How Maggie Gyllenhaal went soul-searching for 'Crazy Heart' Special

Posted Apr 20, 2010 by Earl Dittman
Although Jeff Bridges, her 'Crazy Heart' (now on DVD/BD) costar, took home an Oscar for his performance, the Academy Award-nominated Gyllenhaal won a new understanding of herself as an actress.
Maggie Gyllenhaal in  The Dark Knight
Maggie Gyllenhaal in 'The Dark Knight'
Warner Bros.
After years of watching dozens of brilliant Jeff Bridges film performances (Tucker: The Man and His Dreams, The Big Lebowski, The Fabulous Baker Boys), it was great – and long overdue – to see him finally take home an Academy Award earlier this year for his moving and gritty portrayal of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. Bridges more than deserved the priceless, gold-plated Best Actor Oscar as the boozy, broken-down fictional country music singer. At its core, director Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart is a powerful story of a country music star’s rocky road to redemption and reaches for salvation with the help of Jean, a female journalist who discovers the real man behind the music.
While Jeff Bridges is the heart of film, Maggie Gyllenhaal – who scored an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Jean – is the true soul of Crazy Heart. Bad Blake is man who has lived hard, fast and recklessly, but still goes after the salvation of love when his heart gets what appears to be one last chance to redeem itself in Jean. Maggie Gyllenhaal, the star of such films as Sherry Baby, The Dark Knight and Donnie Darko (with brother Jake) was intrigued by the emotions of her character and was anxious to understand what motivated Jean and her heart.
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges in  Crazy Heart
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges in 'Crazy Heart'
“There are movies that I've made that worked for me, and when I read them I knew, 'I have to do this movie,' and I felt that way about Crazy Heart right from the beginning,” recalls the 32-year-old wife of actor Peter Sarsgaard. “I really didn't know why, but I had a feeling that I had to play Jean because for me, she was so different than any of the other roles that I've played that I'm now proud of. But I knew she was going to be a challenge. I remember thinking way before we started shooting, 'Okay, how does a capable, smart woman fall for a serious drunk?' Obviously, it's a much more interesting movie if she is a capable and smart woman than if she's just like a wreck. So how does that happen? Then, you know what, I never thought about it again. I think that's how I ended up playing her the way I did. She's just not thinking. I am a person who uses my brain and I don't think, too. It happens to us. So, I didn't over think it. I just followed her feelings and went wherever they took me.”
Being a part of Crazy Heart (adapted from the highly praised novel by Thomas Cobb) also reawakened the New York City-born Gyllenhaal's love for country music.” “I've always been a fan of country music, but doing this film really opened my eyes – and ears – to some of the greatest country music I've ever heard,” the mother of one admits. “Everybody knows who Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash are, but I got to listen to some really great music by Merle (Haggard), Hank (Williams) and Lefty (Frizzell) -- a lot. There was a lot of great music going on in this movie – on camera and behind the scenes.” In addition to Maggie's nomination and Jeff's win, Crazy Heart also garnered a Best Original Song award for “The Weary Kind.” Fueled by country rock, Crazy Heart also features award-winning music from composer and producer T-Bone Burnett (Walk The Line), the late Texas songwriter Stephen Bruton, and southern singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham.
“I'm so glad I did this role,” Gyllenhaal confesses. “When I watched it for the first time – I saw it with my best girlfriend because my husband was away – I was so ashamed watching some of it. I thought, 'God, Jean seems so weak.' Then I was looking at my girlfriend, who is a professor and she's so great and so awesome and strong and I thought, 'She's weak, too, and so am I.' Sometimes I'm not. I think it's only recently, really, like in the past couple of months even, that I see the real power in feeling your feelings and being vulnerable and not being so ashamed of the weaknesses in you and to expose them sometimes. So that's what I learned playing Jean, and I didn't know that. I knew it in my work before I knew it in my life.”
Jeff Bridges in  Crazy Heart
Jeff Bridges in 'Crazy Heart'
Did you know (country musician) Lefty Frizzell before doing Crazy Heart? “Did I know Lefty Frizzell as a musician? It's interesting that you ask me that because I actually do listen to country music and it completely came from me. I was born in New York, and I grew up in California and I've lived here for fifteen years, in New York. There's no reason at all why I should like country music and I do. The country music that I listen to though, I'm not sure what T-Bone (Burnett) would think of because it's not influenced by where I'm living at all and none of my friends listen to country. It's all my own thing. I didn't know Lefty Frizzell, although, I did listen to Merle Haggard and Hank Williams and some of the other old school guys that we talk about. I didn't listen to Lefty Frizzell until I started the movie and did the interview. But I do love Gillian Welch and Iris Dement, Emmylou Harris. I love The Dixie Chicks. I do listen to country music, and I don't know why. I just like it.”
Were you a big concert-goer while you were growing up?“Yes and no. I had a boyfriend who was really into music, very snobby about music and really kind of liked a certain indie rock thing and looked down on my CD collection. I was completely ashamed by it. (laughs) I definitely thought at the time that my music wasn't cool enough.” (laughs)
You play a mother in Crazy Heart and your now a mom in real life – were there any similarities? Were there any correlations from real life that you could draw on? “Well, look, I've played mothers before I was a mother and I think I was pretty successful, sometimes anyway. I've also played heroin addicts and not been a heroin addict. But for me, in this particular movie, my state as a mother when I made the movie is a huge part of the movie for me and also a huge part, thematically, I think of what happened to Jean. My daughter was almost two when I made this movie, and I was having that feeling that I think parents must have intermittently throughout their children's lives. I had it for the first time, like I had been focused almost completely on my daughter, on being a mother, and I had this kind of surge of a feeling that I needed to do something for me, that I was also a woman and an actress and not just a mother. I worked. For some reason, I think in the production notes or something, because everyone all day today has been saying to me that this was the first movie I've made since she was born. It's not. I did The Dark Knight when she was seven months old, and I also did Away We Go -- but Batman was literally fifteen days over eight months. It was very different. It was difficult, but my focus was on my eight month old. As much as I could, it was impossible for me to take my focus from her. Away We Go was three days. So, basically this was in some ways the first thing. If I say that I needed something for me it was this movie. I had so much kind of built up and kind of welling in me that needed to be expressed from having become a mom and it's in the movie. Then basically I think that's kind of what's happening with my character Jean. I think she's been trying to be a good mom and pull it together after what must've been a complicated beginning with this child. I think she's at an emergency state of what I'm describing, and I think she just feels like, 'I need something for me. I need something that feels good to me. I don't care if it's bad for me. It's better if it's bad for me.'”
If you had a chance in real life to sit down and interview an actor or musician – the way Jean gets the chance to talk with Bad Blake – who would you choose? And, what would you say?“These are always the questions where later on I think, 'Oh, I should've said or 'If I really got that chance I'd have said,' but I have to say that I'd like to talk to (director) David Lynch.”
That's quite an interesting choice. What would you say to him if you could ask him anything?“Oh my God. I loved Inland Empire. Unbelievable movie. I mean, I didn't enjoy myself when I was watching it, but what would I ask him?”
A week after watching Inland Empire, I would close my eyes and see images from it. “It really haunts you, yeah and it goes so down and dark and terrifyingly dark and then brings you back up again.”
Crazy Heart has a remarkable sense of place, which I think helps you with Jean, and her role in the movie. Do you agree?“I think so. We shot really quickly in Santa Fe. The movie takes place in Santa Fe and we didn't have to pretend that part of it. You get there and you're like high – naturally.” (laughs)
From the good, pure air?“Yeah.”
Did you have any trouble with the altitude?“See, I don't like the desert. It's not my thing.”
So, you don't go to Burning Man? (Laughs) “No. That's not my thing. I was a little bit afraid of going to Santa Fe and being in the desert and I loved it. I loved it. I did. It just went along with everything else in this movie which was so intense and so fast and so open. I mean, that's what happened with Jeff (Bridges), and I. I just knew that the movie wouldn't work unless these people actually deeply love each other. It wouldn't have, and I think he must've known that, too and we just met, didn't have any time and we just sort of went, 'My heart is open. I'm up for anything.' And I felt exactly the same thing from him and we just did the movie.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges in  Crazy Heart
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges in 'Crazy Heart'
I think one of the reasons Jeff and your character worked so well together -- despite the 25 or 30 years difference in age -- is that she's had just as much trauma in her life and background as he did, expect in a totally different way. Agree?“Yeah, of course. I think that's true. That's the thing it's what brings people together. My friend, who is a screenwriter and really smart and great and who I love, came to see the movie at the premiere and liked it a lot and said, 'I watched you walk into the room and I thought that if these people were supposed to be lovers, the movie isn't going to work. If they pretend that they're going to be lovers they're cheating. Then I watched it work.' I think that, too. I love that about it because it does make you have to be compassionate about why people love each other. I don't know why they get together, but you're right, it's all those things. You can be so attracted to the thing that makes you the sickest. “
In a secret way, is she kind of relieved by not telling herself that Bad does something in helping her lose her kid, which she can never forgive him for and can not get back with him afterwards?“Well, I do think that if my friend is right that you begin the movie thinking, 'No way they're going to work,' and then you watch it work and then at the end it can't survive -- then that's a good movie. I think at the end it really can't. I mean, how can you make the movie so that they end up together and it's right? You can't. I mean, I understand what you're saying, but no, I don't think he's glad. But I do think that it makes it a little clearer.”
