SAG Preview: Actors on Actors - Mulligan on Gyllenhaal

Carey Mulligan on Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘End of Watch

I remember so vividly Jake’s demeanor when he was preparing for “End of Watch.” I have known him and regarded him as a dear friend for several years, and during that time I was very struck by some fundamental change in him. He was energized, he was completely present and he told me with such excitement about the work that he was doing to get ready for his next movie.

A large part of the work involved was observing protocol on the midnight shift with the LAPD. Both he and Michael Pena witnessed pretty tragic, unpleasant scenes that affected them both. His descriptions of the ride-alongs were charged not with voyeurism but with a profound respect for the policemen and women whom they were observing. His reinvigorated sense of perspective and humility was palpable. I sensed just how deep he had already gone, and that the experience was filling him in some new way. Not that Jake had ever taken work lightly ­­– quite the opposite — but what was so distinct on this occasion was that this work was releasing him. He seemed more free, more alive and more comfortable in his skin than I had ever known him.

Watching Jake in “End of Watch,” I saw all of that joyous freedom on the screen. His complete ease in scenes with the brilliant Michael Pena makes those moments wrap around you in all their infectious warmth, and pulls you into the car with them. Their comraderie is the most beautiful portrayal of friendship in the truest sense: absolute trust, love and unflinching loyalty.

It is a love story that broke my heart and Jake’s work is fearless. He is not daunted by the intimacy of their relationship, the lightening fast emotional changes, the dichotomy of bravado and honesty or even a meticulously choreographed first dance at his wedding.

When he stood to speak at the closing of the movie, with such quiet grace, I realized I hadn’t thought once of the Jake I know as my friend but only as the character he embodies in this wonderfully special movie.

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