Reviews from critics and fans alike have touted Jake Gyllenhaal‘s new film Nightcrawler as one of the (if not the most) engaging thrillers of the year. Nightcrawler, which is also director Dan Gilroy’s debut feature film, finds a gaunt Gyllenhaal as the protagonist Lou Bloom, a petty criminal who becomes a crime scene cameraman looking to profit from documenting and creating carnage in the streets of LA. The result is a film that explores news sensationalism while juxtaposing it against morality, and the almighty quest for ratings. Life+Times spoke with Gyllenhaal about his work on the film, working with Gilroy, and what he wants audiences to take away after seeing this movie.
Life+Times: Nightcrawler explores the world of underground crime journalism. How did you prepare for this role?
Jake Gyllenhaal: On a research level I went out with actual stringers (or nightcrawlers) and drove around L.A. at night going to crime scenes and accidents. They’re a hardcore crew, competing against each other to be first at the scene. Early on, one of them told me how he saw a car stall in the fast lane on the 405 [freeway] and how he pulled over and set up his camera and waited until a major three car pile-up happened and then sold the footage for the morning news. There was no talk of calling 911 and reporting the stalled car. He saw it as doing his job. It was an insight into the job and how they approach it.
I also spent three months getting into the character’s head. I wanted him to look hungry and be hungry – literally and figuratively – so I dropped around 25 pounds to get him looking and feeling like he was living meal to meal; scrounging around for whatever he could find. Like a wild animal.
L+T: This is Dan Gilroy’s debut feature. How was it working with him? Why did you take on this role?
JG: Dan is a genius level writer and director. I read the script and Dan flew down while I was doing Prisoners in Atlanta and we just connected. Creatively we saw the material in the same way – he wanted to push all the creative limits and I loved that. We also both agreed that Lou was gangster. He had me at gangster. Also, we both agreed that really at its heart it is a true success story, and that by coming at it in that way it opened up the chance to create a character that went beyond a label of bad or good, to create a character that you connected to despite what he was doing on the screen. Keeping that connection alive with the audience, not allowing the audience to reduce the movie to just the study of a sociopath, that’s what we were always working on.
L+T: This film blurs the line between reporting the news and creating it. Do you think that’s something that we’re seeing now in news reporting, with regards to topical, celebrity, etc?
JG: Back in the 70’s the networks decided that news division had to make a profit. From that point on news has increasingly become entertainment. Local stations and networks are both locked in a war for ratings and the only way to win is by showing stories driven by dramatic, violent, and graphic images. Context is minimized or ignored and the story is often spun to heighten danger and fear. So yeah, I do think the line is blurred.
L+T: What do you want the audience to take away from seeing this film?
JG: I have never been as excited about a film I’ve made as I am about this one. I think we’ve made a unique and totally engaging film, and that’s important, but in terms of take-away I hope people watch the film and say “Hey, maybe the real problem isn’t Lou, maybe it’s the world that created him and rewards him.” We created this character. We ordered him by our own decisions, including what we choose to watch and consume. Most of all, I hope they walk away loving Lou and the originality of his view of the world. He is – good or bad – the ultimate entrepreneur.
Nightcrawler opens nationwide Friday, October 31, 2014. For more information, click here.