You mean, what her priorities are? “Well, not just what her priorities are but like it makes – the thing is that if someone were a responsible parent, who was not drinking and thinking carefully and the child got lost for a half-hour, they could end up together. Somebody said to me, 'He only had a sip of that drink, that's all you saw.' I think it makes absolutely no difference. If you're with someone who's a drunk they could be drinking and who knows? Who f**king knows, maybe he only did have one drink. I don't know? He might have had one drink. He might have been drinking all day. He might have been drinking all the times in the movie that you think he's trying not to. You just don't know and so it can't work because ultimately she knew. What about in the movie -- which is so great what Scott (Cooper) did -- where Buddy and she comes home, and they're not home for two seconds and she thinks, she knows it's not safe and if she knows it's not safe then she can't do it. I don't know if I felt relief, but I think it's just really terribly sad. At the same time they do reveal their love for each other, both of them, by not being with each other. I think she is loving him by telling him no.”
Do you think that she can't find anyone else that she had that much fun with? “In order to be with him she has to not think? Like I said, that can't be good for anybody.”
What was it like seeing Jeff Bridges on stage singing and seeking him as musician?“Well, everyone was playing music all the time. Steven Bruton, who was T-Bone's partner and passed away, to whom the film is dedicated to, he was around and he and Jeff would sing 'Falling and Flying' to me, and it was just kind of all the time happening. Everyone was practicing and playing. The musicians who were playing, most of them were real musicians and so music was really just a part of it.”
What did you ask the musicians themselves? “I did spend a lot of time with Steven Bruton. I mean, the musicians who were the day players, who were playing musicians in the movie I didn't talk to. The only scene that I'm in is that one scene at night where I have another focus which is really Bad Blake. But Steven and I did get to know each other really well, and I hadn't listened to Lefty Frizzell before. My husband (actor Peter Sarsgaard) listens to a lot of blues, which is actually where that question about Son House and Big Bell Brunsy came from, because I'd heard a lot of that music. He played me music and we talked a lot about sort of some of the background of the music because I do think that Jean does listen to country music and knows more about it than I do, although not a great deal more. I think she does walk into the interview without a massive amount of information but I that's part of their connection, that she says, 'I can feel that you must've liked Lefty Frizzell,' not that that takes a genius but it takes knowing more about music than just Hank Williams.”
Everything you have been doing lately has been so serious. What's next for up, anything lighter?“As a matter of fact, I did a sweet little film – Nanny McPhee (and the Big Bang) which is amazing, I think. I think it'll be really, really great, that movie. I'm really looking forward to it.”
Of course, no more Batman movies for you. “No, they killed me off in The Dark Knight. So, my time as Rachel was pretty limited, but fun.” (laughs)
Crazy Heart Bonus Features: BLU-RAY – Eight deleted scenes, two alternate music cuts, “Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall on What Brought Them to Crazy Heart” featurette and a Digital Copy of Crazy Heart. DVD – Seven deleted scenes.
