Gyllenhaal didn’t say himself, though the 36-year-old veteran actor did deliver one of the year’s trickiest, most layered lead performances in Tom Ford’s dark psychological thriller, in which he played dual roles. In one third of the movie he’s a young writer from Texas named Edward, falling into and out of love with his college sweetheart (Amy Adams). And then he’s Tony, a fictional character in Edward’s novel, who is terrorized along with his family on a highway late at night.
He did score a British Academy Award (BAFTA) nomination for his lead role. Gyllenhaal won the BAFTA for best supporting actor in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain and was nominated in 2015 for Nightcrawler.
But one of the performances he believes deserved more serious recognition is from a film that received zero Oscar nominations.
“Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool,” Gyllenhaal says. “We talk about brilliant performances all the time, you know, the actors who tear themselves apart for their roles, which I’m a believer in. But then I look at Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool and I say, ‘No one can do that but him.’ That is truly, purely him. As an artist he struggled for several years to figure that out and it’s all there on the screen. And it’s brilliant.”
Reynolds aspired to play the ribald Marvel superhero for a decade (even appearing as a neutered version of the character in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine) until finally getting the green light from Twentieth Century Fox, following a very mysterious leak of test footage. Directed by Tim Miller, the movie opened last February and went on to earn $363 million.
Gyllenhaal adds, “Sure it’s a comic book movie and it’s made a lot of money — but that doesn’t subtract from Ryan’s extraordinary work. Because it’s him. I mean, let’s ask ourselves: What else do we want from people who create? Something that is truly them.”
Gyllenhaal and Reynolds, it should be mentioned, are not strangers. On March 24, they’ll both be seen in the outer space drama Life, scripted by Deadpool writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese.