Prisoners stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman did not have the easiest time making their latest film. Heck, just look at the Prisoners trailer and it is easy to see that this is the type of movie experience that will stay with an audience for weeks. Imagine if you worked on it?
The story of a father (Jackman) whose daughter disappears along with his friend's daughter (Terrence Howard) is gripping, and emotionally will take its toll. For Jackman, to accurately capture it in order to do service to those who have lost children, he delved deeply into research. Jackman talked to real parents who have lost their children and explored what exactly one’s mind does when the worst thing one can imagine… happens.
“The most maddening part of the whole thing is the powerlessness of a parent knowing that your child is waiting for you and can't understand why you're not there every second of every day. They're not waiting for the police to come rescue them,” Jackman said. Each parent imagines that the child is off somewhere in utter horror, wondering why their mother or father has not come to get them.
“And the police the entire time are saying, 'Please let us do our jobs, just relax.' And it's maddening. To sleep is to fail your child in a way. It's impossible to just go and rest."
Throughout Prisoners, it becomes more and more clear that Jackman’s character is not sleeping. And therefore, it is hard for him to make judgments as to what to do. Does he take matters into his own hands… or does he wait for Gyllenhaal’s character to do his job?
“[Jackman’s character] Dover was defined by sleep deprivation. The movie takes place in eight or nine days. I talked to a father whose kid was gone and he said the worst thing is that the child is waiting for you, not for the police, for you. And the police tell us to leave it to them,” Jackman said.
“But you can’t abandon your child and that is what sleeping would be, and the incomprehensible nature of taking information in and just physically trying to take concepts in.”
Gyllenhaal, given the serious nature of the subject matter, came to the set equally prepared as Jackman, just from another angle.
“I did a lot of preparation for this movie. I would always watch police videos, interrogation videos and sometimes really horrific videos. On my way to work I’d try to resist how dark it was, that world it threw me into. I could feel that push and pull inside me and it would sometimes panic me. You watch these things and you don’t even know how to respond, it’s so visceral. It really broke me into this world,” Gyllenhaal said.
While acting out his scenes and telling this important story, it was his performance that aided him in being able to keep going. “I spent the day using that work as a therapy out of it. I would spend the evening letting go of whatever we did during the day,” he added. The film’s location and its rich culture allowed him to recharge and be back strong the next day. “Shooting in Atlanta there are so many wonderful restaurants, and food became therapy in a way.”
What is incredible about the film, and it is all over this Prisoners movie trailer, is the duality of the roles played by Gyllenhaal and Jackman.
“Understanding each other is important,” Gyllenhaal said. “The institution which I was a part of was essential with protocol and rules. The perversion of that institution and that individual, when neither are speaking -- it’s not a surprise that people in their story split – the individual versus the institution, they bump heads four or five times in the story. But at the end it speaks to life. When the institution and the individual come together there is some kind of ideal. When they resist, there is great chaos."
Jackman sites shooting one scene as an impeccable example of the power that his co-star brought not only to the role, but in the telling of the story. ”In one of my scenes with Jake in the cop car, we argue, and at the end of the coverage shoot, Jake said to me, ‘I feel we’re missing something, there’s an element to this that’s missing. Let’s see what happens when we acknowledge the fact that we need each other,’” Jackman recalled.
“The theme in the film is that they do need to work together. There is no right answer. Look at Syria. There is no right answer. There is always collateral damage and there is moral ambiguity. Rarely do we see this mentioned in a film and even less in a thriller.”