Nowadays the zodiac is just something that late night 900 ads talk about. Thirty years ago, there was a killer named The Zodiac, whose crimes were so random no cop could catch him. Newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith became intrigued by the crimes and wrote a book about them. Jake Gyllenhaal plays him in the movie Zodiac.
How hard is it to play someone who actually exists?
It’s easy now. It’s different with every story, and it’s different with how every director approaches it. I’ve considered characters that I’ve played that aren’t necessarily real people to be people that are still living out there, or have lived, who have struggled with the same things. I think Jack Twist [from Brokeback Mountain] is just as much of a real person as Tony Swofford [from Jarhead]. I approached both in the same way. They’re aspects of every person, everybody’s personality. Particularly with something like Jack Twist, I went and I met with a lot of different cowboys and rode horses and learned how to pack mules and do all those things, and that became a big part of that character for me.
How did you get Graysmith right?
We met many times and he’s been to the set. He was just on set my last day of work. I actually videotaped him and that was a choice of mine. I think it just depends on the story. With Robert Graysmith it’s a different style, because [director] David Fincher is very much into the reality of what happened. He’s filming the murders exactly inch by inch, literally how it happened and where the bodies were, and how they moved, and all those things, so it’s based in a real reality, things that really happened, things they really said, so for me it’s very important to get idiosyncrasies of Robert Graysmith.
How intense is David Fincher?
He’s extraordinary in his own separate, very different way. It’s a totally different universe. I’ve never seen a movie that looks like it. The technical things he is doing are like all new, never been done before. I think that it’s also a different move for him because it’s performance driven too, which is not to say that the other one’s haven’t been but there’s lots of dialogue and all this stuff that he’s dealing with and it’s definitely a different universe.
You’ve done so many serious movies now, you have to do a light romantic comedy next.
I don’t HAVE to do it but if you WANT me to. [Laughs] I would love to. I’m doing this movie about a serial killer and it’s a long movie and it’s a 100-day shoot and I think I need a little humour in my life after this.
A lot of your fans can’t see these R-rated movies, you know.
I’m not trying to pander or not pander to a certain audience. I think that’s pretty clear and I don’t think I make choices thinking like I have some sort of audience. But of course I’ve had a lot of young girls come up to me and they’re so cute and so sweet and I’m so flattered. It happens a lot with them and it’s pretty cool that the same day you’ll go to a street fair and a guy who has no pants on, like his butt cheeks are coming out of his leather pants, and he says he likes my movie too. So it’s a pretty interesting existence.
How do you feel about being a sex symbol?
I don’t know what I am [JW edit: Your a sex symbol Jake, give it up). I really just pick these things. I’m lucky enough to get them. I’ve been the new It guy for a long time.
Do you have time to stop and smell the roses, or are you going nonstop?
I think about doing a play I did on the West End in London and at that time it was the best experience I’ve ever had as an actor and from that spawned a relationship with John Madden who saw me in a play and then the relationship with Sam Mendes who saw me in that play and decided to have me read for Jarhead because of that. It’s just like thinking about all the connections, and meeting David Fincher at the premiere of The Good Girl and having the time that I had on that movie. All those things are always in my mind and it’s so f*cking incredible.
Does coming from a showbiz family make you more competitive?
The standards are pretty low in my family. [Laughs] My family is really easy, just like every family. It’s all easy. We all get along, everything is fantastic and the standards are really high and my parents have always made movies that I think are good. Like my mom’s mantra is that it’s always about the story and I feel really proud of the movies that I’ve done.
Do they give you advice about your choices?
They did, they used to, but they still influence me because of the past but I now have to go and do what my instincts tell me. I still come to them. Like if I was having a problem or difficulty with a scene or I didn’t feel like it was working, I’d call Maggie all the time and say, “I’m feeling this way and I don’t understand.” And she’d say, “It sounds perfect.”
Were you ever tempted to do something different away from acting?
Like being a chef?That’s a temptation and has always been but I started so young that I didn’t realize I was just as passionate about that.
What’s the best thing you can cook?
I think if I were to tell you my best dish it would prove I was a real amateur. There’s people who are not really good cooks but I’m going to be really confident when I say, “Oh, my Milanese is amazing.”
Where do you see yourself in 30 years?
Can I see myself in 30 years? Yeah, God, I hope so. I think age is something that’s earned and I don’t know how I see myself, but I hopefully see myself still here and doing something interesting, whatever it is.