Nightcrawler Turns Jake Gyllenhaal Into A Coyote

Posted 9:11 PM September 29th, 2014 by Fred Topel
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

After playing the Toronto International Film Festival, Nightcrawler made it’s U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin last week. Writer/director Dan Gilroy was at the screening to speak about the film after. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a freelance videographer capturing horrific accidents and crimes to sell to local TV news. Gilroy explained how the film portrays Gyllenhaal as a coyote.

“The way we approached the film in a meta sense was we approached it as a success story,” Gilroy said. “So once we understood that and we realized we weren’t going to apply any moral filter to it, Jake came up with the idea in discussing the symbol of the character, of a nocturnal animal who would come down out of the woods at night and feed. The image that we came up with living in Los Angeles was of a coyote.”

Gyllenhaal took to the coyote idea and transformed himself physically into a human carnivore. “Jake very quickly decided he was going to try to lose weight. We never had a set goal of how much weight he’s going to lose, but over a period of 10 weeks before shooting, he lost about 28 pounds. It was a little nerve wracking, one, to see him that way. It all makes sense now, but the first time you see Jake in dailies when he looks like that, it was a little bit shocking and unnerving. I was ready to go for it in a second, but the other unnerving thing was once you start shooting, you’re committed to the look. For Jake that meant running or biking 15 miles a day and eating kale, then coming to the set and doing 18 hour days. For him it was extraordinarily physically demanding as well as obviously creatively demanding.”

Add to a thin frame Gyllenhaal’s wide-eyed glare and a creepy hairdo, and he is the human coyote in Nightcrawler. “What I liked about the longer hair, given also the gaunt look, is it gave him a very feral quality. It was great because he could do things with his hair. He could slick it back in the Mexican restaurant and then it would fall down and he’d look like Crispin Glover with this weird thing coming up here. Then he could push it off to the side, so it gave him a lot of different looks.”

While the film is ironically a success story, it is an ironic one. The nightcrawler finds success exploiting people’s misery, and we the viewers eat it up. “I started off in journalism so I’ve always been interested in journalism, but the news element for this story particularly came when I discovered this world of stringers/nightcrawlers in Los Angeles. When I realized that just every night from 10 to 6 there was a group of a dozen maniacs who go out and drive 100 miles and hour with 15 scanners going. Automatically in my research I understood that they were really in the coal mine feeding this fire that these new organizations do. Michael Moore brought this up I think really vividly in Bowling for Columbine, the idea of news purveying fear in order to generate ratings. And looking at the statistics of how much is devoted to crime and how much is devoted to actual news. It just became more and more interesting the more I looked into it.”

Nightcrawler is in theaters October 31.

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