not worried about that."

Needless to say, the film’s producer, Mark Gordon, believes the casting of Gyllenhaal is integral to the film’s success, and believes his pairing with Quaid lends the film a strong emotional core, providing audiences with characters that are genuinely worth rooting for.

"He’s a wonderful actor," states Gordon, of his young performer. "We had seen his work in some of the smaller, independent pictures that he’d done, and actually I was over here [England] and saw him in a play called This Is Our Youth, which he was fantastic in.

"I called Roland after having seen it and said ‘I love this guy’, and Roland was excited about him, having seen his work as well, and he was our first choice. As a matter of fact, all of the actors were. This is one of the things that you’re always supposed to say when you’re talking to the press, but in this case it’s really true."

Having realised his ambition of appearing in an event movie, however, the next few projects would appear to find Gyllenhaal back in more familiar territory.

First up is John Madden’s Proof, alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow, before he appears in Ang Lee’s eagerly-anticipated Brokeback Mountain (currently filming) and Neil Jordan’s Me and my Monster (which is in pre-production).

And not one to rest on his laurels, he is also dating Spider-Man star, Kirtsen Dunst, and is lined up to appear in Stephen Hopkins’ sea-bound action thriller, Nautica, alongside Heath Ledger.

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