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Q&A: Jake Gyllenhaal Talks ‘End Of Watch,’ Training With Police

By Zac Shull   /   Published 09/21/12

Jake Gyllenhaal in END OF WATCH

"Any time anything inspires you, my opinion is to go after it as hard as you can," Jake Gyllenhaal told us. That is a very strong quote from a very strong actor.

Jake has taken many risks in his career and it usually works out to his benefit in the end. From playing a mildly disturbed teenager in Donnie Darko to a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, he's had a disverse Hollywood career. This Friday (September 21), he plays an LAPD officer in South Central Los Angeles. With that said, Jake has continually shown that he lives by his own motto.

In our new interview with Jake, he tells us about his new movie, End Of Watch, in theatres now; how its based on real events; what it was like training with real police officers with real ammunition; and if Jake can finally get out of speeding tickets after portraying law enforcement on the big screen.

Hey Jake! Good to talk to you.

Good to talk to you to Zac. Where are you right now?

I am outside of Philadelphia.

Oh ok. I always like to know where the person is that I am talking to.

Are you in New York?

I am in L.A. right now. We had an awards show last night and we have the premier tonight.

The website is called BallerStatus.com, and we do a lot of stuff with hip-hop. I was curious, do you listen to a lot of hip-hop?

Yea man, of course. That's a majority of my playlist right there.

Nice. Who is your favorite?

Definitely Jay-Z.

I saw End Of Watch. I have a screening of it and actually watched it twice. Did you have to actually audition for this movie?

It's a weird thing, like I kind of had to. But, it's one of those things like once I got it, it was like something I was involved in from the beginning almost. I eventually got a producing credit on the movie, so it was a strange process. The director was David Ayer and he said like, "Yo, you didn't grow up like this. Can you play this part? I need you to show me. If you show me, then you gotta spend six months of your life on the street, actually becoming a cop. Can you do all that?" I said yes.

How did you show him you could play the part?

Well, I am an actor, so at first I just acted out the role. A lot of stuff is just behavioral, particularly with a cop. A lot of scenes happen in the car and my character is in the passenger seat a lot. He is dealing with four or five things at once, like the computer and investigation reports, and also keeping an eye out on the street. To be able to do the scenes and then feel like, behaviorally, you are acting like a cop was one of the things I was trying to do. Eventually, he just said I'm going to wear you down until you feel like a real cop. That took about five months of going out twice a week from 4pm to 5am in the morning, riding around with real cops. Then, we did training with live ammunition and training with the Swat Team a few times a week for six-hour sessions. We had to learn tactic exercises and moving exercises with live ammo and then we did fight training in Echo Park. David Ayer, our director, his best friend has a dojo, so we trained there in MMA fighting too. Eventually, after getting the crap beaten out of you and being on the street, you start to actually come into the role and feeling like you really can play the part.

Was any of the stuff in the movie based on real events?

All of it. Even the very first fight, when Mike fights that guy, that's an actual situation that happened with our technical advisor and his partner. Dave is so involved with the gangs and law enforcements that all of the stories are true. Finding the kids with the duct tape, that's all real too.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in END OF WATCH

One of the best parts of the movie is your chemistry with Michael Pena. Did you guys know each other before this or did you click right away?

We knew each other in passing, because Michael played my sister's husband in another movie. I didn't know him well at all, but that’s also why the movie is so good. Michael and I spent so much time together that we actually became brothers. We got to the point where we could give each other sh** and to us, that was the entire movie. He was one of my good friends now from the experience.

Did you guys adlib at all?

I would say about 90% of it was scripted, but another 10% was adlib. The whole scene about marrying a Mexican girl is all improv. We knew we were playing parts, but it felt real. We were filming with tons of different cameras and I'm filming him and he's filming me. Stuff like with the Dodgers tickets and the gang members, that was all adlibbed. Michael Pena is one of the funniest guys out and his humor is ridiculous. When you are working with someone like that, it works out well.

How come your character never drove the police car?

Partners usually stay in the same position. The one person is better at one thing rather than the other. I dealt with the computer and he drove the car. My character wasn't as physical as Michael's, so that idea carries over to the car. I would do the paper work and he would do the fighting.

There is a lot of suspense in the movie as well that really added to the film. You pulled a guy over and you don't show right away what's in the backseat of his car. It really added to the movie.

Yea, that's all David's writing. A lot of time, that is what really happens. When I was out on the street, the cops actually lived that kind of scenario. They would pull a guy over and then they find an AK-47 under the seat of the car. The suspense of the movie is where the movie resides. People tell me they felt like they went on a ride with real police officers.

When you got this script, how bad did you want to be involved?

I had been doing a tour for Source Code and I came back to L.A. and I was jetlagged. I woke up at like 5 am and it was still dark outside and I started reading the script. I finished the script and I was like, "Holy f***, I got to be involved with this." I called everyone I worked with, and of course, no one was awake. I was telling everyone, "You have to get me a meeting with David Ayer. You got to get me a meeting with David Ayer." I finally got the meeting and I told him I would devote my life to this movie. He was saying, "Man, are you sure? Because I am going to poison your mind and taint your soul." I was like, "I'm ready." Any time anything inspires you, my opinion is to go after it as hard as you can. That is what I always try to do and sometimes it doesn't work out, but in this case, it did.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in END OF WATCH

When you went on the ride along, did the cops embrace you or give you any sh**?

They did not embrace us right away, definitely not. We were with Inglewood PD and some sheriffs, and at first, there were a lot of politics. They didn't know if they could trust us and we didn't know if we could trust them. Eventually, we developed a friendship and we started trusting each other. At first, they weren't too happy and we had to prove ourselves and that took awhile. You hear actors say how they went on ride alongs and I'm like, "Yea ok." We went on like 40 to 50 ride alongs and it's funny, sometimes we would get the political ride along, where they would be like, "Oh, will take you over here and take you over here." After seeing crazy stuff, Mike and I were like, "Get us out of here." We already saw the crazy stuff and this guy wasn't showing us the realness. It was funny.

That sounds like a comedy in itself: two actors on a ride along with real cops.

We should have documented that 'cause it was funny when real sh** is going on and Michael and I are running and trying to hide and protect ourselves. We recognize the comedy in the situation, and a lot of times, you got to go through that hazing process. I know the absurdity of my own job, and after spending time with the cops, I really know how absurd my job is.

At the end of it, did they give you like a get out of jail free card thing?

No dude! It's funny. I finished up the movie and the next day, I got a ticket for running a stop sign.

You didn't drop any names or anything?

No man (laughs). Cops can't either, that's the thing. There are so many stories of other cops getting a speeding ticket after doing a million dollar drug bust.

It's good to know cops are held accountable as well. Thanks for doing the interview and it comes out this Friday right?

Yep! Thanks for talking to me.

  • StarB

    This movie was AWESOME. Next time a cop pulls me over to give me a ticket or whatever, I'm gonna be like "thanks for your service" I'm serious. WOW it takes a special person to deal with that stuff and I'm glad they do it.