Q&A Interview with Jake Gyllenhaal, who portrays Prince Dastan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time on DVD and Blu-ray September 14th
QUESTION: You and Gemma Arterton have great chemistry on screen in Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time. That must have helped in the scenes where your characters banter together?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh definitely! Those scenes I think were the best written and the most fun to play. They came so naturally and we shot them so fast. It was unfortunate that the ended so quickly. We might spend a month on an action scene and half a day on that scene (with Gemma). We would nail it and move on. She and I had a sort of tit for that thing. The first time we met she looked at me as though she was unimpressed and I looked at her like…’You should be! Why aren’t you?’…(joked). So that was it from the beginning, there was no acting required.
QUESTION: The weather in Morocco during filming was supposed to be so hot and sandy that it was almost like having sand in your mouth all the time?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: It was not that bad. It was ok. It was hot but it was fun. The desert is really cleansing…the sand exfoliates your skin….and there is a nice warm dry sun and you are sweating.
QUESTION: You must have been conditioned by Jarhead?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I was. I make a lot of movies about turning back time and a lot of movies in the desert. It’s a very strange thing.
QUESTION: You have been Spider Man and Batman. Now in Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time you have become a sort of super hero?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: No! I am a video game adaptation. (jokes)
QUESTION: So how does it feel to finally have your own action figure?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: That is like fulfilling the dreams that I had when I was eight years old. When he is playing with an action figure what young boy doesn’t think that maybe one day…You personify anyway as the action figure character that you are playing with, so to be one is incredible. If you were to go back to the eight year old me and say that one day you will be playing in a movie that looks a little like Indiana Jones, or The Goonies and a couple of other things and it is the video game that you are actually playing called the Prince Of Persia…I think that my head would have exploded.
QUESTION: What was your inspiration for the movie?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: My primary resource was the video game. There were also books and different paintings of that time that were real inspirations. After I read the script I had a meeting with Jerry Bruckheimer and asked him what the movie was going to look like. Was it going to look like a video game or how I might imagine a typical Disney film? For instance, I wondered if I was to be wearing the red outfit for the whole movie. Jerry handed me this book (The Orientalist) and said that was how he wanted it to look. But apart from that there was not a lot of research. There was some research into weaponry and things like that. But I looked on it more like it was based on a fantasy world that was based on reality.
QUESTION: What is it like to make a big expensive special effects film like Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: The thing about a movie like this that is interesting is that people tend to only associate it with commerce. For me it was always that it was so much fun. It is differentiating the actor with the businessman and the actor who says that he wants to be a kid again and have a good time. It was so exciting! Every day I would drive to work and it was like going to a sporting event when you are the captain of the team. There were thousands of cars lined up along the road for five miles and there was an army of film crew and then the sets were 100 feet high – all built with perfect detail. I don’t think you see that any more on a film set. So often it is green screen effects that are done later. But we could shoot anywhere because the details were extraordinary and there were thousands of extras. And some more were added in later – to make it even bigger! I would get in there and every day I did feel like a kid.
QUESTION: After working with you in this film, Sir Ben Kingsley says you have the ability to seemingly be doing very little in front of the camera and yet it’s just right?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: With this movie I always looked at it like I was reading a children’s book to a child. It was that kind of style of acting. Because of his years of theatrical work and his history of Shakespeare, Sir Ben has an attitude that there is a sense of telling a story clearly and even theatrically. At on point I told him I felt as though I was speaking to a child and he said….exactly! I always feel that if a movie is good then an actor should have to do very little.
QUESTION: What would you say was the greatest challenge, the physicality of it or speaking in a British accent?
