“I always need a really long runway to create anything,” said Jake Gyllenhaal. “Write that pun for Women’s Wear Daily: ‘I need a long runway to create a character.'”
Gyllenhaal was delivering puns from the New York premiere of “Stronger,” in which he plays Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs as he waited for then-girlfriend Erin Hurley to finish the race. To prepare for the role, Gyllenhaal “spent a lot of time trying to understand Jeff through interviews, listened to when he talked to people,” and consulted Bauman, who stood side by side with him at last night’s premiere, sponsored by Calvin Klein.
So what was it like getting to know each other?
“Tough,” Bauman responded.
“Time,” said Gyllenhaal, answering simultaneously. “Jeff, when I first met him, didn’t want to talk about a lot of that stuff. But over time we shared, I got tidbits and that was it. Sooner or later, something clicks and then they’re like, ‘All right, it’s the first day of shooting’ and you gotta go.”
Gyllenhaal said he asked “a lot of questions” of Bauman, who in turn had one burning question he couldn’t wait to ask Gyllenhaal. “One of the first things I wanted to know was, ‘Who chooses your movies?’” Bauman said. “That’s what I wanted to know about him.”
“I was in New York City,” Gyllenhaal recalled of where he was when the bombing took place. “That picture [of Bauman after the explosion] does very little in explaining who this man is and how extraordinary he is and the complexities of him and his amazing family and all the community around him that supported him. That’s what this movie’s about.”
Tatiana Maslany, who plays Hurley, couldn’t recall exactly where she was when she found out about the bombing, but remembered feeling “horrified” at the news. “I’m Canadian, so we obviously felt it there, too, but what I think is so interesting about this film is it goes beyond that event,” she shared. “It’s really not about that moment, but the moments after and what came because of that moment where your life changes in a split second and it’s changed forever. It took it out of this headline territory and made it very relatable.”
She was most surprised by the “diligent research” Gyllenhaal did, as well as Miranda Richardson’s transformation into Bauman’s mother, Patty.
“I had never been to Boston before,” Maslany continued. “We were just there a couple nights ago and we premiered at Spaulding, which is the rehab facility that Jeff did a lot of his recovery at. Being back in the space that we filmed and the space that meant so much for these survivors and to Jeff was a great reminder of the spirit of Boston and sense of recovery and growth.”
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