Jake Gyllenhaal ‘s superb performance as a morally challenged TV news cameraman is pure minimalist intensity. His character Lou Bloom is fascinated by true crime and haunts scenes around LA. Bloom takes his cues from the news videographers he sees vying for the most graphic footage at crime and accident sites. He realises that taking up a camera for a local TV newsroom is lucrative and puts him in the eye of the LA underworld. He’ll stop at nothing to get his footage; he crosses over the professional threshold and becomes a news predator, taking what he wants, incapable of de-escalating. We spoke with Gyllenhaal at the Toronto International Film Festival.
I worked in a TV newsroom and came in contact with a lot of night shift freelancers, they are a breed apart.
I did a lot of research on that world, but to me it’s about how we’ve created this person and how he is our creation. All day people have given Bloom different names, creep, sociopath or psychopath and what’s interesting, the reason I want to do the movie is because it was a way of exploring a piece of myself, connotes 50% of me that is like this guy and that is intriguing in the same way he is and would be driven in a similar way. He puts forth this character so we can all face a piece of ourselves that is fascinated with the tragedy.
What was your reason for wanting to do this?
I had done a lot of research. When I was shooting End of Watch, I was following the cops for many months. There were a number of times when the mayor and the publicist would get phone calls and they’d videotape us on scene with the police officers and they’d think “What is Jake Gyllenhaal doing here?” Soon they understood the world we were in. I was on the inside of that and then I went and worked on preps for this movie and I was totally on the high. That world is fascinating because there are so many scanners in their cars. I heard fire department, radio, San Bernardino and LA fire department on every scanner and you’re scanning through scanners and you’re seeking through. They have the ability to use their hearing at night, driving 125 mph to get where they need to get. They have station points. It was extraordinary. They are searching for the worst possible thing.
And he goes crazy if he can’t get what he wants.
His parent, his God, his ambition is delivering (the story). When he can’t deliver it’s sadness for him and it’s not connected to human interaction, it’s connected to this idea. His boss says “You f***d up and you promised me this”, he’s sad and hurt and when he smashes the mirror he doesn’t know how to express that, so he thinks “I’m going to go f**k up that camera guy. F**k that.” That’s sadness for him.
You starred in the film and produced it, so what was your input to the story?
Moralistically you need a lot of eyes on it. The structure of the screenplay on it, the tact in the film was so strong, there are things that lined up so well. He’s filling up the gas tank, I go “Hi, and say you pour gas on the car. We did six talks, in two of the takes I was screaming my f**ing head off the next take that was used was … we were all over the map. The scene in the mirror, he breaks the mirror, we were doing that everywhere. Moralistically how far can this guy go? Can he push that hard all the way over to this side, Okay let’s now make him charming and likeable. Sometimes what about that take, we were constantly a conversation about, and I was always pushing… I will give another example, the First scene where I fight the guy with the watch. We shot me beating the s**t out of the guy and it just didn’t work. So in the end you just see his watch and then if you really got me with the watch at the end. I said to Dan – he got a shot of the watch, not I the first cut “Where is the watch?” and he said “yeah, we had it” and then I say “Dude you have to get the watch”. There was always that kind of discussion. It’s a testament to Dan being a great dictator, is that he was a fearless collaborator. Ideas came and he’d say no to many of them, but he’d know something good. I memorised the whole movie like a play because we were shooting in 25 days and if I wasn’t agile in those soliloquies, we were going to be f**ked, waste time so it was memorised. When we were on a setup, I would ask Dan if I could do the monologues into the camera, and in different locations we’d do that. He later cut that together and marketed it for the movie in a couple of trailers. He was so thoughtful and fearless. Were you concerned your performance would suffer?
In terms of performance I’m less concerned in a movie which is why it’s fun to produce I don’t obsess unless it’s something the director and I discussed and it’s not there he forgot or something, he just said yes unless that happens I don’t really focus on my performance that much. I was involved all the way along. Towards the end I’ve seen ten cuts of the film and from Dan Gilroy’s first director’s cut up until now there are notes I give and questions I had were already answered and two out of ten got in. I was involved throughout.