A real blast from the past: Jake Gyllenhaal is twisting time again in sci-fi thriller Source Code

He tells Gill Pringle it's good to turn back the clock

If Jake Gyllenhaal had just eight minutes left to live, it's safe to say the media-shy actor probably wouldn't spend that precious time with a journalist. "I think if I was in that situation, I would call my family and it wouldn't be to apologise but it would be, hopefully, to have a good laugh. To hear them laugh because I love that with my family. And if that eight minutes came right now, I'd be, 'Sorry I got to go. I'm gonna have to cut our interview short'," he laughs.

If it seems like a curious conversation to have with one of Hollywood's most sought-after young leading men then it's because it's pertinent to the many questions posed by Duncan Jones's thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, Source Code.

Portraying an injured US helicopter pilot whose dying brain is enabled by scientists to rewind at eight-minute spans, this isn't Gyllenhaal's first look at time-travel theories, a decade earlier starring as sleep-walking teen Donnie Darko in the time-travel cult classic.

"I'm fascinated by the concept of time. I really love mining that stuff," says the actor. "For me, this movie, philosophically, is a representation of the idea that we have little births and little deaths every day. If we pay attention to them we can grow."

Born and raised in Hollywood to director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, drama was in his DNA, he and older sister, Maggie, both beginning their careers while still at school.

Just 11 years old when he won a minor role in Billy Crystal's City Slickers, he went on to star with Debra Winger in A Dangerous Woman, directed by his father. Appearing in a further film directed by his dad, the pot comedy Homegrown, by 1998 he was ready to strike out alone, starring as Chris Cooper's science geek son in October Sky. His performance resulting in a huge teenage following of love-struck girls known as Gyllenhaalics.

With his striking big blue eyes and chiselled leading-man features, he could have easily been just another pretty boy but, determined to escape type-casting, he took on a string of diverse roles with The Good Girl, Moonlight Mile, Jarhead, Zodiac and Proof, also trying his hand at big-bucks blockbusters Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time and The Day after Tomorrow.

Perhaps the most defining moment of his career, thus far, was his role as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain's tale of forbidden love between two cowboys. He was nominated for an Oscar together with co-star Heath Ledger in what would become one of the most celebrated films of 2005.

In his private life, he's dated Kirsten Dunst and Reese Witherspoon, followed by a brief fling with country singer Taylor Swift late last year, although he prefers to discuss love in the abstract offering instead. "What I believe about love is that, whether it's with your family, whether it's with somebody you fall in love with and have a relationship with, your partner or whatever, it's all about being seen. It's all about someone saying, 'I see you. I see who you are. I love who you are. I appreciate who you are'," says the actor whose status is currently single.

At just 30 years old, Gyllenhaal has already made more than 20 films compared to Source Code director Duncan Jones, marking only his second time in the director's seat after his dazzling debut, Moon, wooed the collective heart of Hollywood.

"As giddy and innocent as Duncan is in his press, which I think is genuine and very wonderful and positive," ventures Gyllenhaal, "when he's on set he reminds me of someone like Ang Lee. He's quiet, he hardly says a word. He's strangely confident in this way where he allows people to be themselves and then ultimately you realise you're in his vortex! He really empowers his actors. I responded to his confidence as a visionary with Moon – I could feel it in that movie – and because I also have a certain amount of experience there was a real camaraderie between the two of us. Duncan and I had to be almost in sync because you see the story through the character I'm playing so if he made a choice I had to move with that choice, we couldn't really veer off each other's choices.

"Bottom line is that, as a director, Duncan feels like a contemporary but at the same time he's just as in charge as somebody like Ang Lee or David Fincher or Sam Mendes or anybody I've worked with which is a rare quality for a young film-maker on a second movie."

One of the perks – or pitfalls – of being an actor is that you never quite know what you'll be called upon to portray, thus it was with great consternation that Gyllenhaal peered upon the Source Code replica of himself, torso severed in half, his partially exposed brain hooked up to a computer with electrodes.

"It was pretty creepy to behold," he admits. "They had my eyes moving and my lips, it was quite freaky. The process of doing those things, making the cast and everything, is often even weirder than when you see the result of it because its so suffocating and strange.

"But I've never seen something that looked so much like me and I even took a picture of it with me with my thumb up and then got really paranoid because I didn't want anyone to like steal my phone and find my picture and be like 'that's the end of the source code!' The brilliance of the artistry of how they did it is what blew me away more than anything."

Asked what became of his life-like torso after filming, he quips. "It's now my pillow. I wake up every morning and go 'Aaah, what a wonderful face to wake up to!' "

If his character in Source Code spends much of the film on board a train, then, unlike many actors of his stature, Gyllenhaal doesn't eschew public transport or any of the mundanities of a regular life. Often spotted in coffee shops or out jogging or grocery shopping, he ponders the last time he used public transport. "About three weeks ago, I think. Trains are the best form of transport – particularly in New York city or in a large city. I wish we had a functioning metro system here. It would be amazing," says the Los Angeles-based actor who, while well known for his liberal politics and social awareness, is reluctant to be associated with the clichés involved with being a Hollywood actor talking politics.

Having carved out a reputation as an actor who takes his job seriously, he is today in the luxurious position of no longer having to take work to pay the rent. "When I was first working, I would just take whatever I was cast for. But now, it's like I have to have 'that feeling'. I've done movies where I didn't have that feeling and I knew the audience didn't either. So every time I have that feeling, I know that I'm taking the audience along with me and they're gonna say, 'What's this about?' because I've made enough consistent choices that they go, 'It may be interesting what he's doing, let's check it out'. I just feel the responsibility to people who might go see it that there is something new in it. I respect the audience so much and I think it comes from growing up with storytellers. I watch movies a lot, I get feelings from movies, I love watching trailers, I love hearing directors, actors and everybody whose job has to do with movies".

Having bonded with Ledger on Brokeback Mountain, he reflects on their experience working together without rose-coloured glasses, saying, "A lot of times, the most wonderful, interesting movies are not exactly fun to make. One of the hardest processes I went through – and I'd say that every actor would agree on this – and which wasn't a tonne of fun was Brokeback Mountain. Yet we loved each other on that movie so much that we are all still close and we will be for the rest of our lives. Also if that movie would have been successful or not, financially or whatever, there was still something special about it, even though it didn't feel good at the time.

"So in accepting this role, working with Duncan, I wasn't sure if it would be fun but I knew it was gonna be rad! There's a mystery about Duncan that is totally original."

If audiences may be sceptical as to whether Gyllenhaal's ultimately heroic character in Source Code actually has time to fall in love while saving the world, he's optimistic. "I think everybody has time to fall in love when they're doing anything. I think there's always some time for that. But don't just take it from me, you should ask the presidents of countries if they have time to fall in love while they're trying to save the world."

'Source Code' opens tomorrow

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition