Jake Gyllenhaal had a blast playing the swashbuckling hero in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, out Friday.
``Somehow it sparked that kid side of me and I just thought, I got to play this part,'' says Gyllenhaal, 29. ``Whereas a lot of other roles take themselves so seriously, particularly in the huge movies, I couldn't imagine myself spending six or seven months of my life taking myself so seriously.''
It's a nice change: After a series of heavy-hitting dramas, including Jarhead, Brothers, Rendition and Brokeback Mountain, the actor is playing a character straight out of a video console.
Based on the game Prince of Persia, Gyllenhaal portrays Prince Dustan, a street kid with a big destiny. He is adopted by a king and brought up to be a sword-wielding warrior in sixth century Persia. The story follows a royal murder mystery and the prince's adventure with a mystical dagger that can turn back time.
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During a recent interview with The Associated Press, Gyllenhaal was in a lighthearted mood:
Q: What was it about Prince Dustan that really grabbed you?
A: Well, to me the moment I read the first sequence of the movie, which is the siege on Alamut where [Prince Dustan's] jumping around and lighting things on fire and having a good time doing it, I think that was the moment when I thought, `There's a sense of humor here.' Here's one of those classic characters that's in the vein of Errol Flynn or Indiana Jones and those are the movies I loved when I was a kid, and I loved watching.
Q: So you wanted to have a laugh?
A: Yeah. I wanted to have a good time, and I wanted to know that I was making a movie that an audience could have a good time in, too.
Q: Had you played the video game before?
A: When I was 8 or 9 years old, I played the original side-scroller game a lot. And then I took a 20-year hiatus and only picked it up when I was doing research for the movie -- which was very, very difficult research, it was hard. Three to four times a day, I would have to be forced to go and play the video game. People don't really know how hard it is to be an actor and I can tell you how hard it is; it's working out every day and getting paid for it and also playing video games. So it's really been tough, a really tough road [laughs].
Q: Did you enjoy the stunts?
A: Mike Newell, the director, had a wire attached to my back and he would just control me -- I would do whatever he wanted. Move to the left, move to the right, jump, fight this guy, win!
Q: Would you return to the role?
A: Of course, I loved playing the role. I loved being a part of the movie. It's an incredible world, so if that were an opportunity, I would definitely take it. [Jake actually signed a sequel clause.]
Q: What about the Parkour [free-running] stunts?
A: I saw this thing on MTV called The Ultimate Parkour Challenge . . . where they brought in some of the best Parkour athletes in the world. And I watched them do all these crazy things, which was actually semi-disturbing to see because they got injured quite a lot and I just thought `I've got no idea what I'm doing, these guys are extraordinary.' The fundamentals I do know and I can do things, but ultimately I cannot say I'm a card-carrying Parkour athlete. I just try to mimic. I did jumps, I did my own jumps and different things, but the dangerous stuff was done by the professionals.