Jake Gyllenhaal finds the Source Code

Mar 31, 2011 at 3:03 p.m. ET

Imagine being frantic, unaware, dazed and confused and charged with saving hundreds of lives on a train in eight minutes. Thus is the task given to Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in the new thriller Source Code. Gyllenhaal recently sat down to offer his unique insight into the question: What is the Source Code?

Jake Gyllenhaal at the Source Code premiere

One would also need a code to get into the world of an A-list actor such as Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal is the Sexiest Man Alive according to SheKnows readers -- take that Ryan Reynolds and People magazine! SheKnows readers agree: Not only is Jake Gyllenhaal easy on the eyes, but he possesses the talent to transport audiences. That gift has served him well from Donnie Darko to Prince of Persia.

With Source Code, Gyllenhaal has a meaty role to have a field day with and as they say here in Hollywood -- chew up the scenery. That scenery in Source Code is both the inside of a doomed Chicago commuter train and a metallic shell from which Gyllenhaal's character seems to be unable to break free. In those settings, audiences are set to witness an actor at his best.

Gyllenhaal is remarkably candid as he dishes how he was raised, what compelled him most about the Source Code story and his mindset as he tackles each new role.

Source Code star speaks!

SheKnows: Why make Source Code at this point in your career?

Jake Gyllenhaal: The first time I read the script, I read the first 15 pages and was completely enthralled. Then, I put it down because I thought there was no way the rest of the script was going to be as good as the first 15 pages. I could not not pick it up and go back into that world. So, I read the rest and realized there's a really good character here in this movie. It goes beyond other movies in a similar genre. I had yet to see Moon (Source Code director Duncan Jones' first film). Duncan Jones, here's a guy who can make incredible visuals, has a confident sense of rhythm in terms of filmmaking and also at the center of the movie Moon was an incredible performance by Sam Rockwell. It is essentially somebody acting with themselves [laughs] and turning in an emotional performance. So, I thought this guy will be the right guy to do Source Code. I thought if we could get him and by some cosmic happening, he was excited to do the movie, I was just a little excited about that!

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code

SheKnows: Do you frequently attach yourself to a movie when there isn't a director on board yet?

Jake Gyllenhaal: No, that's rare. To me, it's all about the director and who's making the movie -- the visual style and the storytelling, that's what we all look for. The same thing the audience looks for, I look for as an actor.

SheKnows: You mentioned Sam Rockwell acting by himself in Moon, there are many scenes in Source Code where you are alone. Was that at all intimidating? Or, is it freeing?

Jake Gyllenhaal: In the pod section of the movie, I did a lot of acting on my own. We would shoot seven pages of a scene all in one take. I would be in there for seven minutes at a time talking to myself. Actually, strangely for me [laughs], it was kind of fun. It reminded me of being a kid again. You see a kid in the corner picking up something and playing with it solely using their imagination. "Oh, hi Mr. Cup, how are you?" [Laughs] Essentially it was the same idea for me. I had a great time. It was very isolating and we were shooting in an abandoned warehouse and there were feral cats running around [laughs] all over the place. It added to the psychology of the character, the weird environment that it is anyway. It was one of those rare acting movies that really was an acting exercise in almost every scene.

Getting on the Source Code train

SheKnows: Now the film works in a Groundhog Day kind of way, was the repeating of the same scenes a challenge in a way that it was tedious?

Jake Gyllenhaal: There was always a sense of variation. We were going back on the train over and over in the Source Code, and the challenge was to decide how to handle it. We decided that each Source Code had its own theme. That was the big thing. Also with storytelling, it can be boring and repetitive, so variation was the biggest challenge and aspect for all of us. Each Source Code was its own chapter in the book of the entire movie.

SheKnows: How was working with Duncan, this is only his second film?

Duncan Jones directs Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan

Jake Gyllenhaal: What I was most surprised about with Duncan was how he is very similar in personality, and this might be kind of a strange comparison, to working with Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain). I noticed how Ang was always very calm and collected, very quiet. He was sparse in terms of his direction and when he had something to say, it would be very simple and short -- straight to the point. Duncan, even though when you talk to him, he's very bubbly and positive and engaged, but ultimately when he's on set, he is close to silent, very much in the same vein as Mr. Lee [laughs].

SheKnows: Your co-star Michelle Monaghan has mentioned that she is training for a half-marathon, do you have any surprises about yourself you'd like to share?

Jake Gyllenhaal: Looking at me, you would think I was training for a marathon. But, I am not [laughs]. All my fans know I'm pretty athletic, but I am not training for a marathon [laughs]. It might be surprising to people that one of the charity organizations that I'm involved with is Edible Schoolyard. It's an organization where we're trying to make it possible to have an edible garden in every public school in America. We want kids to have a new relationship to nature and to the food that they eat, engage the world in a different way than we're used to seeing. Take out a chunk of concrete and let's put in a garden where children can explore the natural wonders. I think it changes their view. It has in my experience. I grew up around edible gardens all over the place. It's changed my perspective on the world and I think it could change the world.

Jake GyllenhaalJake's personal passions

SheKnows: Where did you grow up?

Jake Gyllenhaal: I grew up in Los Angeles, but also a little bit outside of Boston. Mostly, in Los Angeles, but my family always emphasized that it's an incredibly effective, economic way of feeding your family and having everybody learn about where your food comes from. It's something I care deeply about.

SheKnows: Is your sister raising her child that way?

Jake Gyllenhaal: My niece, she grew up, well, when she was first born, it's kind of an irony, I remember her learning how to walk grabbing on to tomato plants, learning how to count with cherry tomatoes. When a kid grows up that way, seeing something grow, seeing something die, seeing something reused, it's a different kind of upbringing. If we can bring that to every kid in America, and in the world, you'd be raising an entirely new generation of kids with a different mindset about how to take care of yourself and the earth.