Actor honors the cult classic in an Instagram post showing his original script and artifacts from production.

By Joey Nolfi
January 20, 2021 at 08:59 AM EST
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Credit: Everett Collection

On the cult classic film's 20th birthday, actor Jake Gyllenhaal is opening the cellar door to his mind's fondest memories from the set of Donnie Darko.

The Richard Kelly-directed film turned 20 years old on Wednesday, and the actor — who filmed the dark fantasy as one of his first major lead roles at age 19 — celebrated the anniversary of the film's world premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival by sharing photos of his original script as well as artifacts he saved from production.

"It's a film that changed my life and my career, and it's been unreal to watch this story find afterlievs with new audiences and new generations," the 40-year-old wrote alongside the photo, going on to reference a quote from the film. "What Donnie said to [actress Patience Cleveland's] Roberta Sparrow is still true: 'There is so much to look forward to.'"

Gyllenhaal also thanked fans for their support over the years, and said he still appreciates when people come up to him "with that confused look on their faces and [ask] me: 'What the f--- is Donnie Darko about?' Happy 20th Donnie! Let's keep confusing people."

Though the film premiered at Sundance at the top of 2001, it was theatrically released in October of that year, and featured an ensemble cast (Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle) in a bonkers plot about a teen who's lured out of his home by a menacing figure in a terrifying rabbit suit (who informs him of the world's impending end) — an act that saves the high schooler from death, just before a jet engine crashes through his roof.

In a 2017 interview with EW, Kelly explained that he couldn't quite pinpoint the inspiration for the film's visually disturbing rabbit costume, constructed by costume designer April Ferry (Game of Thrones) and worn by James Duval throughout the film.

"When we brought the rabbit on set, that was a moment where I knew I was either going to live or die by the rabbit and how people responded to it," Kelly recalled. "Everyone just got quiet on the set. Everyone was like, this is really intense. So I knew it was working, and I felt the sense of relief. I could look around, and the makeup artist and the production assistants and the second AD, they were all just really freaked out about it. Steven Poster, my cinematographer, came up to me, and he was like, 'Rich, I wasn't sure about the rabbit… but now I get it.'"

Read Gyllenhaal's full tribute to Donnie Darko above.

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