Ever since his stirring performance in Donnie Darko, Jake Gyllenhaal has been lauded as one of the best actors of his generation. One reason for this is the sheer dedication he shows for each movie he appears in. Things haven’t changed for the upcoming Southpaw.
As you can see he is in peak physical condition for his role as a redemption seeking boxer. This is in stark contrast to his scarecrow figure in his previous film Nightcrawler, where he plays a ‘stringer’, another name for a breaking news videographer.
He reportedly lost 10kg or more for the role in the dark, creepy film. Speaking about it he said it’s what the character had to be.
“I knew that [Lou] was literally and figuratively hungry, [so I got into the] mode where I was always a bit hungry. The movie takes place, in a land where I think there is a desert in a lot of ways, great opulence, and at the same time, great vastness and emptiness.”
For Southpaw he packs that weight back on in the form of lean muscle, undergoing an extensive and professional training regime.
It’s this willingness to go all the way for a character, the ability to transform himself completely simply to personify a character someone has created on paper, that has him admired within the acting world. The physical changes from Nightcrawler to Southpaw aren’t the only ones he’s undertaken. For 2010’s Prince of Persia, he bulked up considerably before dropping back down again to his normal weight.
Only the special actors find this sort of passion and dedication within themselves. That’s why Gyllenhaal and others like him, such as Christian Bale, will always be remembered.
One has to wonder though if such fluctuations can affect long-term health, especially in Bales case, as he’s yo-yoed drastically throughout his career. There is the opinion that ‘While losing a substantial amount of weight quickly can lead to an extreme difficulty eating and digesting food as well as other serious health problems when the role is over, gaining too much weight is bad for the bones and heart in the long run as well. It turns out that such rapid fluctuations are terrible in either direction.’
However, most actors/actresses who commit to such practices stress that they enjoy the challenge and it’s the only way to deliver an authentic performance. All in the name of art.
Southpaw is in American theatres now and will be released to the rest of the world over the next couple of months.