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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Jack Gyllenhaal on learning how to swordfight with a British accent

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Prince of Persia - Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

Based on the video game, which became a sensation in 1989, Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a rogue prince named Dastan, who reluctantly joins forces with a mysterious princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) as they race against dark forces to find and safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time – allowing its possessor to rule the world.

The action/adventure genre is not one that Jake Gyllenhaal is known for, and the actor spoke about the extensive training he went through during the press junket for the movie.

You’re best known for your dramatic roles, how is it different for you to prepare for this kind of large scale action adventure as compared to those other movies?

Prince of Persia - Jake Gyllenhaal on the poster
Jake Gyllenhaal on the poster © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

It required a lot of technical work that I usually do in movies but this was learning how to do the rudimentary aspects of parkour, learning how to swordfight, having martial arts training and learning really complicated choreography, having 2 swords that I used and learning how to horseback ride proficiently in a way that I could do stunts. And learning a British accent and on top of all of that.

Were you familiar with the game before you got involved with the film?

I’ve been familiar with the game since I was a young boy. I used to play the original Jordan Mechner created version on the first Mac computer in elementary school. And then I took a 20 year hiatus from the game, though I did know about it but I didn’t really play it that much. I played other games, and then when I read the script for this movie I took the opportunity and I started researching and playing the game (again) and I got to know it very intimately.

Was it fun to have the opportunity to play the lead of a game that you had played as a young kid?

In the past few days I was thinking, I wish I could go back and tell that 8 year old kid who was playing the game that one day, some 20 odd years later, he would be playing the lead in a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster movie based on that game, and just see how his eyes would pop out of his head, how excited he’d be.

And for me that’s how I felt when I was making the movie, I felt like I was unlocking that piece of my childhood again, it was fun every day, running and jumping and fighting bad guys.

Your character starts out at the beginning of the film a little cocky and ultimately learns to be a little bit humble. How did you want to show the subtle transformation?

Prince of Persia - Gemma Arterton and Jake Gyllenhaal
Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

I don’t know if he really loses his cockiness throughout the whole film. I hope he maintains it just enough. I think what happens is he realizes the importance of this dagger, and his destiny, and he realizes how much his family means to him.

At the beginning of the movie he’s an orphan and he’s rescued by the King, and when he has the potential of losing this family that has brought him in and saved his life, when that’s threatened I think he starts taking his life and the lives of others around him much more seriously. But I think he still maintains a little bit of wit and humor throughout all of it.

Was it important when playing the hero of the movie to go up against a fantastic villain such as Nizam, played by Ben Kingsley, and what was it like playing opposite him?

Prince of Persia - Ben Kingsley, Jake Gyllenhaal and Richard Coyle
Nizam (Ben Kingsley), Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Tus (Richard Coyle) © Disney Enterprises and Jerry Bruckheimer

There are a lot of villains in this movie. They may actually be ones you would never expect. There are I would say maybe 10 or 15 people chasing after the Dagger Of Time and who are (chasing it) not for the right reasons.

But specifically working with someone like Ben Kingsley, it’s just incredible. When you work with somebody of that level, that stature, who has that amount of experience, has done such extraordinary work, it’s kind of an actor’s dream come true.

The interesting thing about Sir Ben is that he has a real childish play to him. I acted really conservatively around him when I first started acting, and he was like, ‘Come on,’ because he sits up really straight and he seems so regal, but he really likes to get down and dirty with his acting and so do I, so it was great fun and an real honor.