Date of Birth: December 19th 1980
Academy Award-nominated American actor. The son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, Gyllenhaal began acting at 11 years old. He has appeared in diverse roles since his first lead role in 1999's October Sky, followed by the 2001 cult hit Donnie Darko, in which he played a psychologically troubled teen and onscreen brother to his real-life sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. In the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow he portrayed a student caught in a cataclysmic global cooling event, alongside Dennis Quaid as his father. He then played against type as a frustrated Marine in Jarhead (2005). The same year, he won critical acclaim portraying a role that entered popular shorthand as a "gay cowboy", in the controversial but highly lauded film Brokeback Mountain.
During childhood, Gyllenhaal had regular exposure to filmmaking due to his family's deep ties to the industry. As an 11-year-old he made his acting debut as Billy Crystal's son in the 1991 comedy film City Slickers. His parents did not allow him to appear in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks because it would have required him leaving home for two months. In subsequent years, his parents allowed him to audition for parts, but regularly forbade him to take them if he were chosen. He was allowed to appear in his father's films several times. Gyllenhaal appeared in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman (along with sister Maggie), in a 1994 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, and in the 1998 comedy Homegrown. Along with their mother, Jake and Maggie appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network. Prior to his senior year in high school, the only other film not directed by his father in which Gyllenhaal was allowed to perform was Josh and S.A.M., a little-known children's adventure.
In his theatrical debut Gyllenhaal starred on the London stage in Kenneth Lonergan's revival of This is Our Youth. Gyllenhaal said, "Every actor I look up to has done theatre work, so I knew I had to give it a try." The play, which had been a critical sensation on Broadway, ran for eight weeks in London's West End. Gyllenhaal received favorable critical reviews and an Evening Standard Theatre Award in the category "Outstanding Newcomer."
Gyllenhaal expressed mixed feelings about the experience of being directed by Ang Lee in Brokeback Mountain, but generally had more praise than criticism for Lee's directing style. While complaining of the way Lee tended to disconnect with his actors once filming began, Gyllenhaal praised his encouraging direction of the actors and sensitive approach to the material. At the Directors Guild of America Awards on January 28, 2006, Gyllenhaal also praised Lee for "his humbleness and his respect for everyone around him."