Now, the Next Stage
JAKE GYLLENHAAL made a deal with himself 10 years ago: For every three movies he made, he would perform in a play.
It was a deal he didn’t keep.
He was 21 back then, on a high from his London stage debut as a sensitive slacker in Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth,” the sort of hangdog character that had turned him into an indie darling in movies like “Donnie Darko” and “Lovely & Amazing.” But going off to do plays isn’t part of the Hollywood fast track for young actors still proving themselves at the box office. So Mr. Gyllenhaal tested for the Spider-Man and Batman franchises and other roles that might transform him into an action hero or leading man.
What happened? The critically derided disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” happened. The much-mocked “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” happened. Acclaimed films happened too, like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Zodiac.” But Mr. Gyllenhaal was uneasy.
“I wasn’t really listening to myself about the kinds of projects I wanted to do,” he said in a recent interview, reflecting on the past decade. “I had to figure out what kind of an actor I wanted to be and feel confident going for that.”
He has now come to a few conclusions, and they were evident last month at a table reading for his first outing in New York theater, “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” a dark comedy about an overweight British teenager and her troubled family. The project itself was telling: The play, which will begin performances on Friday from Roundabout Theater Company, is an Off Broadway ensemble work by a little-known writer rather than a famous Broadway drama by a prizewinner like Arthur Miller — the vehicles of choice for Hollywood stars these days.
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