THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW - Q&A with Jake Gyllenhaal
In Roland Emmerich's THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Sam Hall, son to Professor Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), a climatologist who has been warning his colleagues that the planet is heading for meltdown caused by global warming. With Sam stranded in a New York facing a second Ice Age, his father faces a race against time to reach him.
What made you want to do a blockbuster like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW?
I love big movies and I always have. I love watching them. I've never been a cineaste, preferring just small, independent films. I love big entertainment movies, so it wasn't really a hesitation on my part. It was just whether I would have enough to do - whether it would just be a movie about the weather or be a movie about human relationships with a character you want to watch. I read it and I thought it was awesome.
Were you a fan of director Roland Emmerich's previous work?
I loved INDEPENDENCE DAY, and that was a big part of me really wanting to do this movie. It has a great sense of humour - I found myself laughing at the secondary characters getting squashed, like the reporter who gets hit with an Angelina [Jolie] billboard.
Do you think this film will have the same impact on your career as TITANIC did for Leonardo DiCaprio? Are you worried that it will?
With a story like that [TITANIC], their love story was the centre of the movie. But with this, the central relationship is father-and-son, and I don't think there's ever been a huge public response to a father-son love story, in the way there would be to a love story. But, no, I'm not worried about that.
So it's a family story, in a way?
Yeah. The problems within the family, with people not paying attention to each other, are the same thing we do to the environment, and I thought that was an interesting idea. I don't think it's completely in the film, but I approached it that way. I thought it was a beautiful metaphor. It's like if we could figure out the problems in our family, we could help the bigger picture.
I heard that Dustin Hoffman, who you worked with on MOONLIGHT MILE, advised you against taking the role...
Yeah! He was saying, You don't know any offers you're going to get. Just wait it out and don't be impatient.' I said, 'Dustin - I really want to make this movie.' And I think he's been through movies that haven't been his cup-of-tea - he'd rather be the storm in the movie than the storm itself! And I totally respect that. But I grew with those movies. I go every summer to all of them. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to do it. It's a lie to say it's a career-movie, or it's a lie to say the character was amazing - I just wanted to be in a movie like that.
What was the hardest thing about filming?
Two weeks into the wave scene, when 700 extras were all pissing into the tank, that was when I said to myself 'This seems to be a lot less romantic than I thought!' But most of it was pretty cool. We came very close to all vomiting up paper snow - when we weren't using real snow, they used the stuffing inside a baby-diaper. Also, the scene when the water is rising in the public library, they were sinking that room into the water, which had been recycled from the 2 and a half weeks of us working with extras - and I was putting my head into it that day...the sacrifices I make!
How environmentally aware were you when you were growing up?
I was always aware of it, and growing up - being the age I am - we were always taught to recycle and we always had to have the tin can recycling man telling us to recycle in elementary school, and teaching us what elements to put in the trash can and what to put in the recycling bin. So I think I was brought up pretty aware of the environment. We had Earth day at my school, and I was always pretty conscious of it, but I don't think I was ever really conscious of the ramifications of what I did would have on the environment, or more importantly what corporations in the world do, or have done. This film has made me much more aware of how dire it is now, because something like this could happen. Especially when a science fiction director decides to find science fiction in reality, something's wrong. It's a little scary.
Do you recycle?
I try to. I do recycle, and I try and plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide I put into that atmosphere. I spend $400 a year buying trees, to plant in a forest in Mozambique. They're mango and nut trees, so they're self-sustaining for the people that grow them - nuns that run this convent. I do that, which is not really that accurate in terms of helping things - because it would probably be better to buy a hybrid-car rather than plant trees, but I'm trying to do my bit.
What do you think the film's underlying message is?
I think that there has always been a fascination with mythology and metaphor, and it seems like this is a metaphor for clearing things up and starting anew. I think it's more about that than the destruction of things - people are watching things they don't think could ever happen or that are so dream-like, and out of the ordinary and exist on another plane, it makes you feel a little extraordinary yourself.
So it carries a positive message then?
I think this movie is really about hope, in a much more profound way than a lot of these big movies are. I feel like I can say that, because I don't do them that much. It's a movie where nobody saves the world, shoots a laser beam and destroys the enemy. It's about us destroying us. In the end, it's about hope that not everything is destroyed, that we are the most resourceful creatures on earth and we will figure out a way to live. That is cool. And that's not Hollywood to me. If there's one criticism about Hollywood, it's that they don't make things real. I don't buy that. This is a movie about how we suffer the consequences; what happens to Manhattan in this movie is very hopeful.
Do you like to use your fame as an actor to talk about politics?
It frustrates me when actors talk politics. I'm political and I make choices in my movies that I think are political. I try and say things with what I do. I think it's presumptuous to say a movie will make a difference. I think the intention with this movie is to have fun, but it also does things that are political - like America having to ask Mexico for help. The President of the United States begging everyone for help - I'm really into that! I don't think it will have people protesting like they did with THE PASSION - but it does raise issues. They're issues we all know about, and take for granted. Hopefully, it'll scare the shit out of some people.
Are you as fearless in your own life as you are in the film?
I prefer doing it in the movies - it's much easier! The thing with this story, it's not people doing super-human things. That's why I like it. I didn't have to get in shape, work out or go on a special diet. I was playing a normal person put in extreme circumstances.
On a more personal note, is it true your great-great grandfather spent his life collecting beetles in Sweden?
That's what I was told as a child and I'd be devastated if it wasn't true. It's true to me! But supposedly he was a collector and cataloguer of beetles. We're interesting people. He was knighted by the King of Sweden, and we have a coat of arms. The Gyllenhaal family has a coat of arms in Sweden!
Question & Answer Text Copyright Twentieth Century Fox