In The Good Girl, Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Tom, a misunderstood teen loner who prefers the name Holden because he’s obsessed with the novel Catcher in the Rye. The angst-ridden part fits perfectly with the 22-year-old’s credits that are mostly comprised of — you guessed it — misunderstood teen loners (i.e.: Bubble Boy, Donnie Darko, Lovely & Amazing).
In real life, he’s anything but. Calling from his parents’ house on Martha’s Vineyard, Gyllenhaal candidly quips about everything from his favorite shoes to his experience working with uberstar Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl. In October, he shares billing with Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon in the romantic tearjerker Moonlight Mile.
QUESTION: How did you go about breaking the ice with Jennifer?
ANSWER: I did it quickly because the scenes we have are pretty racy. Before the audition I went to her and said, “What should I do? I feel sort of uncomfortable.” She said, “You do anything you want.” For the audition, there was this scene in a storage room and I’m telling her, “You don’t understand me!” and I throw some boxes. Well I actually threw a chair and broke the wall of (screenwriter) Mike White’s house (laughs). I didn’t know I had done that. As soon as I walked out, they all looked at this huge hole and said, “We have to cast him now to pay for the wall.” Right after that, we all relaxed.
Q: You come from a seasoned Hollywood family (dad’s a director; mom, a screenwriter), but what’s one lesson you had to learn on your own?
A: How full of crap pretty much everybody can be. I learn it the hard way every day. There are a lot of lost people in every business just striving to use you. Finding out that people who you think are your friends are really not your friends. I’m still learning how to trust people. But it isn’t different from any other business.
Q: You were recently featured on Entertainment Weekly’s “It” list. Does this make grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks impossible?
A: I’m really trying to lay low with it all. So far no one has gone crazy. I guess I have to do a few more movies for that to happen. Basically, I get a lot of really nice people who talk to me. Hopefully, all I’ll ever have to worry about is getting my drip coffee in the morning without falling over from my car to the cash register.
Q: What is the one role that got away?
A: I’d have to say Ewan McGregor’s part in Moulin Rouge. It was soooo close. I sang and everything. I went through months of auditions. It was between me, Heath Ledger and Ewan. I think it came down to age and where people were in their careers. I was the youngest and the least known. I would hope it didn’t have anything to do with talent. Maybe it did.
Q: What is your favorite celebrity perk?
A: Free shoes. Yeah, that’s a good perk. I get free shoes from Puma. I would really, really miss that because I like to run. I’d have to run barefoot. Or I’d have to buy my own shoes — boy that would be rough. I’d have to do my own shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m kidding. I do buy my own shoes.
Q: Your sister (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is climbing the acting ladder, too. Are there ups and downs to having a sibling in the business?
A: My sister is my best friend. She is the one person I can trust in the whole world who will tell me the truth. The downside is the business is extremely competitive. We’re constantly in each other’s faces and are not always able to give each other support because we are fierce about things, you know? But all in all, we are always able to say, “Hold on. Screw all this other stuff. I love you. What’s going on?”
Q: What is a non-movie star thing you like to do?
A: I love to paint houses. Just this summer I painted my parents’ house and the guesthouse. I like to add new colors and coats all the time. I guess that’s apropos for The Good Girl, huh?