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Metro Canada: Jake Gyllenhaal gets fighting fit for Southpaw

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 4.07.13 PMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

As World Middleweight Boxing Champion Billy Hope in the new film Southpaw Jake Gyllenhaal learned a thing or two about anger. He plays a man ruled by fury who must learn to fight with his head, not just his fists.

“That journey was really interesting for me,” says Gyllenhaal, “the idea that I could explore that in my own anger. Sometimes things pop up, things that could be very destructive in my own life, like my own anger and I think, ‘Man, if I was only curious about this feeling instead of letting it kind of control me. If I could only stop and say, ‘What is that?’

“I saw this Australian comedian talking about gun control and he was saying, ‘Everyone should own a musket because by the time you finish putting the powder in and everything it takes a minute-and-a-half and by the time a minute-and-a-half has passed [the anger is gone] and you’re like, ‘You’re not a bad guy. It’s fine.’

Gyllenhaal says studying the character set him on a “journey about being curious about myself,” which seems counterintuitive. Doesn’t the actor inform the character?

“I think the experience of preparing for a role, meeting people along the way while you’re preparing for a role and the experience of that is what I learn from. It is really that that teaches me. The people I spend time with, the accumulation, that’s what I learn from. I don’t think I bring my own experience yet to a role. Right now my life is about learning from other people.”

One revelation from his time inhabiting Billy Hope’s persona was insight to what made Billy tick—fear.

“Billy is a really scared character who is fronting in some ways to present himself in a certain way. I think fear is a great motivator for him. That was a big thing. I think the idea of being tough is also about admitting your fears.”

The thirty-four-year-old actor certainly has no fear when choosing roles. From the extreme weight loss of Nightcrawler to Southpaw’s physical transformation—he gained 15 lbs of sheer muscle—Gyllenhaal is curating a challenging and interesting resume.

“I think the people I admire as artists are the people who really listen to themselves even if it is to the detriment of what people might consider success. I’d rather be myself and do what I love than listen to someone else and follow that role and be unhappy.”

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