Jake Gyllenhaal’s new film Stronger sees him portray real-life hero Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become the symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Gyllenhaal’s incredible ability to portray a variety of diverse roles has seen him go from strength to strength, from child star to Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee as well as BAFTA Award Winner in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain. To celebrate the release of Stronger on 8 December and another incredible performance from Jake, we’re taking a look at his career to date.
City Slickers (1991)
At a young age, this was Gyllenhaal’s screen debut as Danny, the son of Mitch Robins (Billy Crystal). Whilst it is only a small scene, where Danny is ashamed of his father’s job in ad sales and tells his class his father is a submarine commander, it’s enough to make an impression. Gyllenhaal standing up in front of his class was the first time he was able to show audiences what he was made of. Following City Slickers he began to audition for more roles and thus his Hollywood career began.
Donnie Darko (2001)
This particular film saw Gyllenhaal cement himself as an actor as he took on the lead role in this film. Donnie is a high school student with a rather odd imaginary friend; Frank, a monstrous six-foot rabbit that only he can see. Gyllenhaal showcases the character’s struggle with authority whilst also being manipulated by his new friend to perform dangerous pranks. Donnie Darko has since become a cult classic.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Gyllenhaal’s performance as Jack West, a man struggling with his own sexuality and falling in love with fellow cattle herder Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) saw Gyllenhaal earn his first ever Academy Award nomination, and deservedly so. In this neo-Western romantic-drama film, directed by Ang Lee, Gyllenhaal is pushed by society to hide his identity whilst carrying on this heart-breaking affair with another man. The role saw him win his first BAFTA Award for the performance.
Stronger is not the first film where Gyllenhaal has risen to the challenge of portraying real-life people on screen. In this mystery thriller by David Fincher, he plays political cartoonist Robert Graysmith, the man who attempted to decode letters written by the Zodiac killer in 1970’s Northern California. Graysmith is a man determined to help uncover the killer despite others not believing his own theories and becoming almost unhealthily obsessed with the case. Gyllenhaal gets to play a character that is naïve to police procedure and regulation and possessed with finding out the truth, no matter what the cost.
Gyllenhaal’s knack for portraying men on the edge of obsession and moral ambiguity carried on to his next role as Lou Bloom, a stringer who records violent events late at night in Los Angeles, and sells the footage to a local television news station. Nightcrawler and its focus on unethical journalism saw Gyllenhaal nominated for his second BAFTA Award for his performance as a sociopath determined to get the perfect footage.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Gyllenhaal takes on another interesting acting challenge by portraying not one but two very different characters in the same film. He plays Edward, a romantic and charming writer, so in love with Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) he believes they can face any obstacle. When Susan leaves Edward heartbroken, he writes a graphic and violent novel, which he dedicates and sends to her. In the fictional story we meet Tony Hastings (also Gyllenhaal), a man attacked on the road and whose wife and daughter are kidnapped and then murdered. We get to see him shine as the idealistic writer, and the family man both possessed and determined to avenge his murdered family no matter the repercussions.
In his latest film Gyllenhaal portrays Jeff Bauman, a 27-year-old, Boston man who was at the marathon to try and win back his ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Waiting for her at the finish line when the blast occurs, he loses both his legs in the attack. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, Jeff is able to help law enforcement identify one of the bombers, but his own battle has just begun. He tackles months of physical and emotional rehabilitation with the unwavering support of Erin and his family. It is Jeff’s deeply personal account of the heroic journey that tests a family’s bond, defines a community’s pride and inspires his inner courage to overcome devastating adversity. Filled with raw emotion, humanity and humour, Stronger is the inspirational real-life story of the man who became the living embodiment of “Boston Strong.” The film also stars Academy Award® nominee Miranda Richardson and is directed by David Gordon Green.
Stronger is out in UK cinemas 8 December