Gyllenhaal has taken an activist role in supporting various political and social causes. He appeared in Rock the Vote advertising, campaigned for the Democratic Party in the 2004 election, and promoted environmental causes and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gyllenhaal graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1998, then attended Columbia University, where his sister and mother also attended, to study Eastern religions and philosophy. Gyllenhaal dropped out after two years to concentrate on acting, but has expressed intentions to eventually finish his degree. Gyllenhaal's first lead role was in October Sky, Joe Johnston's 1999 adaptation of the Homer Hickam autobiography Rocket Boys, in which he portrayed a young man from West Virginia striving to win a science scholarship to avoid becoming a coal miner. The film earned $32 million and was described in the Sacramento News and Review as Gyllenhaal's "breakout performance.
After the critical success of Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal's next role was as the lead character in 2002's Highway, a film ignored by audiences and critics alike. His performance was described by one critic as "silly, cliched and straight to video. Gyllenhaal had more success starring opposite Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival; he also starred in Lovely & Amazing with Catherine Keener. In both films he plays an unstable character who begins a reckless affair with an older woman. Gyllenhaal later described these as "teenager in transition" roles. Gyllenhaal later starred in the Touchstone Pictures romantic comedy Bubble Boy, which was loosely based on the story of David Vetter. The film portrays the title character's adventures as he pursues the love of his life before she marries the wrong man. The film was panned by critics, with one calling it an "empty-headed, chaotic, utterly tasteless atrocity".
Following Bubble Boy, Gyllenhaal starred opposite Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon and Ellen Pompeo in Moonlight Mile, as a young man coping with the death of his fiancée and the grief of her parents. The story, which received mixed reviews, is loosely based on writer/director Brad Silberling's personal experiences following the murder of girlfriend Rebecca Schaeffer.
Gyllenhaal was almost cast as Spider-Man for Spider-Man 2 due to director Sam Raimi's concerns about original Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire`s health. Maguire recovered, however, and the sequel was shot without Gyllenhaal. Instead, Gyllenhaal starred in the blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow in 2004, co-starring Dennis Quaid as his father.
In his theatrical debut Gyllenhaal starred on the London stage in Kenneth Lonergan's revival of This is Our Youth. Gyllenhaal said, "Every actor I look up to has done theatre work, so I knew I had to give it a try. The play, which had been a critical sensation on Broadway, ran for eight weeks in London's West End. Gyllenhaal received favorable critical reviews and an Evening Standard Theatre Award in the category "Outstanding Newcomer.
In Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger play young men who meet as sheep herders and embark upon a sexual relationship that begins in the summer of 1963 and continues until the death of Gyllenhaal's character in 1983. The film was often referred to in the media with the shorthand phrase "the gay cowboy movie, though there was differing opinion on the sexual orientation of the characters. The film won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. The film went on to win four Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, and three Academy Awards. Gyllenhaal was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his performance, but lost to George Clooney for Syriana. Gyllenhaal also won the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for the same role and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination and Best Film Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. Also for "Brokeback Mountain", he and Ledger won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Kiss" in 2006. Shortly after the 2006 Academy Awards, Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy in recognition of his acting career. Most recently, Gyllenhaal was awarded the 2006 Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence by The Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards for his role.
Gyllenhaal expressed mixed feelings about the experience of being directed by Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain, but generally had more praise than criticism for Lee's directing style. While complaining of the way Lee tended to disconnect with his actors once filming began, Gyllenhaal praised his encouraging direction of the actors and sensitive approach to the material. At the Directors Guild of America Awards on January 28, 2006, Gyllenhaal also praised Lee for "his humbleness and his respect for everyone around him.
When asked about his kissing scenes with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal said, "As an actor, I think we need to embrace the times we feel most uncomfortable." When asked about the more intimate scenes with Ledger, Gyllenhaal likened them to "doing a sex scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to." Following the release of Brokeback Mountain, rumors circulated regarding the actor's sexual orientation. When asked about such gossip during an interview, Gyllenhaal said:
You know it's flattering when there's a rumor that says I'm bisexual. It means I can play more kinds of roles. I'm open to whatever people want to call me. I've never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don't think I would be afraid of it if it happened.
