With show business literally coursing through his veins, Gyllenhaal conquered limitations often imposed on other child actors by exceeding expectations. Beyond his good looks and chiseled physique, he has established himself as a charismatic chameleon in independent films and Hollywood blockbusters.
Gyllenhaal’s dramatic talent, however, is not limited to his work in front of the camera. He has proven himself to be a forceful presence on-stage and is currently preparing to make his television debut. But aside from having already received countless awards and nominations for playing a broad range of characters, Gyllenhaal is fiercely determined to perfecting his craft, not his image. He is a man who prides himself on publicly exploring his creativity while privately maintaining his integrity.
The youngest child of Naomi Foner, an Oscar nominated screenwriter and producer, and Stephen Gyllenhaal, an Emmy nominated director, Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California on December 19th, 1980. In addition to his mother and father having successful careers in show business, his godparents were screen legends Paul Newman and Jamie Lee Curtis. So it’s hardly surprising that Gyllenhaal was bitten by the acting bug early in life. He made his professional debut playing Billy Crystal’s son in the hit comedy City Slickers. Even though his parents encouraged his growing interest, they refused to let him accept any parts so that he could instead concentrate on his studies at the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School. The sole exceptions were when Gyllenhaal was cast in projects his father directed such as the films A Dangerous Woman, Homegrown and an episode of the TV show Homicide: Life on the Street.
Gyllenhaal booked his first leading role as Homer Hickman in the biographical family drama October Sky. Although the film was relatively unnoticed, Gyllenhaal’s performance was not. In 2001, he landed the part of the titular character in the sci-fi thriller Donnie Darko. Its critical acclaim was not mirrored by its box office returns, yet everyone was in agreement that Gyllenhaal’s multi-layered portrayal established his presence in the Hollywood community.
For the next few years, Gyllenhaal expanded the scope of his body of work. He did indie films like the dramedy Lovely and Amazing and the black comedy The Good Girl. Studio films such as the romantic drama Moonlight Mile and the sci-fi adventure The Day After Tomorrow. Simultaneously, Gyllenhaal decided to test himself by making his theatrical debut in Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth. “ The endeavor proved successful, as his performance was met with great reviews and an Evening Standard Theater Award for Outstanding Newcomer.
These roles prepared him for 2005, the year that paired him with a string of prominent directors and altered the course of his career. First in John Madden’s dramatic mystery Proof. Next, in Sam Mendes’s biographical war film Jarhead. And finally, in Ang Lee’s dramatic romance Brokeback Mountain. His sensitive portrayal of homosexual cowboy Jack Twist earned Gyllenhaal a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor and an Oscar nomination in the same category. In acknowledgement of his impressive resume, Gyllenhaal was invited to join the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2006.
The honor seemingly put even greater demands on his already busy schedule. Gyllenhaal set his theatrical aspirations aside and once again worked with a number of leading directors in high-profile films. In the process, he furthered his reputation as an actor who painstakingly researched his roles. For his portrayal of real-life political cartoonist Robert Graysmith in David Fincher’s biographical thriller Zodiac, Gyllenhaal met with Graysmith and videotaped him, then studied his idiosyncrasies in order to bring them to life on-screen.
His jaw-dropping turn as unethical reporter Louis Bloom in Dan Gilroy’s crime thriller “Nightcrawler” that showcased the depth of his talent and brought Gyllenhaal his second producing credit. Losing more than twenty pounds to play the role, he worked out for up to eight hours a day and either ran or bicycled to set everyday. Additionally, he dug deep into the underbelly of his character’s world by following crime reporters around Los Angeles from dusk until dawn. In recognition of his exceptional performance, Gyllenhaal won numerous awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role, as well as being nominated for a Golden Globe, BAFTA and a SAG award.
These days, Gyllenhaal’s schedule is busier than ever with several highly anticipated projects that he will both star in and produce. Amongst them, he’ll share the screen with Jessica Chastain in the sci-fi actioner The Division, the mystery thriller Rio with Benedict Cumberbatch and Michelle Williams and Finest Kind alongside Zendaya and Ansel Elgort. He’ll also make his first foray into television with the dramatic miniseries Lake Success.