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Maggie Gyllenhaal on Crazy Heart

Published December 15, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Searchlight
It may be a cliché to say that motherhood impacts all the parts an actress plays. Maggie Gyllenhaal knows this, but she confirms that it’s true. Crazy Heart is her first leading role since having a child and it all came pouring out.

Maggie Gyllenhaal Talks Crazy Heart


“Look, I usually try not to talk too much about my family in press but the making of this movie was so connected to kind of moving out of a certain phase of motherhood for me,” Gyllenhaal said. “My daughter was almost two when I made the movie and I kind of got to this place where I felt like, ‘I am also me. I am also an actress.’ I had this really strong hunger to express something that I hadn’t had for a while when she was a tiny baby. I had worked a little. A did Batman but literally I worked 15 days over eight months. It was a totally different thing. I did Away We Go for three days, and Away We Go got a little of that energy. I was kind of like, ‘I have something to say!’ but then it was over like that. Crazy Heart got almost all of it.”

Gyllenhaal plays a single mom who falls for country singer Bad Blake, who turns out to disappoint her like hard living men tend to do. “When I look at the movie now, I kind of see Jean is really going through a similar thing. I don't know if that’s just part of the movie inherently or I put it there, but I think for Jean it’s like she’s got this four year old who, at least for a big chunk of time, she’s been raising alone. She’s just been trying to do good, trying to be good, trying to manage, trying to manage, trying to manage and I think she just finally says, ‘I need something for me. I need something that feels good to me and I don't care if it’s bad for me. It’s better if it’s bad for me.’ I think she just takes it and I don't think it could’ve been anybody. I think she really falls in love with him but you know, I think that’s a line every mother walks and I think if you’re a mother, you know what I mean. Balancing what you need in order to be alive and what you have to sacrifice for your kids.”


Crazy Heart Crazy Heart


Most of that analysis came after the fact. Gyllenhaal performed the role more instinctively based on the script. “Honestly, this is the thing. A lot of people ask me about this scene or that scene or how I made her or whatever. I don't know and I usually don’t. The times when I know exactly how I crafted something is usually when the script isn’t great and there aren’t great actors and I have to fill in all the blanks myself. When the script can buoy me, when the scene can be about 15 different things and can end in 15 different notes every time you play it, it’s best not to make a bunch of choices. When the other actor is totally alive and living the scenes with you, I mean I do my own work, I scribble all over my script. My teacher was telling me, ‘Don’t write anything on your script.’ I do work but I don't know what it is. I don't know exactly what it is. When the script is working and the other actor is great, I usually just kind of walk in to see what happens.”

One such example is the pivotal scene where Blake has lost Jean’s son in a mall. When Jean arrives on scene, she doesn’t know how bad the situation is. “Like the scene where I find out he’s been lost, I tried every time to walk into the room like, ‘What’s going on? Where’s Buddy?’ Without any kind of idea of what was going to happen or where it was going to go and just let it go anywhere. Although the best example of that though, of letting it go anywhere that I love, my favorite scene that I got to play in the movie was the one where he’s writing a song on my bed and I freak out for no reason. I watched the movie next to my best girlfriend because my husband was away and I needed someone to come with me. I think I needed someone to come with me because I felt like I am a different actor now that I have a child. I felt so much more vulnerable in this part than I ever have in everything, and quieter. I brought my girlfriend and she laughed at the part where Jeff says, ‘Are you mad at me?’ And I was like, I felt so glad. I thought, ‘You know, you do that. You freak out for no reason. So do I. I do that. We do that.’ And we played that scene so many different ways.”

Crazy Heart opens to theaters on December 16th.

For the trailer, poster and more movie info, go the Crazy Heart Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Fox Searchlight
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