Robert de Niro whittled himself into a rock-hard killing machine to play boxer Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, and then put 60 pounds back on to show LaMotta’s bloated future. For his efforts, he won the Best Actor Academy Award. An ascendant Matthew McConaughey withered himself to show the ravages of AIDS on Ron Woodruff in last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, and took home a Best Actor statue as well. Christian Bale reduced himself to a skeleton for Brad Anderson’s profoundly disturbing The Machinist in 2004. He didn’t win the Academy Award, but he won the undying admiration of a whole lot of creepy people. (He’d win six years later, after pulling off a similar trick to portray crack addict Dicky Eklund in The Fighter.)
Jake Gyllenhaal has now become the latest example in the proud-ish tradition of actors undergoing a radical physical transformation for a demanding role. He was last seen as a reedy, go-getting headline chaser in last month’s Nightcrawler, but a new photo from Deadline shows that the nice Jewish boy from down the street who rose to fame in the early 2000s has effectively disappeared. Svelte Gyllenhaal is dead. Long live Man-Mountain Gyllenhaal!
The photo below is the first promotional still from Southpaw, an upcoming boxing drama directed by Antoine Fuqua. To portray prize fighter Billy “The Great” Hope, Gyllenhaal added 15 pounds of pure muscle to a now-hulking frame. As described by Deadline, the film tracks Billy as he “loses everything in a personal tragedy, and is forced to fight his way to redemption.” That same item includes the following quote from Fuqua, in which the director expresses admiration for the totality of Gyllenhaal’s commitment:
“Jake is going to change how people see him. I had him training twice a day in the boxing ring, he did two-a-days seven days a week. I pretty much had him with me and my trainer every day. I took him to almost every fight. I had him train at Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Vegas and we watched Floyd’s fights, and the Manny Pacquiao fight. He trained in New York at Church Gym with real fighters. We literally turned him into a beast… Jake, my god, he’s a very electric, powerful fighter in this movie, and a guy who fights for his daughter. I’m confident that this will change how people see Jake, as a leading man.”
Judging from the photo below, Gyllenhaal’s not just playing against type. He ate the type, along with what looks like 50 boxes of galvanized nails.
Fun fact: When this project first began, Marshall “Eminem” Mathers was slated to play the lead role. So, somebody who knows how to use PhotoShop, let’s get to work on that.