Jake Gyllenhaal: a real 'Prince'

Jake Gyllenhaal's parents have had their house in the Hills up for sale for three months.
Jake Gyllenhaal's parents have had their house in the Hills up for sale for three months. AP

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.

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.