Over the last few years, the thing that has separated Jake Gyllenhaal from a lot of his peers is that it’s kind of obvious how much thought he puts into what movies he’s going to do. Not that other actors don’t, but it’s almost like we can actually imagine Gyllenhaal anguishing over whether to do a role or not. Because we know once he does choose to do a role, he’s going all in. It’s at the point that – almost to the point of being unfair expectations – that if Gyllenhaal is in a movie, we assume it will be really good.
Life is the perfect example. On its own, it has a director, Daniel Espinosa, who has made well-received films. It has a great cast that includes Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds. It was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who wrote Deadpool and Zombieland. But then when we find out Jake Gyllenhaal is in the cast, it gets upgraded another level. We just assume it will be good because Gyllenhaal has a reputation of making good movies.
The plot of Life is fairly straightforward: Six astronauts are on the International Space Station studying an organism that was found on Mars. The life form, nicknamed Calvin, turns out to be a killing machine, as he devours crew members one by one.
Gyllenhaal has made many suspenseful movies — Zodiac, Enemy, Prisoners, Nightcrawler – but this is his first full-on horror film. Ahead, Gyllenhaal explains why he wanted to make a horror film and why Life turned out to be even more interesting than he thought it would be. Also, Gyllenhall reflects on the ten-year anniversary of Zodiac and shares some nice memories of his Nightcrawler co-star, Bill Paxton.
I kind of wasn’t expecting Life to be so terrifying.
Yeah! I think it’s scary, which is fun. It’s very scary.
If you look at everyone involved – you, the rest of the cast, the writers who wrote Deadpool – it doesn’t scream “horror movie.”
Yeah, it’s an unlikely group of people – combination of people – but I think somehow, because of Daniel Espinosa, the tone of the movie found itself with the organism that he brought together. You know, all the people end up making the thing, what it’s supposed to be. But it was terrifying to read. I mean, the script is literally, absolutely terrifying to read. So, all we were really doing was following that. And we had an incredible crew of people making the movie more interesting than I think I even expected it to be – and even in just terms of how it looked. I mean, the reality of the space station – how it was shot by cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, who’s incredible. I think it was just all of it. Every aspect of it heightens it. But it’s always scary as shit, I’ve got to say, from the beginning.
You said it even turned out more interesting than you thought it’d be. Does that happen a lot?
I mean, it’s what you hope. You hope you can always elevate material and a lot of times that has to do with the craftsmanship and the crew. And performance, definitely, but mostly the fundamentals of a movie can be elevated by those people. And in this case, it’s what you hope for. It’s a really fun and entertaining movie which could easily be just that, but there’s a real sort of tinge of artistry throughout it as a result of all the talented people who are making it.
I didn’t even think about this until the day after I saw it, but the weightless scenes look so good I think my brain just assumed you guys were in space.
Yeah, my friend said that to me last night after they saw it. They were like, “Yeah, it was weird, it looked so good. I didn’t know you guys had done it the way you did,” which is pretty cool.
I have no idea how it was done.
We were on wires the whole time.