JAKLE GYLLENHAAL: No doubt speaking in a British accent, that was the hardest part for me. It’s daunting trying to do any service as an American to such a beautiful fluid speech pattern that you all have. For me, it did help being surrounded by a primarily British cast and somewhat British crew. So I would speak every day, I would get out of the car and I’d have the accent on all day. And I would sort of journey from region to region around England with each different person I would talk to, I would mimic them and sometimes I would sound like them in takes and Mike [Newell] would say [adopts posh British accent and shouts]… ‘Dear boy! You don’t sound right! Do it again! Smashing!’. That’s my favorite line. ‘CUT!’. That’s when you know he was excited about a take. So yeah, I would say the accent was much more daunting, particularly in front of the British press.
QUESTION: How dangerous is it working with ostriches?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: The ostrich scene was where I was the most terrified in the entire shoot. They are terrifying animals. Even in their innocence, they can tear out your eyeballs and rip out your heart. They seem like they have eyes similar to mine but they really don’t. They can really do dangerous stuff to you.
QUESTION: How much of the stunt work did you do and were you in the best shape of your life for this movie?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: It depends what you mean by ‘best shape’. I cycle and I run long distances…10 or 12 miles. But I am not able to do that when I am the shape I was for the movie. I remember seeing lance Armstrong on the cover of a magazine and he was saying ‘I’m ripped!’ He was skinny and really gaunt but that was him ready for the tour. So that is being in shape in another way. But I was fit for doing almost any sport. I could avoid serious injury because I was strong and flexible enough. I am pretty athletic so I always feel pretty good and healthy.
QUESTION: What sort of injuries did you get?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: My shoulders got pretty big so I couldn’t always grab on to something and sometimes there was a little pulling and tearing of tendons. There were some little muscle things and bruises and cuts…but no big deal. I accepted that aches and pains are part of the job. I want to go after the things that I want to do or I am inspired by
QUESTION: Did you feel you were chosen for Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, not just for how you look but because you can handle deeper stuff?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I hope so. I hope that is why people choose actors. Obviously I know they don’t always do that. But I believe that you earn your stripes. I don’t believe that there is necessarily an order and that doing a bigger movie means you have to do a smaller movie. But I do feel that when you are cast in a movie you should have earned that thing – whether it is from an audition or other work you’ve done, or whether you have behaved well in a certain way or that you also do good work. Those things are important. Jerry [Bruckheimer] said he thought I was a good actor and [director] Mike Newell too. Mike had worked with my sister and had seen and respected my work. He didn’t just pick me out of the blue. I worked to gain their confidence and I feel that is how it should be.
QUESTION: As a child was it always the case that you would become an actor?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: There is a very early entry in my diary, from when I was six years old. It says…Soccer is my life! I played AYSO soccer – school soccer. It became my obsession. Which position did I play? I played all sorts of positions. When you are playing soccer at five years old there isn’t really a position. You run after the ball, basically.
QUESTION: There are several Prince Of Persia stories. So how prepared are you to do another film as Dastan?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: With a movie of this size that is something that becomes contractual even before you start it. There have been many movies in which I have been involved when there has been the potential for something else and it hasn’t happened. Or it has happened actually. But the thing is, I am totally game. I love the character and his world. I think it is super fun.
QUESTION: You must be pleased with your English accent in Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time because it is spot on.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Thank you very much. I worked really hard on it. It was planned from the very beginning to use an English accent. Jerry Bruckheimer said that he thought an English accent seemed to legitimize any time period. Particularly if it is in the past but even if it is in the future. It’s sort of strange but there is something about the accent. I don’t know what it is. There is an ancient quality and the Shakespearean theatrical thing that people can unconsciously relate to. Also since Mike Newell was shooting it in Britain, he wanted primarily to cast British. So the actor who was to play the part of Dastan would have to fit in.
QUESTION: How have you coped with fame? Have you become more comfortable as you have got older?
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Up until now I have had an interesting perspective because I haven’t been so clear about all the things that I want to do or who I was. Now I think I feel much more comfortable with it because I am more comfortable with what I want to do and who I am and what I care about. A lot of this stuff is great fun, I have a good sense of humor and I enjoy laughing. I want to make movies that are like that and spend time with good people. This is our day so you should have a good time doing it. That is my perspective on it now.