- Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal
December 19, 1980 (age 39)
- Actor, Film Producer
- Kirsten Dunst
- Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, Stephen Gyllenhaal
Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal (born December 19, 1980) is an American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at the age of ten. Following his first lead role in 1999's October Sky, he starred in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko (2001), in which he played a psychologically troubled teenager alongside his older sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. In 2002, he starred in another indie film, The Good Girl, alongside actress Jennifer Aniston. In 2004, he appeared in the science-fiction film The Day After Tomorrow, portraying a student caught in a cataclysmic global cooling event.
Gyllenhaal then played against type as a frustrated Marine in Jarhead (2005). The same year, his role as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain earned him critical acclaim. For his performance he won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for the Academy Award in the same category. He has since played the lead roles in many notable films, including Zodiac (2007), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Love and Other Drugs (2010), Source Code (2011), End of Watch (2012), and Prisoners (2013).
Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner (née Achs). Maggie Gyllenhaal, his older sister and also an actress, appeared with Jake in the movie Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal's father, who was raised as a Swedenborgian, is of Swedish and English descent, and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family. Jake's last native Swedish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal. Jake Gyllenhaal's mother is from a Jewish family from New York City, and Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself "more Jewish than anything else." On his 13th birthday, Gyllenhaal performed a "bar mitzvah-like act, without the typical trappings", volunteering at a homeless shelter, because his parents wanted to instill in him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle. His parents insisted that he have summer jobs to support himself, and he thus worked as a lifeguard and as a busboy at a restaurant operated by a family friend. In April 2012, Shalom Life ranked him Number 6 on its list of “the 50 most talented, intelligent, funny, and gorgeous Jewish men in the world."
As a child, Gyllenhaal was regularly exposed to filmmaking due to his family's deep ties to the industry. He made his acting debut as Billy Crystal's son in the 1991 comedy film City Slickers. His parents did not allow him to appear in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks because it would have required his leaving home for two months. In subsequent years, his parents allowed him to audition for parts, but regularly forbade him to take them if he were chosen. He was allowed to appear in his father's films several times. Gyllenhaal appeared in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman(along with sister Maggie); in "Bop Gun" a 1994 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street; and in the 1998 comedy Homegrown. Along with their mother, Jake and Maggie appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network. Prior to his senior year in high school, the only other film not directed by his father, in which Gyllenhaal was allowed to perform, was the 1993 film Josh and S.A.M., a little-known children's adventure.
Gyllenhaal graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1998, then attended Columbia University, where his sister was a senior and from which his mother had graduated, to study Eastern religions and philosophy. Gyllenhaal dropped out after two years to concentrate on acting, but has expressed intentions to eventually finish his degree. Gyllenhaal's first lead role was in October Sky, Joe Johnston's 1999 adaptation of the Homer Hickam autobiography Rocket Boys, in which he portrayed a young man from West Virginia striving to win a science scholarship to avoid becoming a coal miner. The film earned $32 million and was described in the Sacramento News and Review as Gyllenhaal's "breakout performance."
In 2005, Gyllenhaal starred in the critically praised film Brokeback Mountain. Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger play young men who meet as sheep herders and embark upon a sexual relationship that begins in the summer of 1963 and lasts for 20 years. The film was often referred to in the media with the shorthand phrase "the gay cowboy movie," though there was differing opinion on the sexual orientation of the characters. The film won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. The film went on to win four Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, and three Academy Awards. Gyllenhaal was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his performance, but lost to George Clooney for Syriana. Gyllenhaal also won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for the same role and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination and Best Film Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. Also for Brokeback Mountain, he and Ledger won an MTV Movie Awardfor "Best Kiss" in 2006. Shortly after the 2006 Academy Awards, Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy in recognition of his acting career. Gyllenhaal was awarded the 2006 Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence by The Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards for his role.
Gyllenhaal expressed mixed feelings about the experience of being directed by Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain, but generally had more praise than criticism for Lee's directing style. While complaining of the way Lee tended to disconnect from his actors once filming began, Gyllenhaal praised his encouraging direction of the actors and sensitive approach to the material. At the Directors Guild of America Awards on January 28, 2006, Gyllenhaal also praised Lee for "his humbleness and his respect for everyone around him."
When asked about his kissing scenes with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal said, "As an actor, I think we need to embrace the times we feel most uncomfortable." When asked about the more intimate scenes with Ledger, Gyllenhaal likened them to "doing a sex scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to." Following the release of Brokeback Mountain, rumors circulated regarding the actor's sexual orientation. When asked about such gossip during an interview, Gyllenhaal said:
"You know it's flattering when there's a rumor that says I'm bisexual. It means I can play more kinds of roles. I'm open to whatever people want to call me. I've never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don't think I would be afraid of it if it happened."
The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal's immediate family includes his sister, actress Maggie, who is married to actor Peter Sarsgaard, Gyllenhaal's co-star in Jarhead and Rendition. In December 2006, Jake and his sister escaped a fire that destroyed Manka's, a famed lodge and restaurant in Inverness, California, at which they were vacationing. Gyllenhaal's niece, Ramona Sarsgaard, was born on October 3, 2006. Jamie Lee Curtis is Gyllenhaal's godmother, and he has repeatedly referred to his godfathers being a gay couple. Gyllenhaal himself is the godfather of Matilda Rose Ledger (born October 28, 2005), daughter of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, both of whom co-starred with him in Brokeback Mountain.
Gyllenhaal dated actress Kirsten Dunst for nearly two years, starting in 2002. He later dated his Rendition co-star Reese Witherspoon from about 2007 to 2009. He dated singer-songwriter Taylor Swift from October 2010 until January 2011. Gyllenhaal dated model Alyssa Miller from July to December 2013.