Roundtable Interview With Jake Gyllenhaal On Source Code

At SXSW I had the opportunity to sit down with Jake Gyllenhaal, the star of Source Code, and discuss his character in the film. Gyllenhaal plays Colter, an Air Force pilot who wakes up in someone else’s body and must figure out who set off a bomb on a train. He has to re-live the same eight minutes over and over again as part of a new scientific program called the source code. Duncan Jones directs this sci-fi thriller and Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright co-star. Check out the interview below. Audio version is included at the end of the page. And make sure to also check out our Source Code review, our SXSW interview with Duncan Jones,our January interview with Duncan Jones, our interview with star Michelle Monaghan and our interview with writer Ben Ripley.

Jake has delved into the sci-fi genre before, but we haven’t seen him tackle it since Donnie Darko. Despite the fact that he’s been away from the genre for so long, he was really excited to be on board with Source Code. He told us that “it was great. Because I mean first the screenplay was fantastic and when Duncan (Duncan Jones, director) decided that he wanted to do it, to me that was it, I was excited.”

It seems as if the genre really gave Jake something new to work with. He enjoyed the fact that the sci-fi universe has very different rules. He explained to us by saying  “I felt like it gave you the opportunity to use your mind in a way that you don’t usually get to in movies. Usually you’re focusing only primarily on character, and not on how characters are moving through a situation. Normally there are the rules of reality. But within this world there weren‘t rules, and so it offered me the opportunity in performance to do pretty much anything, and that was a thrill.”

Sci-fi ususally doesn’t have to make much sense. But, in Source Code’s case, director Duncan Jones found it important to make the concept at least scientifically plausible. Jake told us that with Source Code, he not only had to worry about the emotional core of the story, but also the mechanics of it. He said “I worry about the mechanics of this story, because whatever the mechanics and the rules are is how Colter is going to be believed or not. So they have to coincide, they have to fuse together and they have to be solid in my mind or else I’m going to read a scene where I really need to know where I am and somewhere in the back of my mind I’m going to ask myself if it makes sense.”

He went onto explain that the concept behind the science had to be clear to him in order for it to work. “Even if I’m playing it and performing it, you have to believe it. You know, so the science was important but even more important was the concept of the source code being a computer program. That had to be very clear to me….so that was very important to me, and I was really into the story and Duncan let me be a big part of developing it so you know as a result of that it was solid to me to.”

With some of Jake’s previous films, it seems as if he has been branching out into hero roles. How did he approach the character of Colter though, did he see him as a hero of sorts? Jake told us “I think this movie to me was in the vein of what I loved about something like Donnie Darko when I did it. With that film I was asking myself a million questions on a daily basis. And it’s the same thing here. I’m asking myself things like ‘wait were we there and, are we there yet?’ Or, ‘wait no, we were already there, are we going there? No, that’s in two source codes, oh ok so I’ve already been there and talked to him!’ So I thought about hero or not hero but it’s more about the experience of the whole thing.”

Although Source Code doesn’t seem like a comedy Jake feels that humor is important while trying to connect to an audience. In fact, he tried to infuse a bit of his own comedy into the film. He told us while speaking about humor that “it’s everything! It’s so frustrating for me when you’re on a movie and you’re not allowed to be that way…here are absurd situations when you’re angry or sad or frustrated. I mean that’s a very broad way to describe it but most of the time humor fits in there……I love that Duncan allows that to happen in this movie. Because it makes the movie. I mean that moment where the character goes “we’re just going out to celebrate” and does that thing and everyone laughed last night I was like yes! That I love…they’re right there and it’s great. I think it’s an incredibly important aspect to every film.”

While Jake has done sci-fi before, this was a bit different from Donnie Darko. This was more of a cerebral sci-fi. So what attracted Jake to the character then? Jake told us that “it’s rare that you see someone say I’m going to go for it. And it seems like people are really responding to that. And for me and Duncan, we constantly talked about Colter and how to get in questions about his father and his relationship with her (Michelle), and you know that scene where I call my father? Duncan and I spent two and half hours before we started shooting that day because it was a scene that was always kind of looming for us and we were all a little afraid to tackle it.”

Source Code has such a strong emotional core and we were wondering if Jake found that to be the biggest challenge. Was the emotional aspect a bigger challenge to tackle than the physicality of the role? “There wasn’t really anything hard about this process because really it was fun and there was no ego. We were making a film and we were all having a good time. It wasn’t difficult…it was like scary when you had to get emotional and when you had to figure out something on the first day to make that train sequence work. Like the first day was kind of freaky but it wasn’t difficult because we thought the shit out of it.”

Lastly, as the interview ended, Jake discussed the ending of the film and how it allowed for discussion and interpretation. In fact, they came up with a number of different endings. “We had the alternative versions and we put a lot of thought into them. I really liked the idea that the source code is a fully functional computer program that actually makes sense and not some device that is used as a conceit in the movie. It is something that can be used again, and within the confines of that, there’s endless possibilities.”

The film will leave you thinking, Jake assured us of that. He told us that “if you search deep enough into this movie and all the questions around it, I mean yes it’s an entertaining movie when you watch but when you go back into and look at it there’s so many inspirational things that tangent off this movie…That’s why I love it, because the possibilities are endless, it just feels like the possibilities are endless.”

That concludes the interview but we’d like to thank Jake very much for talking with us and make sure you check out Source Code when it hits theatres on April 1st. Also, make sure you check out our Source Code review.