BBC Video
Merlin: The Complete First Season
Leave it up to the British to come up with some really wild and inventive shows to tickle your fancy. Besides original programming like Doctor Who, Torchwood and Top Gear, the “Beeb” have been re-imagining and updating shows surrounding such legends as Robin Hood and turning their stories into new, exciting and addictive television series. They've done it again with a wizard much older and more experienced than Harry Potter. In this exciting and inventive new series, experience an imaginative twist on the rise of the infamous Arthurian sorcerer Merlin. A hit across the Pond and on BBC America/BBC Canada, the initial 13 episodes of the witty and stylishly retelling of the centuries-old legend of the most famous magic man of them all have been compiled on the 5-disc DVD set Merlin: The Complete First Season. All of the action and adventure of Merlin still takes place in the mystical city of Camelot – but before Arthur has even been made a king. Our story picks up before history has even begun to be recorded, in a magical realm of mysterious beasts and humans – a deadly and dangerous world where magic has been banned by the merciless Uther Pendragon. So, when Merlin, a young man gifted with incredible magical powers, shows up at Camelot he immediately begins to make enemies – even of the headstrong Prince Arthur, the heir to the thrown. However, Merlin's circumstances begin to change for the better when Uther's wise physician, Gaius, starts to show the young Merlin that he can use his magical talents to not only keep his head on his shoulders, but to unlock Camelot's mystical secrets. Consequently, it doesn't take Merlin long to discover that his destiny and Arthur's – the man that will be king – are bonded together forever. Produced by Britain's award-winning team of prime-time magicians Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy (Hex, Sugar Rush), Merlin is packed with a powerful and ultra-talented ensemble cast of regulars that includes BAFTA Award-winner Richard Wilson (One Foot in the Grave, Demons), Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Persuasion) and John Hurt (Hellboy, Harry Potter). Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman, Doctor Who) and Eve Myles (Torchwood, Little Dorrit) also make unforgettable guest star appearances as Merlin weaves its wand over a whole new generation of television-viewers that will be entranced by this wonderfully smart and engrossing series. (DVD Only) Bonus Features: Audio commentary, 2 “Making-of” featurettes, video diaries, photo galleries and wallpaper
Neowolf: Band From Hell
With Tru Blood dominating cable and The Twilight Saga: New Moon becoming one of last year's biggest box office hits, it's clear that the viewing public are still rabid fans of our hairy friends known as werewolves. But this should come as no surprise. From the moment that Romanian gypsy woman cursed Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolfman, lycans have ruled pop culture. We just can't seem to get enough of their shaggy, bloodthirsty ways. In the seductive, new thriller, Neowolf, it's sex, bloody flesh and rock 'n' roll all the way, and the groupies often have to pay for their nights with the boys from the band with their lives. Michael Frascino, Agim Kaha (As The World Turns) and award-nominated Veronica Cartwright (The X-Files, The Witches of Eastwick) head up the cast of this blood-quenching horror film. Neowolf tells the story of a young musician (Frascino) who is torn between the girl he loves and the dark side of his dreams of fame. The young rocker is seduced by a touring rock band called Neowolf with a mysterious past and a hungry habit that comes with the full moon. (DVD Only) Bonus Features: Trailers.
Deadly Impact: Unrated
When a police officer’s life collides with a powerful assassin the result is always lethal. You learn that immediately in Deadly Impact, a pure white-knuckle action thriller packed with extreme, jaw-dropping stunt work. In this explosive game of cat and mouse – directed by special effects guru Robert Kurtzman (City Slickers, Cabin Fever) – Deadly Impact follows hard-nosed cop Thomas Armstrong (Sean Patrick Flanery) whose life was shattered when he became the helpless target of a mastermind murderer. Returning home after a much-needed break, Armstrong joins the FBI to seek revenge and help track down the same killer that threatened his existence, however this time the assassin is back to terrorize not just a single person, but the entire city. In an exhilarating race against time, Armstrong must stay one step ahead to capture the madman and save innocent lives before time runs out.
If you didn't have the chance to catch this totally twisted thriller in the theater, then rush out right now to buy 0r rent it, because you'll want to see this film more than once. Peacock is such an incredibly creepy and shocking motion picture – I promise you – you'll never forget it. Sporting one of the most talented and versatile casts ever assembled for a single film, Peacock stars Cillian Murphy (Breakfast on Pluto), Ellen Page (Juno), Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Academy Award-winner Keith Carradine (Nashville), Bill Pullman (Independence Day) and Josh Lucas (Poseidon). The Michael Lander-directed Peacock follows the story of John Skillpa, a quiet bank clerk living in tiny Peacock, Nebraska -- living his life in solitude. Then, in a moment, everything changes.A train caboose runs off its tracks and crashes into his backyard, destroying more than the weathered planks of his wood fence. When neighbors descend on the scene, they discover Skillpa’s other personality, Emma, for the first time and mistakenly believe her to be his wife. This launches him into the glare of the spotlight and eventually shatters the delicate balance of his sanity. (DVD Only) Bonus Features: "Welcome to Peacock. The Making of Peacock” featurette, deleted scenes, alternate ending, Cillian Murphy rehearsal footage and a Downloadable script.
