Jake Gyllenhaal on His Demolition Role: "I Was Embarrassed to Play the Character Because He's so Similar to Me"

Jake Gyllenhaal in Austin for SXSW
Photo: Sandra Dahdah/Getty Images for SXSW

Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is one of the buzziest films at SXSW, thanks to its heartbreaking screenplay (Gyllenhaal plays a man who loses his wife in a car accident then struggles to make sense of his life and rewrite his priorities). But despite the heavy premise, the actor incorporates a unique mix of comedy amidst the drama as his character works on rebuilding his life. Following the U.S. premiere in Austin, Texas, this weekend, Gyllenhaal, Vallée, and screenwriter Bryan Sipe sat down with the teary-eyed and captivated SXSW crowd to discuss the story and Gyllenhaal's character.

"It's a fun story to watch and a really moving one as well. I was actually a little embarrassed to play the part because sometimes I felt like the character was really close to myself, but that's all that Jean-Marc wanted," Gyllenhaal said. "I'm thankful to him for that."

Gyllenhaal joked about texting Vallée prior to shooting in an attempt to rehearse, yet rehearsals never materialized before they began shooting. "It's a sign of a great director when they say, 'good idea!' to an actor and then they don't listen to your idea," Gyllenhaal said. "So I just showed up on set without doing all of the things that I usually do to create a character because Jean-Marc didn't want anything to do with that nonsense. He just wanted me."

Demolition opens in theaters nationwide April 8.

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