What stunt double? Jake Gyllenhaal revealed to Us Weekly at a celebration for his 2015 SAG Award nomination in NYC on Wednesday, Dec. 10, that he was front and center inside the ring while portraying boxer Billy Hope in his upcoming film Southpaw.
The Nightcrawler nominee, 33, told Us that he and director Antoine Fuqua wanted to achieve an equally larger than life character to portray late professional boxer Hope. “[We] discussed that there have been many boxing films done, and we wanted to make sure that we were shooting it in a way that was real,” Gyllenhaal explained. “In a way that felt authentic. We didn’t want close-ups and fake outs, we did medium shots and I was really fighting.”
In order to make an authentic flick, the often-method actor hit the gym — hard. “I knew that I had to train that way,” Gyllenhaal told Us. “Everything that I did before the film was about getting those fight sequences right, we shot all the boxing in the first two weeks. We tried to make it as close to the real thing as possible, obviously it wasn’t absolutely real, but it was as close as we could get.”
As seen in a photo released by the studio last month, an incredibly buff and rather bloody Gyllenhaal looks unrecognizable as Hope. Like his abs, the bruises were also occasionally the result of directly engaging in the physical action.
“Oh yeah!” he told Us of getting punched. Laughing, he added: “I got hit all the time. Yes. Yes, I did.”
Gyllenhaal recalled one brutal learning experience in the ring, which subsequently made him empathize more with his character. “I will tell you this: There was that initial [hit],” he recalled. “It was the first time I really got hit. It was this moment where I think you ask yourself what you’re trying to experience. I’ve had those moments before. When I did End Of Watch, the first ride along I went on, someone was killed on. I had this moment, what am I doing this for?”
Eventually, the Brokeback Mountain actor embraced his goal. “There is a reality to the stories that we’re telling,” Gyllenhaal mused. “It’s a reflection of what’s really going on. There’s a responsibility. Getting hit in a boxing ring makes you understand. It makes you have empathy. I’m not going to say it felt good. But there is something about that experience that shows the real experience.”
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