Jake Gyllenhaal just sent a jolt through the Best Actor race after his new film, the crime drama “Nightcrawler,” unspooled at the Toronto International Film Festival. Add his name to a crowded field that includes four other fellows whose films will screen here: Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game“), Bill Murray (“St. Vincent“), Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“), and Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher“).
Gyllenhaal, who also produced the picture, stars as Lou Bloom, a young man who becomes entangled in the seedy world of Los Angeles crime journalism. If the performance appeals to academy members, it would be the second Oscar bid for Gyllenhaal but the first in the lead category; he was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Brokeback Mountain” (2005).
The film marks the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, who also scripted, and he gave a plum role to his wife, Rene Russo. She hasn’t been seen on screen in six years and makes the most of her supporting role as a manipulative TV producer.
Gilroy says he was driven to make the movie because he wanted to capture that “same feeling as some of my favorite films from the 1970s, movies like “Taxi Driver,” that dared to challenge us about our perceptions of people.” As he explains, “We are too quick to label someone a sociopath. Yes, their are some whose behavior makes them that, but there are others who may have those tendencies but defy the definition.”
As a first-time director, Gilroy was glad to get Gyllenhaal on-board. He credits the actor with “fully committing himself to the project. He was up for the challenge and was just fearless in how he went about it.”
Including losing 30 pounds! “That was all his idea,” says Gilroy. “I couldn’t believe he did it. He was eating almost nothing on these days we were doing some really intense action-heavy scenes. I still don’t know how he did it.”
As for directing his wife, Gilroy says, “she was so supportive of me all the way through this. It has been great to see the reaction people have to her in the movie. I couldn’t be prouder.”