We've seen him play a cowboy struggling with his sexuality, a marine preparing to be shipped out to war and a thief-turned-photographer. Now, Jake Gyllenhaal, 34, is tackling what might be his most challenging role yet. In Everest, Jake adds to his already-impressive resume by playing real-life mountain climber Scott Fischer, who faced the treacherous summit in 1996. The handsome leading man joins a great cast including Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin and Robin Wright in the big-screen adventure.
As Everest hits theatres, Jake is touching down in Toronto to celebrate the world premiere of yet another one of his buzzed-about films, Demolition, on the opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Here, Jake opens up about his childhood adventures, biggest fears and the reality of dating on-set.
This movie is all about a daunting climb. Did you have any climbing experience?
When I was a kid, I would go on adventures with my dad. We would go climbing. I went to camp and would climb Mount Washington when I was a kid, and I always loved being outdoors. I am not an avid rock climber, but I do like getting into a little trouble in the outdoors. It's just a place that I love being.
Was it stressful to portray a real person, Scott Fischer?
His son wrote me and said they were "a little worried about how our father's going to be portrayed." So I met with him and his sister and did a lot of research trying to figure out who this guy was.
It sounds like family played a large role in this movie, both on- and off-screen.
I do feel like that's what makes this movie so beautiful. It always, ultimately, comes back to those relationships - family, loved ones. No matter how extreme and what you do for a living and how much you push yourself physically or mentally, it always comes back to the people that you love.
During filming, did you ever consider trying to take on Mount Everest?
[Laughs] I think it tests your patience. I would have a hard time staying there for three months, acclimatizing to the space. It's a totally different world. For me, it's really about the internal question: whether or not it's really one of my goals. I don't think Everest is one of my goals, but I think that it's a beautiful metaphor.
Fear seems to be a theme in many of your recent movies. What scares you?
I am probably most scared of not living! [Laughs] Dishonesty also frightens me, in myself and in other people. But I think I am physically just sometimes afraid of heights - certain heights just don't seem natural to me. I fear many things. This idea of fearlessness seems like a very strange idea to me.
What did you learn about nature on the Everest set?
In terms of extremes, I think nature showed me how easy it is to grow a beard and grow my hair - as opposed to losing weight and learning how to box [Laughs]
You've been romantically linked to actresses in the past. Do you find dating at work to be an occupational hazard?
I want to make a great movie and that's all that matters. I may be guilty of a lot of things, but [falling in love with my co-stars is not one of them]. Don't believe everything that pops up on the internet.