When the nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards were announced on February 2, there was one bonafide surprise acting nomination: Maggie Gyllenhaal in writer-director Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart for Best Supporting Actress. In the tradition of Laura Linney in The Savages or Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River, Gyllenhaal, with virtually no precursor support from critic’s organizations during awards season, landed an out of nowhere Oscar nom that left just about everybody buzzing. The Oscars being a kind of family tradition, Maggie joined brother Jake (Supporting Actor, Brokeback Mountain) and mom Naomi Foner (Best Original Screenplay, Running on Empty) in the nominees club against the odds, trumping such favorites as Samantha Morton (The Messenger), Julianne Moore (A Single Man) and Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds) for the coveted spot in the final five.
It was a foregone conclusion that star Jeff Bridges would land amongst the nominees for Best Actor, having justifiably received the lion’s share of critical praise has been heaped onto the veteran performer for his towering turn as grizzled country musician “Bad Blake” (he is the favorite to win on Oscar night), Gyllenhaal’s beleagured single mother journalist Jean Craddock has flown decidedly under the radar until now. It is the benchmark of any great character actress to be able to achieve this kind of subtlety and nuance opposite showier turns such as Bridges’. Jean is a bit of a mystery in Crazy Heart. We know she’s had bad luck with men. We know she has a young son. She has a fledgling career as a music journalist. Other than that, Gyllenhall wisely chooses to leave a few deliberate loose ends dangling in the wind, making Jean a little bit of a mystery, but also positing her directly in the moment. “Maggie kind of approaches it like I do,” said Bridges when I spoke with him this past December in New York. “Which is, getting to know the people you’re playing with as much as you can so you can bring some of that genuine friendship and caring you know, up to the screen.”
In addition to chatting up The Dude, I also had the chance to speak with the effortlessly striking Ms. Gyllenhaal during Crazy Heart‘s Midtown Manhattan press junket as she addressed throngs of reporters while the film bowed in select theaters for awards consideration in December. “I wanted to work,” emphasized Gyllenhaal. “I had so much built up, you know?” Jean is a carefree young woman ruled by romance and her emotions up to a point, but also one with a clear direction and one who knows when romance is not enough to sustain a life. “I think she doesn’t think, a lot,” said the actress. “She acts so recklessly throughout this movie and that’s how I was. I just went with what felt good and just didn’t think. And then she gets smacked across the face.” Who hasn’t been there? Unlucky in love, unlucky in her profession but eager to let these new experiences shape her without ripping her life apart. Jean is a universal character that audiences will easily empathize with. That Gyllenhaal’s everywoman single mom Jean doesn’t get completely swallowed up opposite such a rapacious, colorful character such as “Bad”, and that she grounds “Bad”‘s flights of alcoholic fancy in earthy realism are a testament to the actresses strength and skill.
Maggie Gyllenhaal admits she wasn?t that impressed when younger brother Jake casually decided to follow in her footsteps and become an actor ? especially when he scored the title role in the 2001 cult classic Donnie Darko and looked set to be the star of the siblings.
His sister – who, as a teenager, used to boss him into taking part in her lounge room productions of Cats – got her own back a year later when she starred in Secretary.
Her daring portrayal of a disturbed woman who embarks on a sadomasochistic relationship with her boss led to a Golden Globe nod. Suddenly, it was game on for brother and sister.
“My brother and I used to be competitive when we were younger,” muses the 32-year-old. “But now I feel we’re different enough, old enough and love each other enough that competition feels like a waste of time.”
It helps that the pair have each carved their own successful – if slightly different – careers. With his leading man looks, Jake has specialised in big-budget hits, such as The Day After Tomorrow and Brokeback Mountain.
Meanwhile, his sister, with her slightly quirkier image, has reigned as the queen of indie, gathering kudos in smaller films such as SherryBaby and Happy Endings.
So it’s all happy families these days, except when it comes to cooking. It turns out Gyllenhaal junior, who recently split from actor Reese Witherspoon, is a fantastic cook and Maggie – a self-confessed perfectionist – will reluctantly concede she’s not in the same league.
“He’s exceptional – as good a cook as he is an actor,” she admits. “He was just here for the holidays and he cooked a lot. I have basic skills – I know how to steam vegetables and make pasta and salads – but I’m not so good at the harder stuff. I’d like to learn how to easily cook up something really great.”
I suggest that the test of a person’s skill in the kitchen is whether they can whip up “something great” without following a recipe.
