Primarily known for memorable dramatic roles, Jake Gyllenhaal now embarks on his first action-adventure film with Walt Disney Pictures’ Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Inspired by the best-selling video game series, the movie is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and the same team behind the blockbuster franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.
Jake’s role as Dastan, the Prince of Persia, is one of his most high-profile to date. He is seen by many fans of the game as a curious choice for the part. He takes the lead in this potential blockbuster and admits he trained hard for the wealth of heavy action sequences the movie contains.
Q: What attracted you to this movie and the part of Prince Dastan?
Jake Gyllenhaal: On a personal front, it was something that was so unlikely to find myself doing. It was unlike anything I’d ever played. But when I talked to director Mike Newell about it, it wasn’t just a video game adaptation. It was a massive epic that he had in the works. They had a real classic story, that was emotional and real, and it was filled with massive turns and twists. Every day during filming you must keep in your mind where you are, how you got there and who fooled who. It is like Usual Suspects and that makes it intriguing to me. Also, if these movies are going to get done, they should be done by the best and Jerry Bruckheimer is the one to make them!
Q: Can you talk us through how you prepared for the physical nature of the role?
Gyllenhaal: I did a lot of training, a lot of running, working out and different types of sports. I am someone who doesn’t love to be inside so I enjoyed being outdoors. I was training like I was going into battle. As from the video game Dastan has to be very agile. It is not just like Gladiator-style fighting although we have all of that. It is also about being able to jump over walls and climb up and run on them. I simulated that as much as I could in training.
Q: How much of the stunt work and Parkour have you been able to do yourself?
Gyllenhaal: I worked in LA for a few weeks with a Parkour guy. Surprisingly, a lot of what they taught me just started to come easily. There is a lot of hanging, and learning how to move your body in the right way. It is all about the landing. But if there is one thing I’ve learned on this movie, it’s if someone asks you to do something, you’ve just got to try it. If you don’t try, you’ll regret it for the rest of your time. This movie affords you the opportunity to do a lot of crazy things that you wouldn’t normally be able to.
Q: Had you played the Prince of Persia games before and did you feel a sense of responsibility bringing the iconic character of the Prince to life?
Gyllenhaal: I have played a lot of real people in my films and there is equal pressure there. When I was young, I played the game a lot. But what was important for me was to bring some realism into this world that was not fully based on reality. I feel a responsibility because the Prince in the video games has a personality. He has a story but you don’t really know it. As an actor, you get to put the expression on that character and get to make a new path for what the character is, rather than being nervous you will screw up what was there.
Q: What was the most fun part of making a movie like this?
Gyllenhaal: When you are a kid, you play like this and go outside with your friends and play fight. We are doing this every day. The best for me is I’ve never done a lot of sword fighting, hand-on-hand and combat. But we also get humor and performance in the middle of it all. I find that so difficult. I have utter respect for those who can put that type of feeling into the role while battering someone. It is like chewing gum and walking at the same time! It is really tough for actors.
Q: How have you found working with director Mike Newell?
Gyllenhaal: It is great working with Mike. There is such an unlikely cast of characters in this movie which is so great. No one is out to prove anything; everyone is out to discover something. That is the difference between this movie and so many other movies like it. As for Mike, this is the guy who directed "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and he’s done "Harry Potter" as well, it’s great. Every day is bigger, faster and funnier—not in a laughable way—but we always find the reality of a situation through him.
Q: Assuming the first is a success, are you looking forward to the prospect of shooting one or two more Prince of Persia sequels?
Gyllenhaal: Yes, after doing this it will be hard to go back to smaller characters. There’s a type of high when you make a movie like this. Every day is infectious, there are days when you get tired, but even on my Sundays off I worked out twice as that was where my head was. I am prepared for whatever comes my way.
Opening soon across the Philippines, Prince of Persia : The Sands of Time is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.