‘I spent a year and a half learning to fly,’ jokes Jake Gyllenhaal as he sips on water in a plush hotel suite, ‘the moving upwards isn’t hard but the going forwards that’s quite difficult.’
I’ve just asked him how he prepared to play Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home and I’ve got the sneaking suspicion Jake (I can call him Jake, he told me so) isn’t taking my question entirely seriously.
But to be honest I’m not bothered at all because it’s clear that Jake’s far too down to Earth to take anything too seriously, but what would you expect from an actor who’s made a name for himself playing some of the most interesting and complex characters to grace the silver screen.
In fact it’s his love of ‘interesting characters’ which he tells me drew him to the role of Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest superhero.
I love Mysterio. I love him, yeah. I mean I love things about him because there’s a black and white quality to many different superheroes, but he’s a complicated guy and I love complicated characters [laughs]. I love people with really good intentions and he has good intentions and I like that.
But you know I’m not one of those actors who feel the desire to do anything specific, and this is something any working actor will tell you, when you’re looking for is your next job the universe sometimes brings you things, in the way it does to all of us, so I just saw this and thought this is really interesting.
I love the take on the character and thought it was so fun, and you know it was around the right time in my life to take on a role like this so I went for it.
Of course, keen comicbook movie aficionados will know that this isn’t Jake’s first dalliance with Spider-Man, he was initially linked with the title role back in 2003 during pre-production of Sam Raimi’s second film.
Tobey Maguire had infamously injured his back while filming Seabiscuit and it was touch and go for a while as to whether he would be fit enough to pull off the acrobatic stunts necessary for a Spider-Man film.
According to IMDb, Jake was lined up as a potential replacement for Mr Maguire (I’ve not met him so a degree of formality is probably necessary) although when I mentioned this to Jake he was keen to dismiss the rumour even if he didn’t outright deny it.
You know as it is with all these roles so many actors are up for them and people get closer and there are conversations and these conversations become gossip.
I’ve learned over the years that these roles aren’t your, they never were, they never will be an as much as the interest is there no reason to talk about it.
And that is why I don’t trust IMDb anymore dear reader. Anyway despite this I was still interested to know though how Jake felt about joining a franchise like the MCU and how he felt about Mysterio potentially being lined up to replace Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark as the new Iron Man.
Jake, of course, starred alongside Downey Jr in Zodiac (2007) and it’s clear from how wistful he got about Robert’s work in the MCU that this is something he’s pondered before.
He explained that RDJ’s work with Marvel had been incredible and rather modestly said that he could never fill Iron Man’s shoes but that he’d be lying if the prospect of doing so wasn’t exciting.
In fact, when I pressed the matter of what joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe meant to Jake I was almost surprised at how proud he was to be a member of Marvel’s ever-growing stable of superheroes.
I think it’s a great honour, you know? I think some of the performances which are given in these movies are outstanding and I love to watch actors I admire like Downey and Ruffalo create characters who are larger than life almost Shakespearean in that way and really give them a heart and a soul.
And I watch them do it and I watch Marvel allow them to do it and I watch the power of the movies become stronger as a result by allowing them to do what they do best which is create real characters that people can care about which is enormous with all these huge extravagancies which make the world so beautiful to watch. And so to me them having created this path for other actors it feels like a great honour.
Of course joining a world as sprawling as the MCU isn’t an easy task, even for an actor as accomplished as Jake and at one point during our interview he did confess that getting into the right ‘space’ was difficult for him, but added that Tom Holland helped him through.
I did learn from Tom because the world is overwhelming when you first get into it, and I didn’t really know how to do what I do best in that space, it took me some time and I was overwhelmed.
So thank God for Tom because he came up to me at the end of the first day and said ‘believe me I got thrown in the same way’ and it doesn’t really matter our ages or our experience if you’re a performer and you want to do a good job you’re sensitive and vulnerable to that and that’s what I wanted to do and he understood that and he really helped me through.
And Jon [Watts, the film’s director] would say to me it’s okay if the scene doesn’t work we’ll get it get it, and that’s the process Marvel goes through to make these movies fucking great.
The relationship between Peter Parker and Mysterio is key to Far From Home and I was keen to hear Jake’s thoughts on the relationship.
Mysterio has come through this rift in time and space, following these elemental creatures which destroyed his homeworld, but what he doesn’t know is that Nick Fury knows he’s coming and wants him to join up with Spider-Man.
And when he does join up with Spider-Man the pair realise how much history they kind of share with each other because Quentin’s been through a lot himself and he really empathises with Peter, and this unlikely friendship starts to blossom.
I don’t want to give things away but it’s these feelings of loss which bond them.
It was around this point that a PR executive emerged from the door of the plush suite we were sat in and gave me the sign all film journalists dread a one minute signal, which is the better known in film journalism as the symbol for ‘this A-list star has got better places to be, so wrap it up’.
What else could I do but ask Jake whether we’d see Mysterio again, to which he gave what might be the most infuriatingly evasive answer ever.
He said, with mischevious glee:
Oh, I can’t tell you that but I think that there are worlds where he could come from and go to.
Where will Mysterio end up? Well, you’ll have to watch Spider-Man: Far From Home to find out, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.
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More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.