Jacob Benjamin “Jake” Gyllenhaal is an actor best known for his role as Jack Twist in the epic romantic drama ‘Brokeback Mountain’ which earned him an Academy award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The good looking actor, once counted amongst the "50 Most Beautiful People" by the ‘People’ magazine, goes to great lengths to avoid being stereotyped as just another one of those pretty faces in Hollywood. He is well-known for choosing unconventional roles that allow him to explore his acting skills be it the psychologically troubled teenager in ‘Donnie Dorkie’, or a man confused about his sexuality in ‘Brokeback Mountain’. As the son of a film director and screenwriter, Jake’s passion for acting and the big screen seems natural, even predestined. In spite of his family’s close connections with the film industry, his parents ensured that he got an upbringing as normal as anybody else. As an adolescent he was made to volunteer at a shelter and hold summer jobs like any other typical teenager—these incidents instilled in him a high regard for hard work and professional ethics. One of his initial films, ‘Donnie Dorkie’ has since then become a huge cult favourite. He has a large fan following among the gay and bi-sexual groups due to his sensitive portrayal of a homosexual character in one of his film.
Childhood & Early Life
He is the son of film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner. He was always close to the film industry from childhood because of his parents’ professions. His parents wanted him to have a normal upbringing, so they insisted that he volunteer at a homeless shelter and work summer jobs as a teenager.
As a youngster he often appeared in films produced by his father. His parents let him audition for other film roles as well but did not let him act even if selected.
He was educated at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles from where he graduated in 1998. He went to Columbia University to study Eastern religions and philosophy but dropped out after two years to focus on his acting career.
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In his first leading role in ‘October Sky’ in 1999, he played Homer Hickam, a coal miner’s son who becomes a NASA engineer through his sheer perseverance and hard work. The film was a big hit and his role was hailed as his ‘breakout performance’.
He appeared in his second major film ‘Donnie Darko’ in 2001. He portrayed a troubled teenager who after narrowly escaping death had recurring visions of a gigantic rabbit named Frank who tells him that the world is coming to an end. The movie became a cult hit.
In 2004 he played Sam Hall in the science fiction disaster film, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ in which the catastrophic effects of global warming are shown in a series of extreme weather events. The movie was a big commercial success.
The year 2005 too was great for his career. He portrayed Jack Twist, a man who develops a complex romantic and sexual relation with another man in the epic romance, ‘Broekback Mountain’. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role.
He appeared in two other successful movies in 2005. He played Andrew in the biographical drama war film ‘Jarhead’ which also starred Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper. He appeared as Harold Dobbs in the drama film ‘Proof’ along with Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In 2007 he played the crime reporter Robert Graysmith in the mystery thriller ‘Zodiac’ which was based on the manhunt for the notorious serial killer known as ‘Zodiac’ who had killed several people around the San Francisco Bay Area.
He acted in the 2009 thriller film ‘Brothers’ which also had Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman in the main cast. The film was inspired by Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey’ and took place in Afghanistan and Denmark.
In the romantic comedy ‘Love & Other Drugs’ (2010), he teamed up with Anne Hathaway with whom he had previously acted in ‘Brokeback Mountain’. The film was based on the on-fiction book, ‘Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman’ by Jamie Reidy.
He is best known for his work in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ in which he depicts a man who has an intense, romantic and sexual relationship with another man. This was a bold move on his part to accept this role and portray it sensitively as several other actors had refused this role because of the homosexual theme.
Awards & Achievements
He won the National Board of Review Award for the Best Supporting actor for his portrayal of Jack Twist in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ in 2005. He won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for this same role in 2006.
Personal Life & Legacy
He is a much sought-after bachelor who has dated several beautiful women including Kirsten Dunst, Reese Witherspoon and Taylor Swift. He is very close to his parents and sister.
Along with his entire family he supports the American Civil Liberties Union. He regularly recycles and supports the ‘Future Forests’ program. He also helps raise funds for cancer research through the television fundraiser ‘Stand Up To Cancer’.
He was named as one of the “50 most talented, intelligent, funny, and gorgeous Jewish men in the world” by ‘Shalom Life in 2012.