Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal on the Calvin Klein Costar Who Told Him to Cut His Beard

Jake Gyllenhaal is sitting on a long couch in an oversize suite at the Crosby Street Hotel, his black-and-white commercial for Calvin Klein’s Eternity fragrance, which was directed by Cary Fukunaga and produced by Gyllenhaal’s production company Nine Stories, plays in loops on a large television screen behind him. Shots of the ruggedly handsome Stronger actor, his tousled hair and toned arms, which recall his twice-a-day, seven-days-a-week workout regimen for the 2015 boxing drama Southpaw, are artfully woven alongside frames of his campaign costar, model and humanitarian Liya Kebede. In it, the parenting duo plays with their characters’ daughter, portrayed by a young girl named Leila, her big brown eyes and cloud of caramel curls stealing the show, while they read “I Carry Your Heart With Me” by E.E. Cummings.

It’s an unexpected setting for a commercial about a fresh and tangy cologne from the ’90s, but then again, Gyllenhaal, who studied Eastern Religion at Columbia University, is not your usual movie star. You’re more likely to spot the award-winning actor wearing warm-up clothess in downtown Manhattan—“I think sweating is very important,” says the exercise fanatic—than all dolled up on a magazine cover or red carpet. And while the actor who starred in last year’s Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals confesses to “not knowing anything about fashion,” he might actually be the perfect candidate to sell a man’s fragrance: You can imagine Jake Gyllenhaal smelling very good, even after hitting the gym.

Jake Gyllenhaal with his Calvin Klein campaign co-star, Leila
Jake Gyllenhaal with his Calvin Klein campaign co-star, LeilaPhoto: Courtesy of Calvin Klein

“I had been approached a number of times [for advertisements], but I never felt it could be possible to be honest or to say something where I felt like my behavior could be authentic,” he says of past branding opportunities. “But Raf [Simons] came to see me [in Sunday in the Park with George] on Broadway and approached me as an artist and a filmmaker and that was really enticing to me, because all I am looking for, whether it be making a piece for a fragrance or playing a character on stage, are relationships.”

The authenticity of this project about the idea of love and eternity he credits to Simons, Fukunaga, and his real-life reading buddies, his nieces, the daughters of sister Maggie Gyllenhaal and brother-in-law Peter Sarsgaard. “At this point in my life, my reference [for children] is my relationship with my nieces, playing with them, interacting with them, laughing with them, listening to them,” he says, his round blue-green eyes lighting up. “Children have a very particular kind of honesty that you’re looking to get to as an adult . . . they are great barometers for bullshit.” Offering up a particularly observant dose of unfiltered truth? His costar Leila, whom Gyllenhaal says called the shots on set: “The first thing she did in the audition was come up to my beard and go ‘Cut, cut, cut,’ and I was like ‘She’s hired!’”

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