Sorry, Spider-Man, but you aren’t Jake Gyllenhaal’s first.
With Spider-Man: Far From Home swinging into theaters today, you’ve probably heard that playing Mysterio marks the Oscar-nominated actor’s superhero movie debut, amid a diverse career that has ranged from Bubble Boy to Brokeback Mountain to Nightcrawler. But this is just factually incorrect, considering that Gyllenhaal starred in Kevin Smith and Michael Bay’s 2007 Aquaman 2 as the titular Justice League member!
Wait, this still isn’t ringing any bells? I can’t believe you don’t remember the sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time. Well, to refresh your memory, back in 2005 a rising young actor named Vincent Chase was recruited into the superhero world by James Cameron, who was returning to the water for his Titanic follow-up: Aquaman. The trio of Chase, Cameron, and costar Mandy Moore would result in the film breaking Spider-Man’s then-record for the biggest opening weekend in box office history. Warner Bros. was so thrilled that it fast-tracked a sequel. But that wasn’t good news for Chase, who was set on filming Medellin, a Pablo Escobar biopic that would eventually become an infamous flop. A battle ensued between WB and its star, resulting in Chase being replaced by none other than Gyllenhaal (the rumored replacement for Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2).
The bad news for Gyllenhaal was that the accelerated timetable also meant Cameron was out, leading to Clerks II mastermind Smith penning the script for Bad Boys II visionary Bay to direct. We don’t know much about how Aquaman 2 performed at the box office, but it clearly didn’t reach the heights of its predecessor since Gyllenhaal only had the one turn as Arthur Curry before the franchise was rebooted with Jason Momoa for 2018’s billion-dollar hit.
Perhaps the failure of Aquaman 2 can best be summed up by Entourage creator Doug Ellin, who was instrumental in creating the first film. “I thought Aquaman sounded like the most ridiculous movie in the world, and to me the only way to make it work was if James Cameron was directing it,” he admitted to EW last year, ahead of the release of Momoa’s Aquaman. “Like, it doesn’t work unless he’s directing it, because this movie would never get made. And now obviously 10 years later, every one of them is more successful than the last, and they all seem to work both commercially and critically — but at the time it was really kind of a silly thing, as even Vince said, ‘I’m not doing Aquaman.’ But then it’s James Cameron’s Aquaman.”
Cameron may not be involved with Far From Home, but it’s already proven to be a much more successful superhero endeavor for Gyllenhaal — if only for his fire Sean Paul take.