src=”http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js”>It’s true that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first two films were directed by her father Stephen (1992’s “Waterland” and the following year’s “A Dangerous Woman”), but no one was crying nepotism by the time she broke out of Sundance with 2002’s pitch-black comedy “Secretary,” an astute character study on BDSM behavior in which she bared all — figuratively, literally and both ways boldly. Since then, Gyllenhaal’s carved out an eclectic path through indie cinema (“SherryBaby,” “Donnie Darko”) and mainstream fare (“World Trade Center,” “The Dark Knight”), with her richest roles typically emerging from the smaller passion projects that she clearly loves most.
Such is the case with first-time filmmaker Scott Cooper’s charming country-music drama “Crazy Heart,” adapted from Thomas Cobb’s novel and featuring the music of co-producer T-Bone Burnett. In a performance that just nabbed him a Golden Globe nomination, Jeff Bridges headlines as 57-year-old crooner legend Bad Blake, a charismatically crusty drunk who’s watched his music protégé-turned-rival (Colin Farrell) become a superstar while he himself now stumbles through sets in southwest podunk bowling alleys. Gyllenhaal costars as Jean Craddock, a young Santa Fe journalist, single mother and fan who scores a chance to interview Bad. With a cautious rapport on both ends, the two give in to an unlikely May-December romance that couldn’t possibly work, but hey, what’s in a title, right? Gyllenhaal, who has a young daughter with her husband Peter Sarsgaard, sat down with me to talk motherhood, having an old soul and what she likes least about being interviewed.
Have you ever been in a relationship you knew you shouldn’t be in?
Sure I have. But I don’t think Jean knows she shouldn’t be in this relationship with Bad. Also, even though I do think that they can’t end up together, they love each other. They are ultimately redemptive and good for each other in some ways.
You’ve experienced something that profound?
Not exactly like that. But I understand it. God, who doesn’t understand that?
Co-producer Judy Cairo said you’re “an old soul.” Have you been told that before?
I don’t know what that really means. I just turned 32, and at this moment in my life, I’m learning a lot. Sometimes it makes you feel like a baby, you know? [laughs] Actually, I’m realizing what I learned making this movie by doing all the press, as you have to talk about and organize it. I’ve read really good scripts before — and it doesn’t happen often — where I thought, “I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this. This isn’t for me.” I had that with this [movie], but I just knew, “I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I have to.” I feel more proud of this than I ever have, and I try to think, “Why?”
The people I’ve played before, some of them have been so fierce and bulldozed through. I used to think until recently that that was the idea, to be as powerful and strong as you could be, and now I don’t think that’s the ideal anymore. There’s this amazing strength in feeling your feelings and being vulnerable.
I’ve seen the movie twice now. When I watched it the first time next to a girlfriend of mine, I almost felt ashamed by how vulnerable and weak [Jean] is sometimes. Then I look at my girlfriend. She’s a professor and she’s just so great and strong, and I was like, “She’s totally weak sometimes, and me, too!” I’m still young enough that I feel ashamed of that as opposed to just [accepting that] that’s humanity. I’m starting to feel proud of having put that in a movie.
So which is it: Are you 32 years old or young?
I’m not clear. I had to go to this work party in Los Angeles with all these girls. I wanted to ask them, “How old are you? Am I too old to wear that gold sequined miniskirt? Because I would love to, and when I was your age, I didn’t want to. Are you 29? 35?” I don’t have a very good sense of what it means to be 32. I just turned 32, so you have to give me a minute.
You share a lot of screen time with Jeff Bridges, but anecdotally, what were the little moments you appreciated most in your downtime on-set with him?
We shot it so quickly that downtime was working. Everything we did was about the movie. We enjoy each other, but there was no time to have that be anything but in service to the movie. The very first day, we shot the scene where I say goodbye to him after the first night we spend together, when he comes over to my house and makes biscuits. Then we shot the scene on the bed where I get really upset, and he’s writing the song. Those are intense scenes to shoot on the first day!