In ‘Crazy Heart‘ (opening Dec. 16 in New York and Los Angeles), Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Jean Craddock, a small town journalist assigned to interview the washed-up, grizzled, former country music star Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges). He’s a man who lost his place in the spotlight and is now regulated to performing in bowling alleys or drinking whiskey in his motel room — or, really, drinking whiskey pretty much anywhere. Soon, that interview leads to a complicated romance between the two.
Gyllenhaal sat down with PopEater in her midtown Manhattan hotel room and explains why she doesn’t spend too much time thinking about the Oscar buzz — though she’ll take one! — while also making it abundantly clear why no one should ever believe what they read on Wikipedia.
Your character, Jean, is a journalist. Before she interviews Bad Blake (Bridges), she nails the pre-interview awkwardness that I am quite familiar with.
(Laughs) I think I did the thing that all journalists do, [double checking] to make sure the recorder is on. She’s a pretty green journalist; I think she’s good, though. I think she’s a really good writer, but she’s new at being a journalist. I think she’s a fan of his so those things do work against her. What I was thinking about when I was doing it was trying to get at something true about him — which I think any good journalist would try to do.
You mention she’s green. I assume her journalism school might have frowned upon her making out with her interview subject.
Well, none of the sexuality or the electricity between them is a manipulation at all. But I do think that when I come back for the second interview, it’s a pretty good interview.
What does she see in Bad Blake?
I mean, look, I think I knew and I think Jeff knew that the movie wouldn’t work unless they really fall deep in love with each other. On some level, why does anyone fall in love with anyone? How can you say, ‘I fell in love with my husband because of this’? We weren’t immediately, totally great for each other — it takes a lot of work.
Well, Jeff Bridges is a handsome man. Bad Blake is a bit more grizzled…
Yeah, but still… I think there’s a couple of things. When I made this movie my daughter was almost two, and I had this first surge of this feeling. I had spent two years so focused on her; I sacrificed a lot of things. Sometimes it feels great to sacrifice for your child and sometimes it’s hard. And I suddenly had this feeling of I need something for me. I’m also an actress — I need something for me. This movie was that. And I think for Jean, she’s in an emergency state of that feeling of, ‘I’ve been taking care of this boy, mostly alone, for four years. I just need something that feels good for me, and I don’t care if it’s bad for me.’
Do you think she had a long-time crush on Bad Blake before she ever met him?
Yes. Well, I don’t think she falls in love with him because he was famous. I think he was the kind of musician where not everybody loved him; in order to love him you had to really see him. And I think she really sees him like a Tom Waits or something. That is definitely in it when she first goes to meet him… and then it becomes something else.
Losing a child when you’re drunk at a bar: That’s always a deal breaker, isn’t it?
(Laughing) Right! Jeff said this the other day and it’s cute, ‘You fall in love with someone and then, sometimes, you say ‘Look at this horrible thing about me. Do you love this? Okay, what if I lose your kid?’” Yeah, it’s a deal breaker. I think it’s a deal breaker not just because the kid gets lost, but I think because in order for her to really fall in love with him and really get going with him, she has to not think about a lot of things. And I only see that now. When I was shooting it, I didn’t think about that — just like she doesn’t. I look at it now when I watch the movie, and I see the scene that I straddle him and they shoot, basically, my ass as I say, ‘Do one thing for me, don’t drink in front of Buddy.’ It’s like that’s all I can muster. I think it’s a wake-up to how much she’s not thinking about it.
And once the anger subsides, she still seems quite crestfallen about the situation.
You mean when he shows up at the door? Oh, I think she really loves him. I think the idea is that you want them to be together — but they can’t. That’s how I think they feel. I mean, can we make-out for a minute? No, that would ruin everything again.
I like the dynamic between Bad and his protege, Tommy, who’s done quite well for himself. You see Colin Farrell walk on as Tommy and you assume he’s going to be a tool, but he’s not…
It’s kind of Bad’s hangup, right? That Tommy is a real a**hole…
But when the audience meets Tommy, he’s not…
That’s kind of Bad’s issue. And he also plays good music. It’s not like he gets up and plays pop country music. It’s pretty good.
There’s a lot of buzz around this film with awards season coming up. Does that matter?
It’s funny. I wish that I didn’t care at all, but I care enough that it makes me crazy if I think about it too much. At the same time, I was thinking the other day that I feel so grateful. Robert Duvall is a brilliant genius. The movies he made in the ’70s and the movies that are made in the same vein as the movies he made in the ’70s are the movies I love and the movies that I watch. And the women in those movies are brilliant, too. Ellen Burstyn, Sissy Spacek, Gena Rowlands: Those are the people I admire. So to be in a movie with him and a movie with Jeff Bridges, I feel so grateful. I’m just trying not to be greedy.
I never believe people when they say that they don’t care about awards. It is always nice to get recognition.
Yeah, who doesn’t want awards? If people want to give me awards, I’ll totally take them. (laughs) But the thing is: It does, honestly, make me a little crazy if I think about it too much.
You’re known for doing smaller character driven films, but, then again, you’re also in one of the most successful films of all time with ‘The Dark Knight.’ What’s your perfect scenario for a film?
I usually kind of know when I read the script if I’m supposed to do it or not; it’s an instinct that’s served me pretty well. Usually I’m right. Whether the movie turns out well or successful — it was right for me. I think I’m looking for space to express something. I’m looking for other good actors. I thought that about Jeff before I met him and I was right. We had a similar way of doing it.
On your Wikipedia page it says, in relation to your film ‘Secretary,’ that you are guarded about discussing your role in the film. Is that true?
Really? No, no; not at all. (laughs) I mean, it was a long time ago that I made it, and I haven’t seen it in a long time, but I don’t feel guarded about it at all. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of that I’ve done. It was an amazing introduction to movie making; it was so ideal. I was working with a director who was interested in me as an artist, as a girl, who let me express something, who let me go through and experience the scenes with James Spader — who was great. In a way, the thing that was most difficult about it was going to work on things after that and thinking, ‘Wait a minute, I thought every movie would be like ‘Secretary.’
Is there a specific example of that?
I think I really better not, but I did go to work on a movie that, really, nobody saw it. I would go in and say, ‘Wait. What do you mean? That’s such a silly idea. Everybody’s seen that in movies before.’ And I got myself into trouble. Basically I had to learn after that how to protect my space. Sometimes I have this fantasy — and it’s just a total fantasy — that Meryl Streep needs something artistically, and I imagine her doing it with a spoonful of sugar; making the director think it’s their idea when it isn’t. I just have a feeling she’s great at that, and I’m still in the process of learning. And, also, you have my complete permission to change that statement on Wikipedia.