Gyllenhaal's 'Nightcrawler' role coyote ugly

Rick Bentley
The Fresno Bee

Los Angeles — – Actors look for inspiration in different places. Jake Gyllenhaal found the vision he needed for his role in "Nightcrawler" from coyotes.

"You ever notice how coyote's always look thin and hungry," Gyllenhaal says. "When I was running eight, 10 miles a day, I would be imagining myself as a coyote. Who hasn't been eye (expletive deleted) by a coyote. They are not intimidated by you at all. In fact, they are looking for the most vulnerable aspect of you. They are a beautiful animal and I've grown to love them because I did so much research. It felt like I was one of them while I was playing this character."

His latest movie role, low-level crook turned entrepreneur Lou Bloom, is struggling to survive in a miserable economy. Hungry to find work, Bloom stumbles into the world of nightcrawling, where videographers travel the late-night streets of Los Angeles looking to collect news footage they can sell to the highest bidder.

It's a brutal, dog-eat-dog world where news scavengers who arrive late to the scene of an accident or crime don't get to participate in the spoils.

To accomplish his coyote-like performance, Gyllenhaal lost more than 40 pounds to create a gaunt look to his face. His commitment to the film was so deep, he ran to the set every morning to help him keep the weight off.

Often, on those runs through the Hollywood hills, Gyllenhaal would stumble upon the beast that inspired his performance.

It was Gyllenhaal's idea to lose the weight. The approach was in line with director/writer Dan Gilroy, who imagined Bloom as a nocturnal creature who would come out of the hills at night to feed.

Gyllenhaal's co-star, Rene Russo, has high praise for the transformation.

"I have worked with a lot of actors, but the way he slipped into this role was amazing to watch," Russo says. "He made it look easy, but the work was so intense it was like he was in labor. It's very difficult for an actor to walk the tight rope he had to walk, with all the colors that he had to put into it seamlessly. He was charming. He was creepy."

Gyllenhaal was struck by how unaffected the coyotes would be when he slowly made his way past them.

He used that in the movie. Bloom does not he show any signs of fear, excitement or anxiety in the scenes where he negotiates for a paycheck, deals with the police or battles over scavengers.

The lone time he's almost overwhelmed by the excitement is is when he gets to the scene of multiple murders before the police.

"One of the biggest thing is that Lou only sweats once in the movie," Gyllenhaal says.

Playing characters with an emotional edge has become a signature for Gyllenhaal from "Jarhead" to "Prisoners." He believes audiences find these kind of roles compelling.

"As dark as this movie is, I think it's incredibly entertaining and fun to watch, as well as some kind of commentary. When you can get those two in one movie, those are the kind of movies I make," he says. "I don't think any story is good unless there's a bit of indictment somewhere."

Whole Bloom breaks almost every legal and ethical rule, it's not entirely his fault. The nightcrawlers wouldn't exist, says Gyllenhaal, if there wasn't an unquenchable thirst by the public for this type of news.

Gilroy agrees with Gyllenhaal. When he was writing the script, he wanted the audience to recognize that Bloom's not the problem. It's the people who created the need for people like Bloom.