The handsome actor balances a dedication to his craft with life as a tabloid fixture. With an Oscar nomination for his turn as a gay cowboy, what will The Day After Tomorrow bring?
Born in Los Angeles in 1980, Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal is the son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and producer/screenwriter, Naomi Foner Achs. Film making and acting certainly run in the Gyllenhaal family and his sister Maggie is also a successful actress in her own right.
Having studied at the exclusive Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, Gyllenhaal went on to read Eastern Religion at Columbia University for two years, before his early dalliances with acting took over.
He landed his debut film role when he was just 11-years-old, playing Billy Crystal’s son in ‘City Slickers’. Over the next few years, he cropped up in ‘A Dangerous Woman’, ‘Josh and S.A.M’ and ‘Homegrown’. However, he was far from becoming a child star thanks to his parent’s insistence that he complete his education before turning to full time acting.
1999 saw Gyllenhaal strike out on his own in the film ‘October Sky’, based on the autobiography of Homer Hickam Jr. The film was a US box office hit and is credited for the ease with which he found new film offers once he quit Columbia University two years later.
2001 was a busy year for the young star and saw the release of the cult classic ’Donnie Darko’. Starring opposite his sister Maggie and Patrick Swayze, he excelled as a troubled student with a giant, silent rabbit as a guardian angel. Following on from the release of Disney’s ‘Bubble Boy’, Jake took on two unconventional roles as the object of the affections of Catherine Keener in ‘Lovely and Amazing’ and Jennifer Aniston in ‘The Good Girl’.
Acting on career advice passed on by Dustin Hoffman while filming ‘Moonlight Mile’, he next took a part in the London West End production of ‘This Is Our Youth’. Having transferred from Broadway, the play, and Gyllenhaal in particular, wooed the critics. In 2002, he walked away with the London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer.
Gyllenhaal’s personal life also received a boost around this time when he began dating Kirsten Dunst. The pair had been introduced by his sister. Despite narrowly missing out on the role of Spiderman opposite his new girlfriend, Jake found himself starring in the doom-laden blockbuster ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. The film was an unexpected success and while his career had now hit the big time, his relationship with Dunst moved into one of those all too familiar ‘on/off’ affairs devoured by the tabloid press.
Focusing on his work, Gyllenhaal went on to star in director Ang Lee's 2005 drama ‘Brokeback Mountain’ alongside Heath Ledger, which explored the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men. The film was a critical and worldwide commercial success and won four Golden Globe Awards, as well as a raft of other accolades.
The same year also saw him star in ‘Jarhead’, a movie based on a 2003 Gulf War memoir, which also featured stars Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris Cooper. The movie, which received mostly positive reviews and performed well at the box office, was followed by ‘Proof’ in the same year and ‘Zodiac’ in 2007.
‘Rendition’ (2007) allowed Gyllenhaal to work with Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep, while 2009 war drama ‘Brothers’ saw him star alongside Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire. He went on to star in Jerry Bruckheimer's 2010 blockbuster ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’, which featured Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and Alfred Molina. Later that year, Gyllenhaal took the lead romantic role in 'Love And Other Drugs' alongside Anne Hathaway. He played a prescription drugs salesmen who falls in love with a woman suffering from Parkinson's disease.
In 2011, the actor played the main role in 'Source Code' - an action thriller centred on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and has to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train before it explodes. The actor then sported a bald head in order to film his police drama 'End of Watch', released in 2012. his latest roles include 'Nightcrawler' (2014) and 'Everest' (2015).
He is also a politically active star and supporter of various initiatives, including the Rock the Vote advertising campaign for the Democratic party during the 2004 election campaign, as well as promoting environmental causes and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gyllenhaal has been romantically linked to Witherspoon and musician Taylor Swift during the course of his career.