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Source Code – Jake Gyllenhaal on living more for the present

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Source Code - Jake Gyllenhaal
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) defusing a bomb © 2010 Summit Entertainment

Jake Gyllenhaal  is considered one of most consummate actors of his generation, starring is such diverse movies as Brokeback Mountain, Love and Other Drugs, Rendition, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Zodiac, Proof and Donnie Darko.

In his new movie, the sci fi thriller Source Code, he portrays decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens, who wakes up in the body of an unknown man, with a mission to find the bomber of a commuter train in eight minutes. He discovers he’s part of a government program called the ‘Source Code,’ which enables him to cross over into another man’s identity the last eight minutes of his life. But when he is unable to find the bomb in time he is sent back over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery.

The press junket for the movie was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hill on Sunday, March 21st, the day of the LA Marathon and the worst storm Los Angeles had seen in decades. Even Jake Gyllenhaal had a problem getting to the hotel, and when he walked into our room I couldn’t stop myself from asking him –

Did you have to run here?

Source Code - Jake Gyllenhaal
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

I would have liked to – perhaps in a parallel universe!

What did you think when you read the script for Source Code? Did it feel like Groundhog Day?

I read the first fifteen pages like you would watch the first five minutes of the movie and I was completely engaged. Ben (Ripley) had written the script that was so vivid and visceral and I remember even sentence by sentence with the vivid descriptions, so you could really follow along in a very logical way.

There was a lot of clear logic to it.

I put it down after the first fifteen pages, because I thought there’s no way it’s going to be as interesting, it must have been a writing sample, and all of a sudden he’s dancing with aliens at the end! I had no idea of what was going to happen.

So I was enthralled with the script. It was amazing.

How did director Duncan Jones come onto the picture?

Source Code - Jake Gyllenhaal
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

They asked me if I had a wish list of directors, and Duncan Jones was at the top of the list. I told them, I had just seen Moon and I thought Duncan was amazing. It felt to me like he was original.

He had a character in the middle of his first movie which was actually going through human issues while at the same time being in a visually stunning world. And the rhythm of his movie was incredible. I never thought he would do it.  And he ended up wanting to do it.

It was a shock and literally four months later we were making the movie which is kind of crazy.

But in making the movie, we all knew that the only way the audience would be engaged is with variations within the Source Code. And because Ben had written such a tight script and because each Source Code had a specific theme, when you really read the script, we named each Source Code chapter by chapter.

Source Code - Jake Gyllenhaal
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

We knew that Michelle Monahan was going to be the unconscious aspect to the viewer so any variation she had would be an unconscious response by an audience. I was more conscious in that I could affect the people around me and the audience would say: “Oh, there is a difference.”

Duncan could enter the scene and exit the scene and shoot the scene in many different angles again on an unconscious and conscious level, we were constantly thinking about variation and I think that’s what makes each time you go back so intriguing. By the second one you’re not entering or exiting the same way.

Did you shoot chronologically?

In a way, I mean the train sequence for me was shot chronologically. So we shot the first day of me waking up and so on and so forth, every Source Code. Occasionally we would pick up pieces because we had Paul Hersh literally upstairs editing the movie while we were shooting it. So he would say, “Well I need a close up here,” or, “Can you get an insert of that?” So we would do that.

After we finished up the train sequence, we moved onto the Pod sequence and we shot chronologically within the Pod sequence. So in a way, yes, and in a way, no.

Are there any moments in your own life that you’d like to repeat and possible make a different decision?

Source Code - Jake Gyllenhaal
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) and that bomb © 2010 Summit Entertainment

I’ve lived a blessed life and I think I regret regardless of what it might be, if you listen to it is the best teacher in the way that it has allowed me to live more presently. But in the wake of something like what is going on in Japan, I can’t think about something that I would want to go back and re-live in my life, because my life has so far been pretty extraordinary.

I would want there to be something like this computer program in the movie. Imagine if you had the ability to go back into a nuclear scientist’s body in Japan or 8 minutes before something would have happened, you could warn thousands of people what was going on. That’s what I would use it for. It’s hard for me to think about something for myself in the situation that is going on right now.

It keeps making me think about what is happening in the world more so.