Posting a really great interview below from 30Ninjas:

The other night, as I was sitting in my darkening office, Jake Gyllenhaal called. Even though the call was “scheduled,” I didn’t really expect this artist-turning-action-hero to have the time to talk to me since he was about to leave for a global press tour. I was convinced I was going to be rescheduled. I have never been so glad to be wrong because he was everything I expected: smart, articulate, and charming. Nonetheless, there was something that took me by surprise: how much he laughed at himself. For all his accomplishments and over-the-top talent, this is not a guy who takes himself too seriously. I think that’s a good omen for his next film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, because for me, anyway, self-seriousness is the death knell for an action film. I go to an action movie to channel my inner thirteen-year-old old boy, not ponder the meaning of life.

Of all the popcorn summer blockbusters, Prince of Persia has got me the most intrigued. It should be terrible, shouldn’t it? It’s based on a video game, so how could it possibly be good? But whenever I look at the trailer, there are lines that make me laugh, the production values look good, and it’s directed Mike Newell, the man who brought you (among many other films) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Donnie Brasco (an underappreciated mob classic, in my book). Plus, of course, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal, strapped in leather, with two long swords down his back, freshly trained by parkour legend David Belle to leap from building to building. What’s not to like?

Jake, You Seem So Calm and Cool, What Stresses You Out?

JULINA TATLOCK: When you first read Prince of Persia, what did you think was going to be the most challenging character moment or scene? Did you have any concerns going into the film?

JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I think the thing I thought was going to be most difficult was being able to incorporate a sense of humor into the action and being able to communicate character through the action — I’m not going to say it’s easy to do great action, but it is always hard to [convey] character interspersed within fun action. To keep something modern inside something that is kind of classic, which is what the film is — it’s this huge epic movie that is based within this fantasy sixth-century Persia which is based off a video game — to make it modern and then stay true to this swashbuckling Errol Flynn-esque movie. That to me was the most difficult thing, how do you keep it modern while at the same time keeping it old school?

When you’re dealing with a magical dagger that turns back time and you’re used to finding a naturalistic approach to acting or storytelling, it is always a confusing thing in your mind to say, “How do you believe that, how do you believe in this fantasy?” And to me there are a couple things that happen. Mike Newell, the director, came to me, and in talking about the story he said that in sixth century Persia there were mystics and people who believed that this sort of thing could happen, and if someone said that there was a dagger that could turn back time in sixth-century Persia, people would be like, “Oooo, there’s the dagger that turns back time!” So in a sense you have to put yourself in that mind-set. It’s almost like being on stage and acting the way I would if I were going to tell the story to a child. If you are Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, how do you tell the story? Or someone like Ben Kingsley?

JULINA: I was talking to Willem Defoe about the similarities for him and his work in the Wooster Group, performing avant-garde theater, and then switching to John Carter of Mars, playing a green Martian in an action film, and how much overlap in technique there is for him.

JAKE: Yeah, people ask all the time what the difference is between doing a smaller type of film and then doing this. I don’t really find many differences. You know, something like the Wooster Group, it is something that is so avant-garde, and sometimes nonsensical, so you have to make sense of it when you’re up there for yourself — so much of it is the performers trying to make sense of it, when you’re doing experimental theater. So when you are talking to a creature that doesn’t exist on set and you have to make it real, it is exactly the same.

JULINA: How was working on Source Code? Are you done shooting or do you have to go back?

JAKE: Yeah, actually they just wrapped today and I wrapped a few days ago.

Duncan Jones Vs Mike Newell

JULINA: Tell me about the different styles of Duncan Jones, who directed you in Source Code, and Mike Newell.

JAKE: Oh my gosh, every director than I have had the pleasure to work with has been so different in their style. So Mike Newell, just physically … they both happen to be British, but Duncan spent a lot of time growing up in the States and all over the world so he has a different sort of sensibility than Mike. Well, Mike is like six foot five, and Duncan is like five ten or something, so [laughs] that is one major difference. And in a way, their sizes mimic their styles, because Mike is very robust and dramatic in his approach and he’s like (in a gruff British voice), “Oh yes, my dear boy, it’s fantastic,” and there’s always this sort of energy to it. Duncan really creates this space that is much more quiet, and I would say that there is a serenity to the way he directs, and to me it’s fascinating that the two of them could not be more different. That’s actually a really good question. They had two different beasts [to direct], you know? Mike had a movie where there are just so many elements that he had to balance, and I learned from him a really important lesson that every actor should know; he said, “You know what I look at more than the monitor?,” and I said “No, what Mike?” And he pointed to his watch. When I asked ”Really?,” he said, “You never get all the things you want as a director, and you’re always chasing time.” Any actor who is in sync with their director knows you want to try to give your director everything that they want within the day. And that’s something that I really learned with Mike. It is something that I don’t think that actors really know: how much a director is dealing with. So when I went to work with Duncan I brought that mentality with me, and it was like, “What do we need? Did we get that? OK, what do you need from me? Let’s go.”

