Jake Gyllenhaal on ‘Nightcrawler’ PGA Nom, Weight Loss and Golden Globes

Monday was a good day for the indie hit “Nightcrawler,” which kicked off the morning with nominations from both the Art Directors Guild and the Producers Guild of America. It was also a very busy day for its star and producer Jake Gyllenhaal, who spent his day off from appearing in previews of the Broadway play “Constellations” promoting the film. After appearing at a MoMA Q&A, he stopped by the NYFCC Awards dinner to present the best actress prize to Marion Cotillard. He then Skyped into a Q&A in Los Angeles with writer-director Dan Gilroy and editor John Gilroy, moderated by Variety’s Jenelle Riley. Gyllenhaal appeared larger-than-life on the movie screen behind the other participants, at one point jokingly “squishing” Gilroy’s head between his fingers.

The film stars Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a wickedly intelligent outsider who begins shooting video at accident scenes to sell to the local news. Once considered a dark horse in the Oscar race, the movie is now only one of five to have received across-the-board support with the guilds, with nominations from SAG (for Gyllenhaal), ACE, PGA and ADG. (The others are “The Imitation Game,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Birdman” and “Gone Girl.”) Asked how they received word of the PGA nomination that morning, both Gilroy and Gyllenhaal said it was via email, before the phone calls of congratulations started rolling in.

In the Q&A, Gyllenhaal had kind words for John Gilroy’s editing, saying he was able to find the perfect tone for the movie in the editing room. “I was given the freedom to go big and really be out there, and could count on John to really hone the performance in the editing room,” he said. He also had high praise for Dan Gilroy’s script, admitting he missed saying the lines and kept a PDF of it on his computer to go back and revisit from time to time. In fact, over a year after shooting, he can still remember his character’s dialogue. He proved it by reciting a monologue from the film, word-perfect, for the audience, who responded with rapturous applause and cheers.

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Asked about the most difficult part of making the film, Gyllenhaal pointed to the casting of British actor-rapper Riz Ahmed as Lou’s intern Rick. Dan Gilroy said they read more than 60 actors for the role and were surprised to find Ahmed could do a flawless American accent. Dan Gilroy said his most daunting task was finding the right tone for the character, since Lou could easily be dismissed as a psychopath. “But when Jake was cast, that allayed a lot of those concerns because of the humanity he brings to the role,” he noted.

Also starring in the film is Dan Gilroy’s wife, Rene Russo, who plays Lou’s ambitious producer and reluctant love interest, Nina. It was pointed out that Nina is in some ways a more nefarious character, as she chooses to compromise her morality whereas Lou seems to not have a conscience. “In many ways, I saw her as the villain of the piece,” Dan Gilroy admitted.

Gyllenhaal lost more than 20 pounds to play Bloom, saying that when he first read the script he thought of Bloom as someone who was always hungry, practically starving, and behaved “like a coyote that comes down from the hills at night.” He added that there were scenes cut from the film that showed how he dealt with food. “There’s a moment where he’s ordering a hamburger and he asks how much extra it would cost to get cheese,” said Gyllenhaal. “And decides it’s too much, so he skips it.” Dan Gilroy added that Gyllenhaal was truly always hungry on set during the 27-day shoot. “At one point he’s sitting in a car with Riz, leaning into him, and we were genuinely afraid he was just going to eat him.”

Though Gyllenhaal’s “Constellations” schedule is keeping him busy, he revealed he will be in Los Angeles on Sunday for the Golden Globe Awards, where he is nominated for best actor for his “Nightcrawler” performance.

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