He has a reputation as an actor who is so intense on set that he’s been involved in some legendary bust-ups with co-stars. But now, after being involved in serious movies such as Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead, Jake Gyllenhaal gets to have some fun in his new film Prince Of Persia, out today.

The videogame turned $150m movie sees Jake, 29, playing Prince Dastan in a swashbuckling medieval romp. He joins forces with former Bond girl Gemma Arterton‘s ultra-sexy high priestess Tamina to prevent a magical dagger from falling into the wrong hands.

“It was my childhood dream to do a big action movie – I always wanted to be Indiana Jones,” Gyllenhaal recalls.

“It was also time for me to stop taking myself so seriously. I had done some very heavy dramas and I was looking for something different. When Prince came along, I jumped at the chance.

“I wanted to play it with an Errol Flynn kind of sensibility, and one of the reasons I did the film was that it had a lot of humour in the Indiana Jones style.”

Shot over three months last summer in Morocco, the cast and crew sweltered in 120ºF heat. And to get ready for the role, Jake trained for seven months so he could have the rippling torso.

“I’ve always been very athletic and I loved being able to train hard and work on my physique,” he says. “You see your body transforming and feel yourself becoming the character.

“I also wanted to be in the kind of shape where I felt confident doing as much of the stunt work as possible. It would have been impossible to make this movie without my being able to the stunts. Luckily, I managed to pull that off without getting too badly hurt.

“I had a few injuries – mainly pulled shoulders and a twisted ankle. The worst thing that happened on set was when I accidently hit another actor in the face during a fight sequence. I felt terrible.”

Jake’s reputation for getting into
serious arguments with other actors started on the set of the 2005 film
Jarhead. There, he had a furious bust up with co-star Peter Saarsgard, who also happens to be his brother-in-law.

“Movies can be a very intense process and sometimes there are going to be confrontations depending on the circumstances,” says Jake.

“I know most people talk about what happened on Jarhead, and even though Peter and I didn’t speak for a few weeks after one really bad argument, we became even better friends afterwards. Which is good, since he’s married to my sister Maggie!

“The film was a very tough shoot about guys who are being trained to kill in the Gulf War. We were all going a little out of our minds on that set which probably elevated our performances to where they needed to be for the film.

“With Peter, we were doing a scene where he gets slammed to the ground by me and some other guys.

“We did several takes and Peter was getting hurt. At one point we both just exploded. But a lot of it was just tension building up on the set and I was probably overdoing it in terms of playing my character.”

Jake also had a big row with the late Heath Ledger, his co-star in the emotional drama Brokeback Mountain.

“Heath and I had different ways of working,” he explains. “I was trying to apply things I had seen other actors do – like where you interrupt the other actor to change the dynamic of the scene.

“Heath got pretty irritated with me and we had some arguments about that. Then
we found a way of working together that was much more comfortable. Maybe I helped him in some way – but now, of course, it’s impossible to know.”

Currently, though, it’s all about Prince Of Persia for Jake – plus the upcoming World Cup. Rarely, for an American, he loves the beautiful game.

“Soccer is my other obsession in life,” he grins, “and I’m looking forward to going to South Africa and watching some matches.

“I think the American team is very strong and we can do well.”