How John Mulaney Got Jake Gyllenhaal for ‘The Sack Lunch Bunch’ (Video)

From wanting “Harry Belafonte in 1961” to the “Donnie Darko” actor in one surprising leap

Jake Gyllenhaal was sold on making an appearance in John Mulaney’s Netflix comedy special from the minute he read the script, and the comedian’s openness to giving him free rein on the wacky character sealed the deal.

Mulaney told the story of how he cast the “Donnie Darko” star in the role of the kooky, xylophone-suit-wearing Mr. Music in “John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch” during an appearance on “The Tonight Show ” Thursday.

“Someone sent him the script of this character called Mr. Music, and Mr. Music is trying to teach the kids that you can make music anywhere, but everything he tries, he can’t make a sound,” Mulaney told host Jimmy Fallon, who was uncontrollably giggly, as usual.

The song was written in the style of Calypso music, so when Netflix asked who Mulaney wanted to play the character, his immediate response was, “Ideally, Harry Belafonte in 1961.”

“And they were like, ‘Please, work with us,” Mulaney joked. “And we all look at each other and go, ‘Jake Gyllenhaal would be the best Mr. Music.’”

Mulaney said he knew Gyllenhaal was the one because of the way he sang “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the movie musical “Dreamgirls” during his opening monologue when he hosted “SNL” in 2006.

“It’s more good than you want it to be. So we said, ‘That guy’s nuts,’” Mulaney joked. And Gyllenhaal was interested in the part from the beginning.

“He called me, and he’s like, ‘Hey, I really like Mr. Music.’ And I was like ‘Whoa, thank you,’” Mulaney recalled, doing his best impression of a swoony-teenager on the phone with a movie star.

“He said, ‘How do you want me to play him?’ And I said, ‘Honestly, Mr. Gyllenhaal, we want you to make any choice that you want. And he went, ‘Oh, OK.’ He knew that meant to go big.”

Watch Mulaney telling the story – and a glimpse of Gyllenhaal’s performance – in the video above.