Jake Gyllenhaal In “Southpaw”: ‘I Was Just Terrified That I Would Look Like An Idiot In The Ring’

Jake Gyllenhaal In “Southpaw”: ‘I Was Just Terrified That I Would Look Like An Idiot In The Ring’
Jake Gyllenhaal at SXSW 2011Nan Palmero / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Known for his diverse roles – from playing a teenager in the science fiction drama Donnie Darko (2001) to a sociopath working as a cameraman in the crime thriller Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhall’s character portrayal of a boxer in the sports drama “Southpaw” had him pushing his boundaries.


Gyllenhaal talked about how he has always striven to outperform himself by taking on diverse roles.

“The more time you spend preparing for something, the more it’s in your bones,” he said.

“It feels like a door into this world that connects me to a reality that I would never really know about.”

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“Southpaw” chronicles the life of middleweight champion boxer Billy Hope and his downward spiral into self-destruction after he loses his wife – played by Rachel Adams of True Detective – at the height of his career.

“It’s about what you do for your family and how you fight to keep your family together,” Gyllenhaal said, as reported by CBC News.

“That moved me so much when I read it in the script.”

After losing his wife, Hope rebuilds his life by seeking help from boxing coach Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker).

Gyllanhaal recalls how his physical endurance was tested during the shooting of the movie.

“It was 5am in New York City when we wrapped,” he said. “We’d shot way into the night and I still had my prosthetics on. Usually they are carefully removed, but this time I literally ripped them off, like Arnold Schwarzenegger tearing his face off in Total Recall. I then went home and fell asleep for 14 hours, the first time I’ve done that since I was 16 years old.”

According to The Independent, Gyllenhaal underwent a regime that comprised of 2,000 press ups a day, a five mile run and strenuous boxing practice.

“I was just terrified that I would look like an idiot in the ring,” he said. “I didn’t know how to box when I started. I had five months to learn, and I know that it takes me a long time to learn a skill, and also to come across like I’ve been doing it since I was six years old.

“Therefore, I decided to train twice a day so it would give me an advantage, and it would seem like 10 months of training. It’s difficult for me to use words like hard or miserable when I’m talking about a movie where really I feel grateful for the opportunity.”

McAdams, who played Gylenhaal’s onscreen wife, also spoke about the way he transformed himself into the character of a boxer.

“I guess I wasn’t entirely surprised, based on his work in his past, I figured he would get there,” she says. “But to actually see the transformation up close was really awe-inspiring. When I first signed on to the movie, he had just started his training and had long hair in a ponytail and a bushy beard and didn’t even look like a boxer. But three months later, to have completely changed and to be so convincing – not just the physical transformation but to become that character in every single way so that it was just part of his DNA; it was in his cells – was phenomenal to watch.”

“Southpaw,” a predominantly sports film, is also about Gyllenhaal’s relationship with his daughter Leila (Oona Laurence), whom he spoke very highly of.

“As soon as Oona walked into the door to do the reading… who she was and just her essence, I fell in love with her,” Gyllenhaal said. ​

“I would do anything for a child, whether they’re my family or I know them or not. But I also feel like that in any relationship: the good and the bad, the struggle. The hatred and the love exists everywhere, even with parents and children – even more so. Particularly when a child is loved and healthy, they’re allowed to express those feelings even more, and I just found love with Oona as soon as I met her. It was immediate. She is so extraordinarily talented and an amazing improviser. That sense of the child leading the way is what the movie is essentially about and I just tried to open my heart to it.”

Southpaw releases on July 24.

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