"Just Jamie Foxx and all the actors in the film, they're men that I look up to, people I would love to be like. And, eventually, actors I'd like to be like," Gyllenhaal tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler.
Oscar winner Foxx ("Ray," "Collateral") plays Staff Sgt. Sykes, a lifer who commands the Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Platoon with bulldog tenacity and a sense of nationalism.
Gyllenhaal takes the central role of Tony "Swoff" Swofford. Peter Sarsgaard ("Kinsey," "Shattered Glass") portrays Troy, Swoff's partner in their elite unit of Marine scout/snipers. And Oscar winner Chris Cooper ("Seabiscuit," "Adaptation") portrays Lt. Col. Kazinski, the commander who itches to unleash his killing machine on an overmatched enemy.
"Then, more than all of that, I think Sam Mendes, the director, kind of insisted all the time on a presence," Gyllenhaal says. "I guess it's sort of living in the moment, performing in the moment. If I came in one day and was exhausted, I got an hour's worth of sleep, he was happy that I used that. It was like anything I came to set with he wanted and used. It was the sort of presence and made me feel like I could make no mistakes and do no wrong."
The film is based on the best-selling book by Anthony Swofford, who wrote about his experience in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War.
"This is one particular guy's experience," Gyllenhaal says. "It's not what you're used to in war. People, especially with war movies, are used to a tremendous amount of action, and a lot of combat, and watching typical situations that we've seen in a lot of films about a war. This film was very different. It was all about that waiting. In a lot of ways, I think that boredom was their war."
The film is also different in that it does not make a statement about the war in Iraq.
"I think a lot of people see it as a reflection of the current war somehow, or want it to be a reflection of that," he says. "It is its own war. My character says at the end of the movie: 'Every war is different. Every war is the same.' For a lot of people, I think, the topography and the administration and all of those things make it seem like the same thing. But for the soldiers who fought in this war, I think it's very much their war, and very different from the war that the soldiers are fighting in now. And it is very specific to them. Hopefully, we've done them service. It was a very different experience."
In preparation for his role, Gyllenhaal had to do a lot of training to achieve the required physicality with Sarsgaard, who happens to be Maggie Gyllenhaal's boyfriend.
"We went nuts," Gyllenhaal says. "Not necessarily in terms of physical stuff, but hanging out with your sister's boyfriend for five months will definitely drive you nuts. It was a life-changing thing for both of us. I consider it a kind of test for my sister's hand. If he wants it, he can have it now."
Next for Jake Gyllenhaal is the film "Brokeback Mountain."
"It's a love story between two ranch hands in Wyoming and it spans from the 1960s to the 1980s and, to me, it's sort of a redefining of your typical love story," Gyllenhaal says.
The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Jake Gyllenhaal was already a well respected young actor before the $500 million worldwide gross of "The Day After Tomorrow" made him one of Hollywood's hottest stars. He acted with his sister in the film "Donnie Darko."
Fast Facts About Jake Gyllenhaal:
- Born in California on Dec. 19, 1980
- Attended Columbia University in New York and majored in Eastern religion.
- In 1991, he made his film debut in "City Slickers" with a brief turn that earned acclaim from screen dad Billy Crystal.
- In 1993, he appeared in the little-seen children's adventure "Josh and S.A.M." playing a mean stepbrother to the title characters. He was also featured in two of his father's films, "A Dangerous Woman" (1993, also scripted by his mom) and "Homegrown" (1998).
- In 1999, Gyllenhaal took the starring role in the feel-good favorite "October Sky." The film was based on the life story of NASA engineer Homer Hickham Jr. The young actor played Hickham, a boy interested in rocket science whose brilliant mind and staunch dedication, even in the face of a discouraging father, wrote him a ticket out of his dead-end mining town.
- In 2001, he starred in the fantasy film "Donnie Darko." He also starred in the offbeat comedy "Bubble Boy" as well as the drama "Highway" with Jared Leto and Selma Blair.
- In 2002, Gyllenhaal starred opposite Jennifer Aniston in "The Good Girl." He also appeared in the Nicole Holofcener directed independent film "Lovely and Amazing." And he starred with Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter and Susan Sarandon in "Moonlight Mile."
- In 2004, Gyllenhaal was nearly cast as the superhero Spider-Man for the sequel "Spider-Man 2" when a dispute between the role's originator, Tobey Maguire, and the studio almost resulted in recasting. (Gyllenhaal was also romantically involved with the franchise's female lead, Kirsten Dunst.) Instead, he was cast in another big-budget summer film that went head-to-head against the "Spider-Man" sequel. He starred in director Roland Emmerich's disaster film "The Day After Tomorrow." Gyllenhaal played the son of a climatologist (Dennis Quaid) who is trapped in New York City as a new ice age descends on the planet.
- In addition to "Jarhead," Gyllenhaal will also be seen starring in Focus Features' adaptation of "Brokeback Mountain," playing the coveted role of Jack opposite Heath Ledger. The film, which chronicles an intense relationship between two Wyoming stockmen, is directed by Ang Lee and will be released on Dec. 9, 2005.
- Most recently, Gyllenhaal was seen starring opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins in Miramax's screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Proof," directed by John Madden.
- In August 2005, Gyllenhaal began production on "Zodiac," the Paramount and Warner Bros.' serial-killer thriller directed by David Fincher. Gyllenhaal will portray Graysmith, a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who began tracking the mystery of the serial killer, The Zodiac, who terrorized the San Francisco area from 1966 through 1978 committing at least 37 murders and documenting his exploits in taunting letters sent to the Chronicle.