… read more »
Maggie Gyllenhaal, 32, was born in New York, the daughter of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal. She made her film debut in 1992, in her father’s Waterland, and a decade later won a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Secretary. In 2007, she was nominated again for SherryBaby. Her new film, Crazy Heart, is out on 19 February. She is married to the actor Peter Sarsgaard and they have a daughter.
When were you happiest?
The day after I got married.
What is your earliest memory?
I was tiny, less than three, looking up at my mom, who was pregnant. We were saying, “When is this baby going to come?” about my brother, Jake.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
The older I get, the more vulnerable I get. But the part of me that resists that, that is stubborn and wants to bulldoze things, gets in my way.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
A wooden bathtub, which we call the Batman Bathtub (The Dark Knight paid for it).
What is your most treasured possession?
My house in Brooklyn. I love it.
Where would you like to live?
Both my husband and I would like to get out into the countryside.
What would your super power be?
I’d like to fly.
What is your most unappealing habit?
I do go on and off smoking, which is just completely disgusting.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I am not crazy about my knees.
What do you owe your parents?
I think they really love me, and that’s an amazing gift.
Have you ever said “I love you” and not meant it?
Yes, I probably have.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
David Lynch, Nureyev, Chekhov, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Tony Kushner, James Baldwin, Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
An acting job, but I won’t say which.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
If I changed anything, I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I’m pretty happy with where I am.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To be a part of the Moscow Art Theatre when Chekhov was writing.
When did you last cry, and why?
I cried last Tuesday for all sorts of reasons. As I get older, I find I cry much more often than I did.
How do you relax?
Bath, a glass of wine, yoga.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Being in the countryside.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
I used to think that if I did my very best work, then everyone would love it, but I’ve realised that not everybody thinks the same things are good. It took me 30 years even to begin to see that.
Maggie Gyllenhaal was drunk the first time she met Jeff Bridges.
The actress – who has been nominated for an Oscar for her role in ‘Crazy Heart’ alongside the actor – admitted she was not in the best state when she met him.
She said: “I met him at the premiere for ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ where I was, like, a baby.
“I went up to him, I’d had a few glasses of champagne, and felt, ‘This is my premiere, I can talk to whoever I want.’
“He told me, ‘We’re going to work together one day.’ And it made my entire week but then it happened. And I’m glad it was many years later when I had a better sense of myself as an artist.”
The 32-year-old star also revealed she saw similarities in herself and ‘Crazy Heart’ character Jean Craddock – a mother.
She revealed to Stylist magazine: “Jean is really going through a similar thing to me, where she needs to be herself again and not just a mum.
“I think that’s a line every mother walks – balancing what you need and what you have to sacrifice for your kids.”
No one was surprised when Jeff Bridges was nominated for a best actor Academy Award Tuesday for his performance as a down-and-out country singer in “Crazy Heart,” the film based on the book by Rhode Island College English Prof. Thomas Cobb.
Bridges has already won the best actor awards from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Award given by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
It wasn’t much of a surprise, either, when the song “The Weary Kind,” written for the film by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, got a best-song nomination. It had already won the best song award at the Golden Globes.
But there were two major surprises surrounding “Crazy Heart” when the Oscar nominations were announced in Beverly Hills Tuesday. Maggie Gyllenhaal was nominated for best supporting actress in the film in which she plays a newspaper reporter who comes to interview the singer Bad Blake, but soon becomes an integral part of his life. Gyllenhaal was a long shot who was almost never mentioned among potential nominees.
Cobb, reached shortly after the nominations were announced, said, “I expected Jeff and ‘The Weary Kind’ to be nominated, but I was really really pleased Maggie got it because I thought she was incredibly affecting. I thought she brought a genuine quality to the role.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal is in Los Angeles, and it’s been a whirlwind so far for the supporting actress nominee, up for playing a single mother in Crazy Heart. She never saw this coming.
“Because I didn’t get any other nominations, I was so surprised,” she says. “I was completely shocked and so excited. I love the movie and I feel so proud of it. I’m excited about celebrating it and getting dressed up. I haven’t done work I’m more proud of.”
One of the first calls this morning came from her on-screen love and best actor favorite, Jeff Bridges. “Jeff called me this morning. He was barely even making words. He was kind of singing and moaning. He was so excited. I feel thrilled,” says Gyllenhaal.
Her day, thus far, has been all about family.
There’s a sense of excitement at home, because her husband Peter Sarsgaard’s film, An Education, is also up for best picture.
“We woke up at 5:30,” says Gyllenhaal. “I’ve been up forever already. I just got up really early and had coffee with my brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) and my daughter woke up. I haven’t had a second to breathe.”
She might have a mimosa to celebrate, but her night is wide open. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” says the actress.