By Erin Lukas
Updated Oct 20, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
Jake Gyllenhaal
Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage

In the new ad campaign for Calvin Klein's Eternity fragrance, Jake Gyllenhaal plays the role he and everyone else wants him to have the most: a doting father.

"That's redundant," Gyllenhaal said at a press roundtable when asked about the "hot dad" reception his ad's received. "Every dad should feel that way." That's why the campaign depicting the actor, model-activist Liya Kebede, and 4-year-old actress Leila as a happy modern family zeroes in on everyday moments, instead running through fields of flowers or a PG-13 rendezvous on the beach between lovers—two narratives that fragrance ads have told time and time again to the point where oftentimes they all sort of melt into one.

It's the sole reason that, despite Gyllenhaal's list of award-nominated film roles, he's never been the face of a brand. "I keep saying that [honesty is what sets this campaign apart] because whenever I see commercials about fragrances I think What? I don’t act like that. But I watch [the Eternity campaign ad] and think I like that. As an actor and storyteller, that’s what I’m always trying to get to. You pretend to get to truth in storytelling."

Instead, he worked closely with director Cary Fukunaga to create a simple, more realistic depiction of the love between two people. Reciting poetry to a child might not seem like a casual Sunday afternoon for many families, but after trying a number of activities from asking kid questions that the team Googled (like "Why is the sky blue?" and "Where did I come from?"), and painting, they found that Leila responded the most to poetry, specifically e.e. cummings's "[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in]."

"We started the questions and it was weird. It just didn’t really work," he toldreporters. "I would whisper questions in her ear and she was like, Why, what? We painted too; that was also weird. At one point, I was like, Just draw a line! And she did, but it was not really fun. She kept getting tired because she was bored. Then the e.e. cummings poem came up. Maybe it was the wordplay, the nonsensical quality, or the word love–she immediately woke up and was completely present. She would smile when I read things. So, I kept reading it over and over again and that was how that happened."

What did work instantly was casting Leila as Gyllenhaal and Kebede's child. "Of all the kids that came in the first thing she did is come up to me, got on my lap, went to my beard, and went [mimicking] ‘Cut, cut, cut.’ And I thought, she’s the one," he said.