With the Oscar luncheon set for Monday in Los Angeles, the mind drifts toward -- well, toward many things, but among them are the people we didn't expect to be seeing at said luncheon. Perhaps topping that list is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who with her sad-but-strong single mother role in "Crazy Heart" upset early-season favorite Julianne Moore for a spot in the supporting actress nominee field.
We'll have more from Gyllenhaal, whom we caught up with last week in Beverly Hills, in the upcoming issue of The Envelope, particularly on the awards field as she sees it. But one question for the actress that we didn't have the space to address in that article is her next move, what with her already, in a film career barely a decade old, having been the indie darling in fan favorites such as "Secretary," Bruce Wayne's girlfriend in fanboy favorite "The Dark Knight" and now an awards-season favorite in Oscar nominee "Crazy Heart."
With the climate for indie projects yielding less precipitation than the skies over British Columbia, the actress says she's trying to take a little more control over her roles. She's dipped her toe in producing waters, buying her first book as well as a stalled script she hopes to revive. (Although both of these are dramas, one of those projects, she says, has comedic elements "but it isn't 'The Hangover' or anything.") She's also reached out to female power players such as director Jane Campion as part of the process of getting these moved through the development pipeline."Just having those things in my pocket makes me feel like I have a little power over what films I get to make," Gyllenhaal told 24 Frames. "Because so often I'm at the mercy of what other people are thinking."
The Los Angeles-born, New York-dwelling actress is also taking a page out of the Sundance microbudget playbook, as she contemplates getting actor and writer friends together for a low-budget shoot. "Recently, when I was feeling when there was nothing -- it was a total desert -- I was talking to a friend who's a screenwriter and a friend who's a D.P., and I was saying 'Why don't we just make a movie and do it really cheaply? We have friends who own restaurants and will let us do night shoots. If no one's working anyway, why don't we practice?'"
Gylenhaal's response typifies what many actors who don't have the producing clout of, say, a Tom Hanks (that is, everyone) are trying to do in these tough times of slate reductions and bottlenecks in studio and indie financing: seize a little control over the uncontrollable.
Of course converting awards attention into Hollywood influence is no easy trick; just ask actors such as Adrien Brody, last seen starring in a midnight movie at Sundance. So even as Gyllenhaal "hopes that the nomination will help with some of my projects," she'll be seen in one more studio movie, a family comedy from Universal called "Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang" that she recently wrapped, and the last project she'd had in the pantry.
After that? She's open. Open to studio films, open to indie projects, even open to James Cameron-esque motion-capture adventures. "I'm totally willing to let things change," she said with a mixture of gameness and, well, openness. "I'll be blue if someone wants me to."
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Fox Searchlight