Since the 2001 release of Donnie Darko, fans have been trying to figure out the meaning behind the mysterious film — and so has the cast.
In the cult classic, a troubled teen named Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) narrowly survives a freak accident and is left with disturbing visions of a giant rabbit named Frank (James Duval), who tells him the world will end in 28 days.
For many, the psychological thriller, which takes place in the late ‘80s, was their introduction to Gyllenhaal, who had only appeared in five movies before starring in Donnie Darko. It was a standout for the Zodiac star, who was 20 at the time of filming the early aughts indie.
“Auditioning at a young age, I was always like, ‘What are these movies about? My high school experience wasn’t like this at all,’” Gyllenhaal told Entertainment Weekly in April 2016. “And then Donnie Darko came up and I was like, ‘Oh, this feels like my high school experience. … There are a lot of things in there that I believe about the world.”
The Richard Kelly-directed film, which featured other young up-and-coming stars such as Seth Rogen, Ashley Tisdale and Jake’s big sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, left its audience trying to make sense of the doomsday message. It’s no easy task — especially since the movie’s director once admitted that Donnie Darko “kind of does need Cliffs Notes.”
Over the years, Jake has said that the film, which also starred Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore and the late Patrick Swayze, was also a bit of a mystery to him. In the foreword to Kelly’s 2003 Donnie Darko book, the Brokeback Mountain actor wrote, “What is ‘Donnie Darko’ about? I have no idea.” In his opinion, that is what makes it so compelling
On the movie’s 20th anniversary in January 2021, the End of Watch star thanked “all the fans who’ve come up to me over the years with that confused look on their faces and asked me: ‘What the f–k is Donnie Darko about??’” He added via Instagram at the time, “Let’s keep confusing people.”
That same month, Kelly teased that he was interested in returning to the world of Donnie Darko for another film. It would be the third movie in the series following the 2007 sequel, S. Darko, which focused on Donnie’s little sister, Samantha.
“Well, I’m probably not allowed to say anything more than there has been an enormous amount of work completed,” the Southland Tales director, who was not involved in the second installment, told ComingSoon.net in January 2021. “I’m hopeful that we might get to explore that world in a very big and exciting way. But we’ll see what happens.”
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