Perry Mason - Fifth Season: Volume 1
Long before there was Jack McCoy on Law & Order, Ally McBeal or Bobby Donnell from The Practice, there was Perry Mason – the blueprint for all TV lawyers to follow. Raymond Burr starred as Mason, the famous defense attorney who must outwit determined prosecutor Hamilton Burger (William Talman) and the sly Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins), always with loyal support from secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) and sidekick Paul Drake (William Hopper). In this collection from the 1960-1961 prime-time season, the brilliant attorney is back in the courtroom for his most challenging cases yet, as the hit series returns with the first 15 episodes from Season Five. With its surprising story twists, stellar cast, and legendary guest stars, the pioneering Perry Mason still sets the bar for legal dramas – past, present, and future. The verdict is in – and guess what -- Perry Mason wins again!
Warner Bros
Falcon Crest - The Complete First Season
Much like Dynasty and Dallas, Falcon Crest was prime-time soap at its finest. It was grand, epic '80s television that spared no expense when it came to its lavish production values. Meet the characters, indulge in the lifestyle and savor the first of nine seasons of vintage television melodrama with this First Season collection. Set in the fictional city of Tuscany Valley, the popular, long-running series centered on the rich vineyards and richer people of Northern California's wine country (particularly the two wealthy wine families of the Channings, and their rivals, the Giobertis). Academy Award-winner Jane Wyman stars as winery matriarch Angela Channing, who will let nothing -- family, honor, the law -- stand between her and power. Costars included Robert Foxworth as Chase Gioberti, Angela's upstanding nephew and rival, and Lorenzo Lamas as Lance Cumson, Angela's scheming, playboy grandson. Falcon Crest also featured Lana Turner as one of the show's highest profile guest stars. Created by Earl Hamner of The Waltons fame, Falcon Crest ran from 1981 to 1990 and was a Top 20 show in the Nielsen ratings for four straight years, ranking #13 in its debut year and reaching #7 by the third season.
Cheech And Chong's Hey Watch This!
The best buds of comedy are back and funnier than ever. In their triumphant return – 25 years in the making – Cheech and Chong embark on an all-new trip that will leave you rolling with laughter. One of the best-known stories in the world of comedy, Cheech and Chong bring their hilarious antics on stages across America in Hey Watch This! Following the pop culture phenomenon through their widely successful "Cheech and Chong Light Up America and Canada Tour," this side-splitting film captures the essence of their live performances which have made them the fan-favorite, high-times comedians they are today. Directpr Christian Charles mixes their classic characters, outrageous jokes, hilarious songs and live performance footage into a potent comedy blend. Kick back with a legendary duo that is, without a doubt – still smokin'! Blu-ray and DVD Bonus Features: Deleted and extended scenes.
Handy Mandy: Big Race
Tell your kids to fasten their seatbelts and get set for a thrilling joyride with everyone’s favorite animated fix-it man in Handy Manny: Big Race, a captivating story that is sure to rev up both preschoolers and their parents. Start your engines and get ready for Manny (Wilmer Valderrama) and Elliot (former 'N Sync singer and actor Lance Bass), who team up to build a fabulous race car to enter into the Wood Valley 500 race. However, with the pressure of the race approaching, Elliot decides he’s not quite ready to take the wheel and bows out. It’s up to Manny to put his driving skills to the test in an attempt to reach the checkered flag and win the race for the team! Big Race features a brand-new song with Wilmer Valderrama and the voice talent of special guest star NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. Handy Manny is an Emmy-nominated show, set in a multicultural, multi-generational community and follows a curriculum that models problem solving and the importance of community. In addition to imparting life lessons about working together, communication and setting goals, the series also highlights some Spanish words and phrases, and exposes viewers to aspects of Latin culture.
BBC Video
Spot: Where's Spot? 30th Anniversary Edition
A childhood favorite (and British import) that aired on The Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney preschool block, this impressive DVD collection celebrates thirty years of the ever-curious and always adorable puppy, Spot. Based on the signature lift-the-flap children's books by Eric Hill, the classic TV show follows the adorable children's icon on everyday adventures as Spot and his friends play at the park, take their first nature walk and splash around in a rain puddle. Spot: Where's Spot? 30th Anniversary Edition boasts six endearing episodes with Spot voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas (The Lion King, Home Improvement), with each episode accompanied by its own special song. (DVD Only) Bonus Features: Three bonus episodes in which the beloved puppy is voiced by actor Hayley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward), a reading of Where's Spot? by author Eric Hill and two interactive games.