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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Gyllenhaal contemplates 'big stuff'

 •  'Brokeback Mountain' has broad appeal

By Chris Hewitt
Knight Ridder News Service

Jake Gyllenhaal, right, co-stars with Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain," a movie about two cowboys who fall in love.

Focus Features

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TORONTO Now that Jake Gyllenhaal has made a movie in which he falls for Heath Ledger, he's ready to come out of the closet.

No, not that closet.

Gyllenhaal is talking about the idea that everyone gay, straight or Andy Dick reaches a point in life when he must come to grips with who he is and then get ready to reveal himself to the rest of the world.

"I'm at a period in my life when I'm figuring out my idea of who I am and what I want and how to hold on to love all that big stuff," says Gyllenhaal, whose "Brokeback Mountain," about a romance between two cowboys, opens today in Honolulu.

"And I'm starting to realize that it can happen at any age. I know people who are in their 50s who are figuring out what they want and who they are, and I think it's great. It's like you're always approaching life as a beginner."

Gyllenhaal may be only 24, but he's no beginner when it comes to acting. He has starred in 15 movies, and it's hard to think of a young actor who has more consistently chosen interesting projects, including "October Sky," "Donnie Darko," "Jarhead," "Lovely and Amazing" and "The Good Girl."

Movies are the family business for Gyllenhaal, whose dad is director Stephen Gyllenhaal, mom is Oscar-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner, sister is actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and godmother is Jamie Lee Curtis (and ex-girlfriend is Kirsten Dunst).

Gyllenhaal has worked with some top directors including "Brokeback's" Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Sense and Sensibility") but he says the main thing those experiences taught him is that the only person he can rely on when he's acting is himself.

"I've learned to expect very little from directors," says Gyllenhaal, leaning his lanky frame into an uncomfortable chair and asking if it's OK to light up the last cigarette in a banged-up pack of American Spirits. "What I say now is, 'Trust yourself,' because you can't count on your relationship with a director. Ang was great, though, because he would set up situations and then let me and Heath decide what to do within the space Ang created. He put the camera wherever he wanted, but then he gave us a lot of power to create something, so we didn't leave with any regrets."

But the actor admits he was nervous about taking the part in the first place. In fact, when he first heard about "that gay cowboy movie" several years ago, he turned down the role.

"I said, 'Absolutely not. I don't even want to read it,' " admits Gyllenhaal, who's being touted for a best-supporting-actor Oscar nomination for "Brokeback Mountain." "I was 17, and I was scared about tackling the subject. But then, years later, when Ang called me, I read the script and it was beautiful, and I thought, 'I ought to call those people who called it "the gay cowboy movie" and scold them.' It's so much more than that."

Despite his concerns about the sex scenes, Gyllenhaal says the most intimidating part of making "Brokeback Mountain" involved baring his soul, not his butt. "That was so scary, the last scene Heath and I shot together," he recalls. "We finally get to say to each other what we want to say, and I was really nervous because there were so many emotions and both men have been holding so much back. Luckily, the dialogue is so great that it worked out."