Jake Gyllenhaal said he felt “trapped” while filming his latest movie “The Guilty,” in which he had to sit in one chair throughout the film and hear lines delivered through Zoom all without being able to see the other person.
But as the shoot went on and things got more intense, Gyllenhaal described the feeling as if those cameras were closing in on him. Gyllenhaal and director Antoine Fuqua shot “The Guilty” in just 11 days, but the intensity of the film’s story and the shooting conditions nevertheless made it feel like “a long journey.”
“It was 20 pages a day shooting 20-30 minute takes. And I thrive in that space, but I was trapped in a chair. Antoine trapped me in a chair. Every time I wanted to move, I’m a very physical person, a very full-bodied actor, and to only be in a chair and having to express ended up doing a number on me as we got farther and farther into the story,” Gyllenhaal told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Stillness is one thing, but then being trapped is another thing, and it brought out a lot of feelings in me and reveals a lot about this character too.”
To describe what it really felt like, Fuqua would be able to see the other actors on his monitor, but Gyllenhaal could only hear them. What’s more, the actors had to figure out the rhythms of how to act over Zoom, not waiting for the natural pauses you would usually do while on Zoom, but even starting their lines while the other was still talking.
“Let’s say you’re on a huge Zoom in front of a lot of people you can’t see. There are three cameras shooting you, and over the course of 11 days, the cameras that are shooting you start getting closer and closer and closer to your face,” Gyllenhaal said. “All the actors were on Zoom and the rhythm started to get set for us, and over a number of days we had to start our line even before the other one finished it, knowing that we were not going to hear the end of the line, but knowing that it would be recorded as if we were going to be interrupted…It was like you were in a partial gravity room trying to keep your feet on the ground.”
In “The Guilty,” Gyllenhaal plays a 911 call operator who gets a phone call that changes the course of his life, and the film plays out in real time as he tries to piece together the details of a crime and help the caller all while he’s stuck in his seat.
Fuqua, who worked with Gyllenhaal on the boxing film “Southpaw,” described the story as though it were “Dante’s Inferno” and that Gyllenhaal’s character is stuck in “purgatory,” surrounded by his own sins and guilt. “The Guilty” is an English-language remake of a Danish thriller of the same name, and Gyllenhaal had been developing the remake and came to Fuqua knowing that he’d be up for anything.
“I knew he would be down to get rough. And if I said five days he would say four,” Gyllenhaal said. “I’d follow him wherever. He was like quality control and someone who I knew wanted to get to something truthful.”
“The Guilty” is playing as part of TIFF and will be released by Netflix on Sept. 24. Check out the full interview with Jake Gyllenhaal and Antoine Fuqua above.