Maggie Gyllenhaal Wants to ‘Play It Hopeful’

Actress talks about her brother, Jake Gyllenhaal, “The Dark Knight,” and her Oliver Stone regret

July 29, 2014

World-famous actress Maggie Gyllenhaal had never met Howard before – until this morning! She’s been in two of the biggest movies of all time, but she admitted that meeting Howard was meeting “a cultural icon.” “I’m catching my breath,” she added.

Maggie wanted to be an actress from an early age, but her brother, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, blew up first, while she was attending college at Columbia University. Howard has always been curious about siblings going into the same business and Maggie admitted that there was a little jealousy, which was normal.

Her brother got her a job in his breakout movie “Donnie Darko” and the two of them have a good close relationship, she said. Maggie even hung out with the late Heath Ledger when he was co-starring with Jake in the legendary “Brokeback Mountain” (as opposed to hanging out with him on the set of “The Dark Knight,” which they co-starred in without sharing very many scenes).

Maggie’s breakout role was the movie “Secretary,” a movie which Howard said had freaked him out. Maggie said that she responded to the script right away and got the role (after five other “name” actresses turned it down).

Her co-star, James Spader, really got into their roles as dominating boss and submissive secretary—she talked about him gently caressing the back of her knee between takes. One day, on set, he asked for a box of very expensive chocolates to be delivered to his trailer. Later, a Production Assistant knocked on Maggie’s door and told her Mr. Spader wanted to see her. She walked in and he offered her one of the chocolates: “It was a total game, a fetishized thing.”

A few years later, Maggie starred in Oliver Stone’s controversial movie “World Trade Center.” Oliver had a unique working method and would say things like “you were so good this morning and now you’re awful,” Maggie explained. Eventually, she said she responded with “Well, can you help me?”

Her one regret about the movie is not playing one small scene—where her character has to run to the drug store—as hopeful rather than worried.

Maggie’s role in “The Dark Knight” trilogy was originally played by Katie Holmes in “Batman Begins.” She told Howard she doesn’t know why Katie didn’t sign on to the two follow-up films. Maggie revealed she was reluctant to take the role because she had a newborn and thought that a huge blockbuster would take up too much of her time. What she found was that the big-budget movies are easier—it’s the small independent films where every second counts and you can’t break to feed your baby.

Nowadays, while not working on various projects, Maggie hangs out in Brooklyn with her husband, Peter Sarsgaard, and their kids. She takes them to school and play dates and even volunteers at their local Co-op grocery store.

She also occasionally smokes cigarettes, but her habit is not out of control. Check out Maggie’s new mini-series “The Honorable Woman” on the Sundance channel.