Jake Gyllenhaal is never one to shy away from a difficult or challenging roles. When he was given the script for his latest film, Demolition he knew that this was a role he had to tackle. In the film, Gyllenhaal plays Davis Mitchell, a New York investment banker who is pretty much sleepwalking through his successful life. He goes through his daily motions, but for some reason, he just doesn’t seem happy.
When a horrible car crash takes the life of his wife, Davis’s behaviour really starts to get bizarre. Friends and family gather round to console him, but Davis seems to feel nothing. Seemingly unfazed by his loss yet preoccupied with his inability to get a candy bar from a hospital vending machine, Davis takes to writing letters of complaint to the Champion Vending Machine Company. The letters are answered by Karen (Naomi Watts), an employee at the vending machine company. Davis’ letters somehow resonate with Karen. As he finds himself undertaking a life of random acts of destruction, dismantling everything from household appliances to an office washroom stall, he and Karen forge a strange and unlikely alliance and finds himself bonding not only with her but her troubled 12-year-old son Chris (played beautifully by newcomer Judah Lewis).
Demolition, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) opened the Toronto International Film Festival back in September and was easily one of the films that people were buzzing about. Not only has Vallee had a good track record when it comes to directing, but Jake Gyllenhaal has proven himself time and time again that he is not afraid to dig into difficult roles (Southpaw, Enemy, Prisoners).
Not only did Gyllenhaal get to take out all of his aggression and stress literally demolishing a house but Vallee also asked him to dance in the middle of the streets in New York during the busiest times of the day. “I think that is what scared me most about making this film,” Jake said during our recent interview in New York. ” I am not a great dancer and to let loose like that in front of the camera with all of these strangers watching me was terrifying. But Jean-Marc just told me to go for it and I did.”
Gyllenhaal was not only intrigued by the script but the opportunity to understand where his character Davis was coming from and how he deals with tragedy. “It’s really a story about a guy who starts off in a conventional way and ends up with an unconventional journey. He feels what he feels and ultimately is oblivious to how society tells him to feel,” Gyllenhaal explained. “That’s uncomfortable as an actor. It’s not what you’ve been told grief is supposed to be, but discovering as you go along. And doing it with Vallee by my side was an added bonus.”
As for actually demolishing a house it was probably the scene Gyllenhaal was most looking forward to. “We always did something physical,” Gyllenhaal said during a packed press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“Vallee built half of a house and he gave us the tools to basically destroy the house ourselves,” the actor recounted. Gyllenhaal said Vallee kicked off the demolition work to relieve his own stress on set: “He really looked forward to breaking some windows.”
Up next, Gyllenhaal has plenty on his plate. The actor has about six more movies to shoot over the course of the next few years including a film called Life with Ryan Reynolds, where an international space crew discovers life on Mars.
Check out my exclusive interview with Jake Gyllenhaal where he discusses his work in Demolition, what initially drew him to the character and how he feels about the art of communication in today’s society.
Demolition is in theatres April 8th.