Gyllenhaal narrated the 2005 short animated film The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, based on Mordicai Gerstein's book of the same name about Philippe Petit's famous stunt. In January 2007, as host of Saturday Night Live, he put on a sparkly evening dress and sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from the musical Dreamgirls for his opening monologue, dedicating the song to his "unique fan base... the fans of Brokeback.
In 2007, Gyllenhaal starred in David Fincher's Zodiac, which was based on a true story. He played Robert Graysmith, a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist and author of two books about the Zodiac serial killer. Gyllenhaal stars opposite Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, and Reese Witherspoon in the October 2007 release Rendition, a Gavin Hood-directed political thriller about the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition. Gyllenhaal's next roles will be in Jim Sheridan's remake of Susanne Bier's 2004 Danish language film Brothers and Doug Liman's as yet untitled film about the race for lunar colonization. He will also shoot 2009's Nailed in South Carolina, opposite Jessica Biel.
Internationally viewed as a sex symbol, Gyllenhaal was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2006. He was also listed in People's "Hottest Bachelors of 2006 and their Top 10 Hottest Men of 2007. In response to mainstream press lists like these, thousands of gay and bisexual men were polled for the 2007 and in 2008 "AfterElton.com Hot 100 List." Gyllenhaal was ranked at #1 in both consecutive years. He was ranked at #2 on the Gay Wired Magazine poll of male actors who have played gay characters in movies.
On the show Entourage, Gyllenhaal, though not featured on screen, was the replacement for Vincent Chase in Aquaman 2 after Chase was fired.
On May 20, 2008 it was announced that Gyllenhaal will play the lead role in the movie adaptation of the video game Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. As of July 2008, production has started.
Raised in a family concerned with social issues, Gyllenhaal has campaigned on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization which his entire family strongly supports. Environmentally conscious, he recycles regularly, and said in an interview that he spends $400 a year to have trees planted in a Mozambique forest, partly to promote the Future Forests program. After filming The Day After Tomorrow, he flew to the Arctic to promote awareness of climate change.
In his spare time, Gyllenhaal enjoys woodworking and cooking. He has said, "I am not a card-carrying Buddhist, but I do try to practice mindfulness" and it is his goal to meditate every day.
|1991||City Slickers||Danny Robbins|
|1993||''Josh and S.A.M.||Leon|
|1999||October Sky||Homer Hickam Jr.|
|2001||Donnie Darko||Donald J. "Donnie" Darko|
|Bubble Boy||Jimmy Livingston|
|Lovely & Amazing||Jordan|
|Moonlight Mile||Joe Nast|
|The Good Girl||Thomas 'Holden' Worther|
|2003||Abby Singer||Himself (Cameo)|
|2004||The Day After Tomorrow||Sam Hall|
|2005||Brokeback Mountain||Jack Twist|
|Jarhead||Anthony Swofford ("Swoff")|
|Proof||Harold 'Hal' Dobbs|
|2010||Untitled Moon Project|
|Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time||Prince Dastan|
|2002||Young Hollywood Awards||Breakthrough Performance - Male||Won|
|Independent Spirit Awards||Best Male Lead||Nominated||Donnie Darko|
|2003||Chlotrudis Awards||Best Actor||Won|
|DVD Exclusive Awards||DVD Premiere Award, Best Actor||Nominated||Highway|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Breakout Star - Male||Nominated||The Good Girl|
|2005||National Board of Review||Best Supporting Actor||Won||Brokeback Mountain|
|2006||MTV Movie Awards||Best Performance||Won|
|Screen Actors Guild||Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Award||Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|BAFTA||Best Supporting Actor||Won|
|Amy Macdonald 'I Well Wud' Awards||Fittest Celebrity||Won|
|Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actor||Nominated||Jarhead|
|National Arts Awards||Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence||Won|
|2008||Palm Springs Film Festival||Achievement-Actor award||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actor: Drama||Nominated|