2004: The year of Jake Gyllenhaal

By Carolann Curry
May 27, 2004

Chances are, you have at least heard of the independent actor and environmental/human rights enthusiast Jake Gyllenhaal (pronounced Jill-in-hall) in passing, but you might not know much else besides that he has a funny-sounding last name. You might not be aware just how talented and dedicated this 23-year-old is, both to his acting career and his passion for certain charities and causes.

Jake is the son of screenwriter Naomi Foner and film director Stephen Gyllenhaal (“Homegrown,” “Losing Isaiah” and select TV episodes of “Twin Peaks,” “Felicity” and “The Shield”). Jake was born Dec. 19, 1980, and has a sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is also a success in the entertainment industry (“Secretary,” “40 Days and 40 Nights,” “Mona Lisa Smile”). As you can see, Jake grew up in a family full of film sensations. In fact, when Jake was a teenager, he received his first driving lesson from Paul Newman, who is also his godfather.

Jake’s first cinematic role came in 1991 with a small appearance in “City Slickers.” By his teenage years, Jake had been in half a dozen major film roles, and the one that projected the young star was “October Sky,” based on the true story of Homer Hickam, a boy who grew up in the 1950s and had a passion for building and flying rockets.

Jake has received a great deal of recognition and even garnered an Independent Spirit Award nomination for the cult classic film “Donnie Darko.” Other movies on Jake’s résumé are the lighthearted Disney comedy “Bubble Boy”; “The Good Girl,” a dark romantic drama co-starring Jennifer Aniston; “Highway,” featuring Selma Blair and Jared Leto; and “Moonlight Mile” starring Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman. Jake also has a passion for theater, appearing in London in the stage production “This is Our Youth.” Jake says on his official fan site, “In a perfect world, I would like to do one play for every three movies.”

Much of Jake’s career decisions have been to make smaller films, many of them independent. He has a history of choosing emotional roles that delve into controversial or shadowed topics. “The Good Girl” is the story of a married woman trying to escape her marginal life, choosing to have a fling with a young co-worker, played by Jake.

Up until 2004, Jake didn’t have much experience in mainstream Hollywood films.

This year is predicted to be an extremely successful year for Jake. May marked the release of the highly anticipated apocalyptic film “The Day After Tomorrow.” Jake plays alongside Dennis Quiad in this big-budget production documenting the outcome of global warming in a worst-case scenario, only reinforcing Jake’s strong feelings about the environment. “The Day After Tomorrow” is directed by Roland Emmerich, director of “Independence Day.”

Jake will also star with Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins in “Proof,” based on the play of the same name, which will also be released in 2004.

Jake isn’t your typical Hollywood icon. He has a passion for human rights, is a vehement advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and has appeared in several ads for the organization.

Jake is a huge environmentalist as well. He has planted several trees in South Africa for the Future Forests organization, which strives to repopulate the planet with new forests and trees to reverse the Greenhouse Effect.

Jake also urges teens to stay in school and go to college. Even though he dropped out of Columbia University to pursue acting, he feels education is very important to the success of young adults.

It looks like Jake isn’t going anywhere but into the spotlight, and 2004 marks the year of his dent in the entertainment industry. Jake is scheduled to begin production on several films to be released in late 2004 and 2005.

“Brokeback Mountain” will co-star Heath Ledger (“A Knight’s Tale,” “The Patriot,” “The Order”) and is expected to be controversial; the premise of the film is described as the tale of two young ranchers, and the plot skims the surface of homosexuality. Other films are in the pre-production phase.

“Donnie Darko,” Jake’s 2001 independent psychological thriller and genre-breaking success will be re-released in U.S. theaters this summer. As a result of fan efforts and petitions, writer/director Richard Kelly is releasing the director’s cut with updated special effects and 20 minutes of extra footage not available even on the current DVD.

Jake, through his roles, has distinguished himself from other young actors. Keep your eyes peeled for Jake Gyllenhaal in 2004 and beyond because with talent and drive like he has, he is destined for success in the years to come.

Carolann Curry is a 20-year-old college student double-majoring in English literature and mass communications with an emphasis on journalism. She is attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. If you have any questions, comments or input, feel free to reach her at

Related link: Jake Gyllenhaal's official site
Related link: Jake Gyllenhaal's filmography @ IMDb
Related link: Official "Donnie Darko" site