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Jake Gyllenhaal Interview


End of Watch red band trailer


Jake Gyllenhaal talks to Nuts about becoming an LAPD patrolman for cop thriller of the year End of Watch.

How intense was your preparation to play an LA street patrol cop?

I knew it was something that I would have to immerse myself in because of the way we were shooting it, which was hyper-real with as little fiction in behaviour as possible. Preparing for five months for a 22-day shoot is a commitment. Knowing that you have to craft something in 22 days brings a specific type of focus. I was with Michael Pena for five months on the streets and in fight training and tactical exercises with live ammunition (with an LA Swat team). By the time we got to the set, we were pretty much thick as thieves. 

Did that buddy cop bonding make the shoot easier?

It was really fun and a lot easier than the preparation for it, I’ll tell you that. Shooting blanks in a scene is a lot different than shooting live ammunition. When you get there, you’re like, “Oh right, we’re not in a real fire but we were in a real fire with the Orange County Fire Department while we were preparing...” 

What was it like training with the LAPD?

We spent five months on the streets, two or three times a week for 12 hours at a time with three or four different sets of partners, and, yes, that’s the intention of the movie: to see these guys, whether they’re in uniform or not, as human beings. There’s a tendency to put on that sort of Batsuit and feel a lot stronger than you actually are. That uniform definitely projects that image to other people and it always did to me. Not to say that they’re not incredibly strong individuals, but they are first and foremost human beings. What Michael and I portray in that police car is, I think, pretty true to life. That’s what we both experienced and it totally changed my perception of law enforcement. 

Were you ever afraid?

At times, yes. On the first ride-along I went on, somebody was murdered in front of me. We chased stolen cars… Five months on the street, two or three times a week from four in the afternoon to four in the morning, driving home when everybody else was driving to work. It’s a whole different perspective on life and on work. People talk about post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans who come back from war, but they never talk about police officers and what they experience and what they deal with. I had no idea what these guys go through.

Was there a turning point where this journey became personal to you?

When I witnessed that murder… We were the second car on the scene and I did not expect that at all. I don’t really know what I expected; I was definitely gung-ho in a way and my adrenaline was going the whole time but I didn’t know that that’s what we would run into. As soon as that happened, which was six months out from the beginning of shooting, I went, “I’m just an actor. What am I getting myself involved in? What are we trying to convey, and why am I here?” That was a turning point for me. Additionally, the relationships that I made with the guys, the partners, were really eye-opening to me. That kind of brotherhood is so tight and so close and being allowed to have an eye in on that was life-changing. I’ve spent most of my life making films and as much as that’s a family too, we move on and there’s nothing life-threatening – it’s mostly absurd. 

Did it change the way you view LA?

 I was born in Los Angeles, I grew up in an area that is nothing like the southeast side of LA and yet it’s only a mile and a half away. I got to see a side of LA that is actually LA – not just a world of violence and gangsters and police. That’s a small part of that world. The other 95 percent is the culture there, the family, the loyalty; it’s a beautiful thing. But also seeing violence that close, seeing that it’s real and not having it fictionalised or fantasised by press coverage changed me…

What was it like acting and doing camerawork at the same time?

My character is a part of the storytelling (Officer Taylor is filming his day job for a college course) and it was an interesting position to be in because I love watching actors work. Seeing an actor kill it in a scene, watching Michael be brilliant in a scene, is more fun to me than even being in the scene sometimes. As an actor, there’s that space in between “Action” and “Cut” where we supposedly do our work, but sometimes our best work is done when they’re not saying that because we become much more realistic and much more moving when we don’t realise we’re being filmed. It’s cool.

Were you nervous about rocking a skinhead for the role?

To be totally honest, it wasn’t anything I really thought about. It was more about making sure that everything we did was true to form. We made this movie for the guys who do this job every day. There are things that I saw and I learned from police officers, and the authenticity of what we do in the film, that I’m really proud of. There are things that I see actors doing in movies now that are so not the way that a police officer would behave. I feel like we’ve done a really authentic job.

Did it make you feel tougher with a shaved bonce?

It’s funny because I was doing fight training every single morning, getting the shit beat out of me by 14-to-20-year-old kids in a dojo in Los Angeles, so I really didn’t care that much whether my hair was long or short! Having it short just meant that it was harder to grab a hold of!

End of Watch is in cinemas now