Maggie Gyllenhaal went to the Golden Globes for the first time four years ago as a best-actress nominee for “Secretary,” a dark comedy in which she played a troubled young woman who engages in a sadomasochistic relationship with her boss.
But that was before she was a star.
Now, nominated again for “Sherrybaby,” the 29-year-old says she’s ready for the whirlwind of awards season, starting with Monday night’s ceremony.
“I was really kind of a new, new, newbie at the time,” she said of her first Globes experience. “I don’t have a real strong memory of it ’cause I was just kind of so thrilled. Look, I know there are people who are cynical about these awards things but I’m actually thrilled to go. I’m excited to pick a dress, I’m excited to get dressed up, get my hair done and go. My mom’s gonna watch my daughter and I’m gonna go and I’m gonna do it right.
“It feels like such a different situation this time. It feels like I’m doing it for the first time.”
A performance to be proud of
Gyllenhaal is up for best actress in a drama for the raw, low-budget “Sherrybaby” (available on DVD Jan. 23), in which she stars as a former junkie who’s fresh out of prison and struggling to create a life with her young daughter. She told The Associated Press it’s one of the performances she’s proudest of, and one of the toughest of her complex career.
“I have no idea how I did it when I look at it now. It was almost like I was hypnotized when I was doing it,” Gyllenhaal said. “I didn’t actually feel horrible until after I finished shooting it, and then I felt awful. But while I was shooting it I was kind of like, ‘I’m fine, I’m totally fine. Yeah, I did just take all my clothes off in a nasty, disgusting basement in New Jersey, but I’m cool, it’s totally cool.”’
“I just can’t imagine her ever being victimized by the system the way some women have been or are being right now. She’s not really seduced by the glamour or the fame even though she’s got both things in her life,” Collyer said. “She knows that when you’re hot, everyone’s your friend and when you’re not, nobody knows you. I think she’s not into the fantasy of it that much.”
Right now, Gyllenhaal is hot: “Sherrybaby” is one of about a half-dozen movies she appeared in last year alone. Among her other roles, she played a defiant baker opposite Will Ferrell in “Stranger Than Fiction” and the wife of a trapped Port Authority officer in “World Trade Center.” Before that she was in such varied films as “Adaptation” with Nicolas Cage, “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts and “Donnie Darko,” in which she played the on-screen sister to her real-life younger brother, Jake.
Motherhood has made her protective
In all her copious free time in 2006, she gave birth to her first child — Ramona, born Oct. 3 — with her fiance, Peter Sarsgaard, who’s also built a career on difficult roles (“Boys Don’t Cry,” “Kinsey”). Though they live in New York and have been together since meeting at a 2002 dinner party, they are the rare celebrity couple who have managed to stay out of the gossip magazines by keeping mum about their private lives.
(The fashionable actress does draw attention for her sense of style, however; on this day she’s wearing a strapless, knee-length, charcoal gray dress with high, black-leather boots that make her even taller than her 5-foot-8 frame. Her long, brown hair falls in waves around her face, and in person her big, blue eyes look even bigger and bluer.)
Before the interview begins, Gyllenhaal says in a soft but assured voice that she’d prefer not to discuss motherhood: “It’s just been so weird, since my daughter was born, how protective I am,” she said. “People have been very invasive.”
She and Sarsgaard also collaborated on screen for the first time in a short that’s showing this month at the Sundance Film Festival: “High Falls,” in which they co-star as a husband and wife who share their secrets with a mutual friend during a weekend in the country.
Gyllenhaal had to admit that working with her fiance “was actually pretty horrible, to be honest. He was playing a big jerk and it was hard for me to be around him when all day long he was really being a big jerk. And I was playing a pretty self-obsessed person, also. We were in a terrible relationship in the movie, and it was really sad to have to pretend to be in that relationship for four days. I love his acting and I would love to make many movies with him but I want to make sure that the making of the movie will be good for us, because I’m not sure that the making of ‘High Falls’ was good for us.
“I think it’d be cool to make, like, an old-school, ’40s-style movie with him where we’re both lawyers and we hate each other but really we love each other.”
The child of artists
Born in New York and raised in Los Angeles, Gyllenhaal grew up in an artistic environment. Her father, Stephen, is a poet and an Emmy-nominated TV and movie director; her mother, Naomi Foner, is an Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning screenwriter (“Running on Empty”). And her brother is ... well, he’s Jake Gyllenhaal. Both have appeared in their parents’ films.
While she graduated from Columbia University with an English degree in 1999 and still has an interest in academia, Gyllenhaal says she knew she could act from about age 11.
“When I was a kid, my mom sort of threw a lot of things at us, so we would take swimming lessons, piano lessons, and I went to an acting class at one point just sort of in the mix of all that stuff,” she said. “It struck me — it was really fun and it felt kind of like deep daydreaming to me.”
But being around the entertainment industry most of her life didn’t prepare her for the backlash she received over comments she made about 9/11, which she says were misconstrued, during the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival.
“It was incredibly scary and incredibly hard for me,” she says now, and is still slightly shaken up by the experience. But she adds that she has no regrets about making a political statement, even though her words were twisted.
Gyllenhaal was quoted as having said that the United States “is responsible in some way” for the attacks.
“What I meant to say — and what I did subsequently say, like, two days later — was that I think the most patriotic thing that we can do as Americans in the situation that we were in then and in the situation that we find ourselves in now still, is to be brave enough to look at how we can amend our lives and the ways that we live to help what I don’t think anyone would argue is a horrible situation in the world.
“If I had known that it was going to get that kind of attention,” she said, “I would have liked to say what I meant much more gently and in a way that people could hear.”