Jake Gyllenhaal gives new perspective on ‘LIFE’


Courtesy of Sony Pictures

David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Columbia Pictures’ LIFE.

By Kendrah Villiesse

Six crew members board the International Space Station as they set out to discover extraterrestrial life on Mars but encounters a form of life that threatens the crew and all existence on Earth.

“LIFE,” a sci-fi thriller directed by Daniel Espinosa [“Safe House,” “Easy Money”], follows the crew members on their mission to Mars. While conducting research, they realize life on Mars is more intelligent than ever anticipated. 

The movie, released March 24, features Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. David Jordan, alongside Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson and that adds a contemporary twist to the sci-fi thriller genre and the depiction of  zero-gravity in film. 

The Chronicle spoke with Gyllenhaal about his work with Reynolds and experiences on the set of “LIFE.”

THE CHRONICLE: What makes “LIFE” different from other films that show humans in space and extraterrestrial life?

JAKE GYLLENHAAL:  What makes this film individual is that it is all in zero-gravity, which is really interesting. You have a group of people trying to survive in a space but with your classic, fun, horror genre storytelling. In this case, we don’t have any atmosphere and we are all floating around. The coolest part about it is that there are some extraordinary chase sequences that are acrobatic as a result of being in zero-gravity. We have such incredible people working on this film that bring it to a level that is unlike [other films.] 


What scene was the most challenging for you? 

One of the things that was alluring to me was Espinosa and his take on what could have been a much more obvious take on this story. He loves his character and he loves his actors—We are all very special  to him. The way he talked to each one of us was very different, and I love that about him. That was why he was able to gather such an incredible crew because they knew he was going to take this material and bring it to another level.


The movie contains moments of horror and of laughter. How did you handle the changes in tone when going from scene to scene?  

The thing about a lot of the space films that I have seen [is] they are very serious. This one, in a way, takes itself seriously because it is beautifully made, but at the same time you have a cast of people who are all particularly [funny] like Ryan Reynolds—I have never laughed so much on set before. You have to be aware of the reality and the non-reality of the situation. Honestly, whenever you have a movie with [Reynolds] in it, it is going to be funny. He is just an extraordinary comedian; it is part of his extraordinary talent.

What was it like to simulate zero gravity on film? 

It takes a little time to get your bearings in an environment like that, but I had so much fun. You are hanging upside down and spinning around in a circle while you’re trying to have a serious conversation with somebody. It adds something that I can’t really put it to words; sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is so abnormal. There is no right or left in the International Space Station, and as a result the movie has that feeling too. The audience will ever know which way is up or down, or right or left. Your perspective will always be shifting and because we are also dealing with this creature, most of the time we don’t know where it is or if it is a figment of our imagination. You will only understand how we felt when you see the movie. 


This movie focuses on strong female leads. Why is it important to create strong roles for women in film?

The women in this movie have some of the most interesting things to do in it and are truly the leaders. Olga Dihovichnaya’s [character] is the leader of our ship and Ferguson’s [character] is the one who is the bravest in the midst of all of this. I am not only concerned with myself and the character I play in a film; I am interested in what it is saying and I love that there were really good roles for women. That is a very important factor in all filmmaking. [It’s] necessary and should be a standard that we take for granted, but unfortunately is not.

What else struck you about making this production?

I am interested in movement. The way a human moves and how they behave in a space is 50 percent of what I find fascinating about acting. We had an incredible movement coach on this movie. [Our coach], Alexandra Reynolds, is someone who worked with Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything.” I would say that what was most interesting and difficult at times was how real the ship was built, so when we were being chased or if we were running somewhere, if we hit something, we hit it hard. I am pretty physically attuned, but things don’t always go right. I can’t tell you how many times I was cut up or bruised from this beautiful ship that they designed. It was always a challenge. 


What kind of training did you go through to realistically portray your work at the space station? 

We worked with doctors who had been in space and doctors who have worked with astronauts. I happen to play a doctor with very little experience in space. We had a movement coach studying the footage of the people in the International Space Station and how they moved, then going back into our own personalities and what our qualities were and how we would move in zero-gravity. 

What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced while working on this film?

I am not used to having as much fun as I’ve had on this movie. I tend to beat myself up and play characters that have recently been in pretty trying circumstances and environments that make the movie pretty extreme. In this case, this was a really fun one to make. This entire film takes place in zero gravity, so we’re doing dramatic scenes, literally floating around on wires.

How did you come to be involved in this production?

I was the last one on board. The crew was already assembled, They were an incredible crew [but] the script was terrifying. Espinosa came to me and we were talking about a character and how he wanted to make the movie. [Reynolds] was already involved and I adored the cast, and we were shooting in London, and I love London.