JULINA: Interesting. Is there room on either of their sets to discover as you go? Doug [Liman] talks about his process that he is inventing and reinventing all of the time, essentially, in pursuit of the movie — you haven’t gotten to work with him on set yet, but you have got a good idea of what he is like to work with as you’ve been developing his Untitled Moon Project over the past couple of years.

JAKE: Yes, definitely.

JULINA: But there are other film directors who have a much more finite or closed vision of what they want. How much freedom did you have on Persia to discover as you went, or does it end up being so technical — because it’s so action-oriented — that you need to sort of know the character before you go in, and you stand and deliver?

JAKE: There were so many technicalities before we began just in terms of designing the wardrobe, and I had an accent that I worked on for months, and I had to learn how to sword-fight and learn how to do parkour; there were so many technical things that I had to learn. I mentioned the character kind of came from there, and I think that on a movie that is the size of Prince of Persia, you would think that there is a little room for improv, but there are so many things that have to be done. If you are doing an action sequence you have to get from Point A to Point B. But really there was so much room, and that’s the one great thing as an actor on a movie that big, you get to go from first unit to second unit, on the same day sometimes, or from first unit to second unit to visual effects unit, and sometimes the director can’t be on all of the units at the same time. They’ll go, “OK, I trust you, pull this off for me,” and you go, “OK,” and then they check it. So there is always room [to discover]. Sometimes I would be on second unit and I would try something cool and I would go over it with Alexander Witt, who was our second unit director, and he was always game for that. Then when I’d see Mike I’d say, “Oh, Mike, check out the third take because I tried this for you.” And then on the scenes themselves there is always room because the movie’s fun, the feeling of this movie is just fun, so if we had an idea we would just try it, even if it sucked.

JULINA: Cool. It’s important to try out ideas, even if they suck, ’cause that’s where so many good ideas come from — or maybe that just means so many of my ideas suck … [laughs]

JAKE: [laughing] Yeah, you know, a majority of them have to suck for some of them to be good. I think with Duncan it was all that, all of the time, and it’s surprising because with someone who’s doing [only] his second movie, you would think that he would be holding more tightly on to the reins, but he has a surprising sense of self-confidence and sense of self.

JULINA: Moon,Jones’s movie, was so tight, and so precise.

JAKE: Right, I know.

JULINA: Sam Rockwell’s just so relaxed through the whole thing, but you’re going, “Oh my God!” and you go with it, because he’s going with it. It’s really impressive. It’s one of my favorite films, actually.

JAKE: Me too. I mean, that’s Sam, because he’s so talented. But you have to create the environment, I think. I think [Duncan Jones] created the environment for it — and now, I’m his second, so you know, I can say — he is so collaborative. He’s a really special director. I believe that he’s like the next generation, you know? I’d put my money on him. [Laughs] He definitely protected his actors from all the stuff going on behind the scenes with the politics of making movies, which is so important because once you get into that sensitive space working with an actor, bringing that in can screw things up. It’s amazing to me that it’s his second movie, ’cause he’s just on point.

JULINA: OK, let me swing back to Prince of Persia, ’cause our readers really wanna read all about it. I know from other interviews you’ve done that you’ve played the videogame, is that right?

JAKE: Yes.

JULINA: Is the role based more on the new Prince of Persia game or the old one? By new I mean the 3D games and onwards?

JAKE: Well, the 2D version of this game, you know, that side-scrolling version of the game — [jokingly] that was my favorite thing to learn [laughing].

JULINA: Ha! You mean you move in more than two directions in this film?

JAKE: [Laughing] Yeah, definitely. I definitely move in more than two directions. It’s definitely based on …

JULINA: It’s based on the new game?

JAKE: Yeah. Well, it’s definitely based on the new incarnations of the game. Though there are things from some of the Sands of Time games that are not in the movie, then there are also some things that are incorporated from the game.

JULINA: Are there references to the game, or any inside jokes, within the movie?

JAKE: Huh. Well you know the character himself, I don’t know how much I can really say about it, but I can say that in the game and the movie, he is wry. Also, there’s a thing in the game that he’s always brushing everything off his shoulders, even if he’s totally messed up. I really tried to incorporate this particular thing that happens in the game, actually. Like, when the prince in the game falls to the ground, he goes like, “Uh!” So I tried to do that.

JULINA: [Laughs]

JAKE: [Laughing] People start — they kinda got annoyed with me doing that. They’re like, “It’s sort of just in the game, you should stop grunting when you hit the ground.” But I incorporated that idea because I thought he was kind of going, like, “Uch …” in the game too, which is his personality — like, “Oh god!” You know? There are little bits of the game all over it, but [the movie] is its own beast. That’s for sure. And it is it is quite a massive, epic beast. [Laughing] It is filled, filled to the brim with action and crazy fun stunts — much like the game.