Victoria Hammett talks to Maggie Gyllenhaal about fame, families and why she enjoys playing apparently hopeless characters
From her sexy masochist in cult film Secretary to her trailer trash ex-junkie in upcoming jailbird social drama Sherrybaby, Maggie Gyllenhaal is no stranger to challenging roles. With two Golden Globe nominations already firmly in the bag, her profile looks set to go stratospheric next year when she steps into the mainstream alongside Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s second Batman offering The Dark Knight.
As she sits reflecting on her fame, just blocks away from the downtown New York apartment she shares with her partner, fellow actor Peter Saarsgard, Gyllenhaal seems determined not to be swept up by the hype. ‘I’ve had ups and downs and made some career choices,’ she reflects. ‘I’ve enjoyed some more than others but I figure all you can do is get into it and emerge the other side.’
In Sherrybaby, she plays Sherry Swanson, who returns home to New Jersey after serving a three-year prison sentence, eager to re-establish a relationship with her young daughter. Gyllenhaal says: ‘I want to make movies that I want people to see. I want to affect people. If I’m going to get involved in a movie that’s going to have a hard road to the movie theatre [like Sherrybaby] then I have to really believe in it.’
With her 30th birthday just around the corner, she admits she craves a more hands-on approach, as a producer. ‘I’m already [playing] an active part in getting the films I do financed. Before too long I would like to take that to the next step and get involved in distribution.’
Gyllenhaal, who has modelled for Reebok and Prada, is from a distinguished media family. Her father Stephen Gyllenhaal is a TV director, mother Naomi Foner is a screenwriter and brother Jake is a talented actor.
Her breakthrough came in 2002 in cult hit Secretary. Even her more mainstream smaller performances in Adaptation, Mona Lisa Smile and Donnie Darko have boasted an attention to detail that only a natural character actress could maintain. Being true to such personalities is central to her work, she maintains. She says: ‘I don’t think you can play someone who is less emotionally capable or not as smart as you.’
As she readies herself to take her nine-month-old daughter, Ramona, out to lunch, she reflects on the price of fame: ‘There will always be someone with a camera waiting for you to do or say something. All you can do in life and on film is be true to yourself.’
While she ponders the next step, she has plenty to keep her busy, with the imminent UK release of Sherrybaby and short film High Falls doing the festival rounds. And let’s not forget next year’s much anticipated The Dark Knight. ‘Yeah,’ she says. ‘You know it’s a pretty great day at work when Christopher Nolan is shouting “Action!” and Christian Bale is your love interest. I can’t complain.’
Sherrybaby is on general release from Fri 27 Jul. The Dark Knight is on general release from Jul 2008