Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal (born December 19, 1980) is an American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at age ten. He has appeared in diverse roles since his first lead role in 1999's October Sky, followed by the 2001 indie cult hit Donnie Darko, in which he played a psychologically troubled teen and onscreen brother to his real-life sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. In the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow he portrayed a student caught in a cataclysmic global cooling event, alongside Dennis Quaid as his father. He then played against type as a frustrated Marine in Jarhead (2005). The same year, he won critical acclaim as Jack Twist in the film Brokeback Mountain opposite Heath Ledger.
Gyllenhaal has become an activist, promoting various political and social causes. He appeared in Rock the Vote advertising, campaigned for the Democratic Party in the 2004 election, and promoted environmental causes and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner (née Achs). Maggie Gyllenhaal, his sister, is also an actress, and played his sister in the movie Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal's father was raised in the Swedenborgian religion and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family. His last native Swedish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal's mother is from a Jewish family from New York City. Gyllenhaal's Bar Mitzvah celebration took place at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to instill in him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle. Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself "more Jewish than anything else." Gyllenhaal's parents insisted that he have summer jobs to support himself. He worked as a lifeguard, and as a busboy at a restaurant operated by a family friend.
During childhood, Gyllenhaal had regular exposure to filmmaking due to his family's deep ties to the industry. As an 11-year-old he made his acting debut as Billy Crystal's son in the 1991 comedy film City Slickers. His parents did not allow him to appear in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks because it would have required him leaving home for two months. In subsequent years, his parents allowed him to audition for parts, but regularly forbade him to take them if he were chosen. He was allowed to appear in his father's films several times. Gyllenhaal appeared in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman (along with sister Maggie); in "Bop Gun" a 1994 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street; and in the 1998 comedy Homegrown. Along with their mother, Jake and Maggie appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network. Prior to his senior year in high school, the only other film not directed by his father in which Gyllenhaal was allowed to perform was the 1993 film Josh and S.A.M., a little-known children's adventure.
Gyllenhaal graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1998, then attended Columbia University, where his sister was a senior and from which his mother had graduated, to study Eastern religions and philosophy. Gyllenhaal dropped out after two years to concentrate on acting, but has expressed intentions to eventually finish his degree. Gyllenhaal's first lead role was in October Sky, Joe Johnston's 1999 adaptation of the Homer Hickam autobiography Rocket Boys, in which he portrayed a young man from West Virginia striving to win a science scholarship to avoid becoming a coal miner. The film earned $32 million and was described in the Sacramento News and Review as Gyllenhaal's "breakout performance."
Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal's second major film, was not a box office success upon its initial 2001 release, but eventually became a cult favorite. The film, directed by Richard Kelly, is set in 1988 and stars Gyllenhaal as a troubled teenager who, after narrowly escaping death, experiences visions of a 6 foot (1.8 m) tall rabbit named Frank who tells him that the world is coming to an end. Gyllenhaal's performance was well-received by critics; Gary Mairs of culturevulture.net claimed that "Gyllenhaal manages the difficult trick of seeming both blandly normal and profoundly disturbed, often within the same scene."
After the critical success of Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal's next role was as the lead character in 2002's Highway, a film ignored by audiences and critics alike. His performance was described by one critic as "silly, cliched and straight to video." Gyllenhaal had more success starring opposite Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival; he also starred in Lovely & Amazing with Catherine Keener. In both films he plays an unstable character who begins a reckless affair with an older woman. Gyllenhaal later described these as "teenager in transition" roles. Gyllenhaal later starred in the Touchstone Pictures romantic comedy Bubble Boy, which was loosely based on the story of David Vetter. The film portrays the title character's adventures as he pursues the love of his life before she marries the wrong man. The film was panned by critics, with one calling it an "empty-headed, chaotic, utterly tasteless atrocity".
Following Bubble Boy, Gyllenhaal starred opposite Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon and Ellen Pompeo in Moonlight Mile, as a young man coping with the death of his fiancée and the grief of her parents. The story, which received mixed reviews, is loosely based on writer/director Brad Silberling's personal experiences following the murder of girlfriend Rebecca Schaeffer.
Gyllenhaal was almost cast as Spider-Man for Spider-Man 2 due to director Sam Raimi's concerns about original Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire`s health. Maguire recovered, however, and the sequel was shot without Gyllenhaal. Instead, Gyllenhaal starred in the blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow in 2004, co-starring Dennis Quaid as his father.
In his theatrical debut Gyllenhaal starred on the London stage in Kenneth Lonergan's revival of This is Our Youth. Gyllenhaal said, "Every actor I look up to has done theatre work, so I knew I had to give it a try." The play, which had been a critical sensation on Broadway, ran for eight weeks in London's West End. Gyllenhaal received favorable critical reviews and an Evening Standard Theatre Award in the category "Outstanding Newcomer."
2005 was a prolific year for Gyllenhaal, who starred in the critically praised films Proof, Jarhead, and Brokeback Mountain. In Proof, featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, Gyllenhaal played a graduate student in mathematics who tries to convince Paltrow's character to publish a revolutionary proof to a problem puzzling the mathematicians' community. In Jarhead, Gyllenhaal played against his usual "sensitive yet disturbed" type by displaying an aggressive masculinity as a violent U.S. Marine during the first Gulf War. He also auditioned to be Batman for one of the biggest blockbusters Batman Begins and came close to getting the role but Christian Bale was ultimately chosen for it.
Brokeback Mountain. Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger play young men who meet as sheep herders and embark upon a sexual relationship that begins in the summer of 1963 and continues until the death of Gyllenhaal's character in 1981. The film was often referred to in the media with the shorthand phrase "the gay cowboy movie," though there was differing opinion on the sexual orientation of the characters. The film won the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival. The film went on to win four Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, and three