Jake Gyllenhaal's preparation for the police drama "End of Watch" took longer than filming. Says the actor, "I spent five months preparing for the role. I was on ride-alongs pretty much two or three times a week … Then we did sparring and fight training in a dojo in Echo Park every morning … and we also did live tactical training two times a week … It was a five-month process for a 22-day shoot."
Gyllenhaal plays LAPD officer Brian Taylor, who along with his partner, Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), becomes the target of a drug cartel. The actors worked closely together during pre-production, and their off-screen rapport was crucial in developing their on-screen relationship. "There is nothing really fake in that movie," Gyllenhaal explains about working with his co-star. "Everything we did off-screen in preparation, our relationship, all of it, is in the movie … Without that time together, I wouldn't be as proud of the movie as I am."
In addition to starring in the film, Gyllenhaal is also an executive producer. It's his first producing credit, and it's one he is particularly proud of. "That was earned," he says. "Giving my all and my whole life to it, I eventually felt like I was there almost every step of the way, even in the post-production process, so by the end of that process [writer-director] David Ayer called me and said, 'We'd like to make you an executive producer on this' … I have to say, it was one of the best days of my career."
"End of Watch" was released on September 21, just one day after Gyllenhaal opened another major project: Nick Payne's play "If There Is I Haven't Found it Yet," which opened off-Broadway on September 20 for a limited engagement after a month of previews. He plays Uncle Terry (pictured left), whose environmentalist brother (Tony-winner Brian F. O'Byrne) struggles to keep his family together.
This is not the actor's first time on the stage; Gyllenhaal made his theater debut on London's West End in Kenneth Lonergan's "This is Our Youth" in 2002, for which he won an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer. But this is his first time performing in New York, and the experience is unique for the actor, playing for an audience "in a place that I call home."
After several weeks in the role, he has more than 80 performances under his belt – the show closes on December 23 – but he says he only recently settled into the conceptually challenging play: "I have to say I don't think I found the play until two shows ago … I think we finally have a show that we understand."
But he enjoys the challenge of live theater and hopes for another chance to return to the stage. He also appreciates the rare comfort of having "a consistent job … at 7:30 every night, I have a job, which as an actor is a pretty great feeling."