Jake Gyllenhaal appears to be taking a page out of Matthew McConaughey’s book. After dropping 25 pounds to play a gaunt, nocturnal photojournalist in the brilliant Nightcrawler, the actor has once again transformed himself physically. This time, Gyllenhaal has bulked up, packing on 15 pounds of pure muscle to portray a championship prize fighter in next year’s Southpaw.
In the Antoine Fuqua-directed drama, which was penned by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, Gyllenhaal plays Junior Middleweight Champion Billy “The Great” Hope, a skilled fighter whose personal life implodes after a tragedy. Grief-stricken but unbroken, Hope begins to fight his way back to redemption. The film co-stars Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker.
Judging by that first image, Southpaw will show us Gyllenhaal as we’ve never seen him before – and that’s tremendously exciting. The actor has undergone his own sort of McConaissance over the past few years, going from schlock like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Love and Other Drugs to exciting thrillers like Prisoners, Enemy and Nightcrawler. Perhaps Southpaw will finally give the Academy enough motivation to recognize Gyllenhaal for how he’s turned his career around.
Fuqua recently raved to Deadline, which exclusively debuted the above image, about working with Gyllenhaal:
“I’m so pumped, man. 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.
“He sure has grown up. I love this guy. I met Jake years ago before he did End of Watch, and I saw something in him. I told him he needed to do more masculine films because I could see he had this power in him, and good size, and great expressive eyes. When I met him I said, ‘You’ve got to start doing that.’ And I watched him start. Working with him was a great experience because he’s so committed and gives his heart. You’re going to see in this movie, how far he has come. I asked this guy from day one, ‘I need you in the gym every day. I need you to train every day.’ And I said, ‘The word is sacrifice.’
“Literally. I think he broke up with his girlfriend because he was just in the gym every day. He was training like a fighter. I had him sparring, really getting hit. I put him in situations where I wanted to see what he was made of. No one but fighters understand the sacrifice it takes to be a fighter.”
Judging by the image, it looks like all the actor’s hard work has paid off. Southpaw will hit sometime next year, and we can’t wait to see just how good Gyllenhaal is in this role.