Maggie Gyllenhaal: “difficult” roles for acclaimed Hollywood director | Maggie Gyllenhaal
Fof his decisive role in Secretary, wearing stilettos, a pencil skirt, and handcuffs and trying to use a stapler with her chin, until her directorial debut digging into messy truths about motherhood, Maggie Gyllenhaal was always drawn to what she described as “troubled women.” Those who are a real challenge. They really need me.
It’s a quote that really goes to the heart of what sets Gyllenhaal apart. An Oscar nominated actress, and now – with her adaptation of Elena Ferrante The lost girl – award-winning screenwriter and director, she is drawn to the kind of women whose stories usually go untold. She dives into the uncomfortable angles and sharp edges of her characters and has found her niche by not fitting quite into the mold.
The mold – that cookie-cutter starlet formula – was particularly ingrained when Gyllenhaal was starting in the late ’90s. And her beauty – the heart-shaped face dominated by huge ice blue eyes, the tilt slightly. melancholy lips down – always felt like transposed from another time. You could imagine her as a contemporary of Mary Pickford in the silent movie era.
The industry was concerned that it wasn’t conventionally ‘hot’ enough, a criticism Gyllenhaal cheeked on at the time, but later conceded was ‘a hard thing to hear’. And when he wasn’t trying to turn her into a sexpot character, Hollywood instead referred to her as “eccentric” – a description she firmly rejected, stating that: “To portray someone as eccentric is a way to erase her. “.
Perhaps the fact that Gyllenhaal’s first major role was that of Lee, the submissive office worker in Steven Shainberg’s BDSM romance. Secretary, added to industry confusion over its exact place in the somewhat homogenized mainstream cinema landscape. She brought an apple-cheeked softness to the film’s transgressive themes, a powerful emotional intelligence that diffused all of the potential charges of itching that the picture might have attracted otherwise. Therefore, she threatened to blow up a joint in the Hollywood production line.
Director Laurie Collyer, who chose her as a former drug addict and mother in the gritty drama Sherrybaby, realized early on that one of Gyllenhaal’s main strengths as an actor was what set her apart from many of her contemporaries. In an interview to promote the film’s release, she explained, “I think celebrity culture breeds conformity and Maggie is really unconventional, really finding her own way. Even just the way she dresses – I know it sounds really superficial, but it all stands for something: she is her own person.
Gyllenhaal was born into the movie industry, but her upbringing did not fit the model of the second-generation Hollywood kid. Born in New York City on November 16, 1977, Margalit Ruth Gyllenhaal is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, and the daughter of director Stephen Gyllenhaal (Paris trout, Family of spies) and writer and director Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (Losing Isaiah, bee season, Running empty). She only discovered that her first name was Margalit – a nod to her mother’s Jewish heritage – rather than Maggie when she asked for her birth certificate in order to take her husband’s name Peter Sarsgaard.
She jokingly described her parents as being somewhere to the left of Trotsky, but gave them credit for having engendered in her the political commitment that was at the heart of her identity. She has always maintained that “being politically active is extremely important to me. My parents have been politicized and radical throughout my life – they taught me that I am part of a global community and that part of my responsibility is to stand up for what is right.
Gyllenhaal’s political activities range from driving voters to the polling station in Florida, supporting jailed whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and organizing a benefit for the Pussy Riot.
More controversially, in 2005, it targeted US foreign policy, suggesting that the US “is somehow responsible” for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Subsequently, a website run by fans of Maggie Gyllenhaal had to shut down comments after being bombarded with reviews. Gyllenhaal first doubled the pressure, saying that “not having the courage to ask these questions is to betray the victims of 9/11”. But later she admitted, “I regret what I said, but I think my intentions were good. Neither the red carpet nor a movie interview is the right place to talk about my politics.
Another key lesson learned from his parents was about the vagaries of a film industry in which “you can be on top of the world and the next year you can be nowhere. And then, later, you’re interesting again; and then all of a sudden you’re not. I saw it happen to them, and I saw them hurt them. I think I’m a little armed having seen this.
It’s a pragmatic approach that has allowed her to be unfazed, albeit slightly upset, by questions assuming that there is a sibling rivalry between her and Jake, whose career took off a few years before hers with the film. Donnie Darko.
Gyllenhaal’s insider perspective on how the industry works – she started out in small roles in her father’s films and appeared as Jake’s sister in Donnie Darko – also facilitated a clever balance in her own choices, weighing in on high-profile blockbuster-type films, like Julia Roberts’ vehicle Mona Lisa smile and that of Christopher Nolan The black Knight, against more daring and stimulating independent projects.
Notable examples of these include Franc, in which Gyllenhaal played a musician of a fiery character alongside Michael Fassbender, who was hidden all over in a papier-mâché head. And then there was Kindergarten teacher, a deeply uncomfortable portrayal of a woman who becomes obsessed with the poetic talent of one of her six-year-old children. Gyllenhaal loved to sneak into screenings during the film festival and listen to the audience’s unease.
TV also provided Gyllenhaal with meaty opportunities, such as sex worker turned porn director Candy in the devil – she accepted the role on the condition that she can serve as producer on the project, giving her contribution to writing and editing. She also won a Golden Globe for her performance in the BBC political thriller series The honorable woman.
What defines her as an actress, according to her friend and honorable woman co-star Genevieve O’Reilly, is the fact that “Maggie is naturally and confidently curious. She’s not afraid to ask questions. She listens very actively and has a gentle honesty that provokes thought and conversation. She adds, “Maggie is someone you lean on. You can’t help it. I think she has a calm fire in her heart that is both hot and mighty, bold and fiercely intelligent.
Gyllenhaal puts all of this to good use in his stunning, curvy adaptation of The lost girl. There is an obvious kinship between Gyllenhaal and Ferrante – both are drawn to difficult and unpredictable female characters. And with what now appears to be an act of rare foresight, Ferrante allowed the adaptation on the condition that Gyllenhaal, and no one else, lead it. “She said it had to be me, which I took as a real vote of confidence. I needed this at the time.
The lost girl has already made her mark on the awards circuit, winning Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Groundbreaking Director’s Award and Outstanding Performance (for Olivia Colman), at the Gotham Awards.
Whether the film will achieve the same success elsewhere is less certain – it is, after all, a portrayal of an “unnatural mother” (played by Colman, and as a younger woman, Jessie Buckley) who refuses. to condemn her maternal faults. He’s the kind of character that mainstream audiences and the voters who reward them are likely to find difficult, ambiguous, and a little scary. A perfect fit, then, for Maggie Gyllenhaal.