Remember the days Jake Gyllenhaal and former girlfriend Kirsten Dunst would walk their dog Atticus together in Los Angeles? Yes, and it was perfect. The Manic Pixie Dream Couple of the early ’00s may be long gone, but Gyllenhaal’s career only intensified after that relationship. As did his gossip potential and attempts at leading man status, giving us maple latte dates with Taylor Swift and the forgettable Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
While he broke out as a talented actor from a famous family oozing with indie credibility, Gyllenhaal quickly became one of Hollywood’s most coveted young actors. With the monstrous success of disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow, he began pairing his box office potential with high-profile romances that left tabloids salivating: Kirsten, Reese Witherspoon, Taylor. After an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Ang Lee‘s Brokeback Mountain, as well as films from Sam Mendes and David Fincher, the only thing left for him to do was take his shirt off in a big-budget video game adaptation, make googly eyes at Anne Hathaway in a rom com about Viagra and go on public man dates with Lance Armstrong. As Gyllenhaal’s star power surged, we, and most of Hollywood, lost sight of his talent and only thought about his… face. And just as the infamous cyclist fell from grace following a doping scandal, moviegoers forgot about Gyllenhaal’s true chops following a few less than stellar films and a new crop of Next Big Things arriving from across the pond.
But Hollywood loves a comeback story. Like Matthew McConaughey’s incredible career makeover, Gyllenhaal has put together a successful string of strong performances in well-received projects over the last two years. While you were busy claiming your allegiance to Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael B. Jordan, Gyllenhaal was proving to directors, casting agents and fans that he’s far from finished. (He is only 33, after all.) There was the surprising turn in End of Watch, which director David Ayer praised Jake’s dedication to the film and even suggested his future potential behind the camera. His performance in 2013’s Prisoners earned Gyllenhaal a Supporting Actor statue at the Hollywood Film Awards for his portrayal of a detective whose devotion to his case borders on obsession. He then teamed up with director Denis Villeneuve again for Enemy — in which he plays the dual role of guarded history professor and his actor doppelganger — a truly unique and confounding thriller.