Playback: Jake Gyllenhaal on ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ ‘Demolition’ Response and More

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

On today’s episode Variety Senior VP Tim Gray stops by to discuss the upcoming Academy Governors Awards. Casting director Lynn Stalmaster, documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, film editor Anne V. Coates and international superstar Jackie Chan are set to be honored this weekend. We also discuss Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” which finally came out into the light recently.

Later on (17:43) I’m talking to “Nocturnal Animals” star Jake Gyllenhaal, who also appeared in Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Demolition” earlier in the year. With an on-going list of filmmaker collaborators that includes Tom Ford, David Gordon Green, Bong Joon-ho and Paul Dano, the 35-year-old star is maintaining a fascinating pace at this stage in his career.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“I think admittedly I was judgmental of where his focus would be,” Gyllenhaal says of director Tom Ford. “He’s made a beautiful film. Beauty is a big part of the film. I think he can’t shake that. But I think I was, more than any other time in my career, surprised that he, as someone who came from a world that really puts an emphasis on vanity, could blow that up and focus on what was true to him and be vulnerable and admit his insecurities, particularly to me as an actor — his love of human behavior, his love of actors and the process.”

The past few years for Gyllenhaal have, he says, been all about exploring different aspects of acting. Often he is drawn to what might be considered darker material on the outside, and certainly in “Nocturnal Animals,” he goes to some dark places. But he sees it a little differently.

“These types of stories, I think there’s so much to mine,” he says. “In the darkness, you have to — everyone asks me that often: ‘Why do you mine such dark places?’ And, ‘Are you fascinated with that?’ Constantly, it’s a mantra: ‘You should do a rom-com or a romantic comedy.’ And sometimes those, to me, are darker than dark material. But I also think you have to bring your light when you go into the dark. Whatever light you have, you have to bring that.”

Gyllenhaal also starred in Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Demolition” earlier this year, but it was both a financial and critical disappointment. But prior to shooting, Gyllenhaal was eager to work with the director behind films like “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild” and ultimately he relished the experience, whatever the response ended up being.

“One of the things that has been really lovely about the way I look at the world now, having done this for a while, is none of that — critics, whether it does well — is what defines a success,” he says. “Jean-Marc is one of those people who is rare in that he does what he believes and what he feels, and he doesn’t move with what people tell him he should do but what his heart does. I adored working with him and I think that’s his longevity. In this business, where everybody is so afraid of what their movie is going to make, we do still live in a business of relationships. People with open hearts and who are talented regardless continue to work.”

Hear more about that, as well as Gyllenhaal’s upcoming collaborations, via the streaming link above.

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