C’MON, as if you don’t know who Jake Gyllenhaal is! The star of The Day After Tomorrow, Brokeback Mountain and Donnie Darko has taken a bit of a career detour, starring as an orphan in the Persian Empire adopted by the king in Prince of Persia. BBM caught up with Jake in this Australian exclusive.
This film is something different for you, what attracted you to the role?
Mostly it was just the fact that I love watching this type of film. So it’s hard to deny yourself the opportunity to be up there on screen acting in one of them. There are all sorts of different aspects to acting, but if you’re a very physical person as I am, it’s great to just jump around for once, to leap off buildings, ride horses, play with swords and get into a lot of fights. It’s really great fun. The other thing is that if you’re going to do a huge movie, then do it with people who know how to do it, and there’s no one better than Jerry Bruckheimer.
Dastan has a bit of Indiana Jones in him. Was that one of your inspirations?
Oh yes, definitely, along with Dennis the Menace and all the rest. I like that Dastan’s a mischief-maker, a bit of a curmudgeon, that he nearly always thinks he’s right and that he’s quite sarcastic and wry and above all very cheeky.
You’ve played various characters based on real people, but where do you begin with a fictitious 6th century Persian prince?
There’s lots of pretentious research I could tell you about, but it really did start with the accent and also with projecting my voice. For a movie like this to be successful, you need a grand scale to everything, a bigness, something theatrical. I worked with a voice coach, and she brought in these ancient texts. I would stand at one end of the pool in Los Angeles, she’d stand at the other end, and I would shout things like, “Over the wall, men! Over the wall!” It was like doing theatre. It put a bit more fire inside, made me feel a bit more like a warrior. There was a lot of physical work too.
What did that involve?
It was six months of training and what was important about it to me was that it was very functional. I wore a flak jacket and carried an extra 20 pounds when I went on a run to simulate the armour, which is very heavy. Whenever I ran I’d also carry something in my hand to get used to running with a sword. I also did lots of boxing to make sure I was even on both sides, because Dastan often fights with two swords at once.
You never thought about getting a stuntman to do the difficult bits?
[Laughs] No, I always want to do as much as I can myself. And I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to fight sequences. I want to get every move down perfectly, and I refuse to accept anything less than that.
Prince of Persia is available on Blu-ray & DVD from October 20th