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Jake Gyllenhaal Interview – ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’

Jake Gyllenhaal Photo Prince of Persia: The Sands of TimeJake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’

© Walt Disney Pictures

May 14, 2010Jake Gyllenhaal may not be the first actor you think of when you picture the star of a big-budget action adventure film based on a video game, but with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Gyllenhaal’s out to prove he can handle intense action scenes as well as more intimate character-driven films. In Disney’s Prince of Persia, Gyllenhaal stars as Prince Dastan, a rebellious young man who prefers to go his own way rather than to follow the rules. After he’s falsely accused of murdering his adopted father, Dastan must team up with a gorgeous princess (played by Gemma Arterton) in order to keep an ancient dagger capable of turning back time out of the hands of people who would use the mysterious object for evil.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Jake Gyllenhaal Interview

Were you familiar with the game before tackling the role of Prince Dastan?Jake Gyllenhaal: “I was familiar with the game since I was a young boy. I used to [play] the side-scrolling version of the Prince of Persia, the original Jordan Mechner created version, on the first Mac computer in elementary school. I remember doing that. And then I took like a 20 year hiatus from the game, though I did know about it but I didn’t really play it that much; I played other games. And then when I read the script for this movie, I took the opportunity and I started researching. I started playing the game and I got to know it very, very intimately.”

How much Parkour training did you do and was it what you expected?

Jake Gyllenhaal: “It was the first sort of type of training that I started to do, which was I guess a little bit Parkour. First I was I working with gymnasts, starting to work on landings and things like that while I was doing regular, you know, cardiovascular training and other things for the role. I didn’t really start doing the serious Parkour stuff until we got to Morocco and and we started choreographing the scenes on the top the Kasbahs and all the sets that we were shooting in.”

“I think the hardest part of doing it is really the focus and sort of being present and training your mind to not worry about whether you’re gonna make the landing, but just focusing on being present in the moment.”

What was having the opportunity to play the lead in a game you played as a kid like?

Jake Gyllenhaal: “Wow, it was like sometimes I wish I could go back, in these past few days I was thinking, I wish I could go back and tell that eight year old kid who was playing the game that one day, you know, 20 some odd years later he would be playing the lead in a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster movie based on that video and game, and just see how you know his eyes would pop out of his head, how excited he’d be. And for me that’s kind of how I felt when I was making the movie. I felt like I was kind of unlocking that piece of my childhood again. It was fun every day, running and jumping and fighting bad guys.”

Dastan starts off pretty cocky and gradually learns to be a little humble…

Jake Gyllenhaal: “Well I don’t know if he really loses his cockiness throughout the whole film. I think – I hope – he maintains it just enough. I think what happens is he realizes the importance of this dagger and his destiny, and he realizes how much his family means to him. You know, like at the beginning of the movie he’s an orphan and he’s rescued by the King, and when he has the potential of losing this family that has brought him in and basically saved his life, when that’s threatened I think he starts taking his life and the lives of others around him much more seriously. But I think he still maintains a little bit of wit and humour throughout all of it.”

Are there any differences in preparing for a role based on a popular, established video game than other roles you’ve tackled?

Jake Gyllenhaal: “Yeah, you know it’s a very very difficult form of research. It required playing the game three or four times a day, which you know is a very, very, very difficult job you know? A lot of people don’t know this, but acting is just so hard. It’s Oscar, right? It’s practicing, you know getting on the game and playing the game three or four times a day – and getting paid to exercise. It’s just it was really tough. [Laughing] No. There wasn’t much difference, actually. That’s the interesting thing. If you’re playing a character that’s based on a book or one that’s even been alive ,I you have to give as much attention, you have to focus just as much as you would if it’s a video game character or if it’s a real life human being. That’s at least how I feel.”

Is there anything about your character that sends a positive message to young people coming into adulthood and want to recognize their potential?

Jake Gyllenhaal: “Yeah. I think for specifically the character of Dastan, I think like I was saying before, he was an orphan and he was brought into a family – or the royal family – by the King because of a good deed that he did and because of he was pure of heart when he did this deed. And I think a lot of things kind of threaten us all the time and to not listen to our own hearts, to make choices that are about what other people think are cool or what other people say are cool. And the lesson, the moral of this movie for Dastan is to follow his own heart and to influence other people around him, like his brothers and his family to follow theirs too. And when you do and when he does, and when he helps the other people around him, it all works out for the best. Ultimately it’s not painless, but it’s for the best. I hope that kids and families, but particularly kids, can take away that if they listen to their heart they’ll never really go wrong.”

Jake Gyllenhaal Photo Prince of Persia: The Sands of TimeJake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’

© Walt Disney Pictures

You’re best known for your dramatic roles. How was preparing for this different?Jake Gyllenhaal: “Well it required a lot of technical work that I usually do in movies. But this was learning how to do the rudimentary aspects of Parkour, learning how to sword fight which involved learning martial arts and having martial arts training and learning choreography, really complicated choreography having two swords that I use – and learning how to horseback ride proficiently in a way that I could do stunts. Learning a British accent. And on top of all of that, on a movie of this size when you make a different choice, like if you block out a scene for instance and you make a different choice in the middle of the day and you say, ‘Well maybe I should be over here…,’ if you make that choice it affects a thousand more people than it would on a smaller movie or on other movies.”

“And it’s just the sheer size of it is like, I guess I could compare it to like going to a sports event every day on set. I would drive up to set and there’d be 500 cars lined up for five miles before you even got to set. And then you would get to the base camp of set, and it would be like an army had set up camp. Then we’d get on to set and there’d be these massive sets built that were 250 feet high with like every intricate detail done so that they could shoot anywhere. And then 1000’s of extras and I would get suited up every morning. It’d take 40 minutes to put on my costume. I had these crazy intense boots that I wore that were like all Parkour-style so that I could do the stunts. I had like…I think you can see it on the poster a little bit, but it had all these different things that were attached to my costume and it took a long time. So it was kind of like getting prepared for some big sporting event.”

What is important when playing the hero to go up against a villain like Nizam, played by Sir Ben Kingsley? What was it like playing opposite him?

Jake Gyllenhaal: “Well, what there are a lot of villains in this movie. They may be actually ones that you would never expect. I would say there maybe 10 or 15 people chasing after the Dagger of Time and who are not for the right reasons. But specifically working for – working with someone like – I would say ‘for’ because he is Sir Ben Kingsley. Working for Sir Ben Kingsley it’s just incredible. I mean, when you work with somebody of that level, that stature who has that amount of experience, that many years, has done such extraordinary work, it’s kind of an actors dream come true. The interesting thing about Ben, Sir Ben, is that he has a real childish play to him. I acted really, really like conservatively around him when I first started acting and he was like, ‘Come on.’ Because, you know, he sits up really straight and he seems so regal, but he really likes to kind of get down and dirty with his acting and so do I. So it was great fun and a real honor.”

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May 31, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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