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Username: M_butterfield

Registered: 1-2007
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 11:26 pm:   

GYLLENHAAL: In Character

When an actor prepares to portray a real person, he may choose to conduct research and, if possible, even meet the subject in question. In recent years, several actors have received praise as they virtually became the character. Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for his transformation into legendary singer Ray Charles, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was honored for his uncanny impersonation of famed author Truman Capote. Consummate professional Gary Oldman is known for his chameleon-like performances as accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, tortured playwright Joe Orton, and doomed punk idol Sid Vicious. While they convince audiences that they have become the person they portray, actors can sometimes convince themselves.

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, best known for his appearances in films such as DONNIE DARKO and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, took on the role of cartoonist turned crime writer Robert Graysmith. The author of two widely discredited books about the unsolved “Zodiac” murders, Graysmith is notorious for his sensational style, factual errors, and his knack for writing creative non-fiction. During television interviews, Graysmith frequently makes claims that are easily proven false, and, in his attempts to accuse his chosen suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, he is determined not to let the truth stand in his way.

At times, Graysmith’s inability to separate fact from fiction is so transparent that he seems to be fooling himself. Critics may wonder whether Jake Gyllenhaal was “lost in the part” when interviewed about his portrayal of the infamous opportunist.

“His name’s Robert Graysmith, who was a cartoonist with the San Francisco Chronicle and wormed his way onto the Zodiac case in San Francisco in the 60s and the 70s and ended up, sort of solving the case for everybody who did not,” Gyllenhaal told a reporter. In another interview, the actor said, “(Graysmith) picked it up and solved the case, but they never really found the Zodiac killer.” Gyllenhaal made a similar remark to another reporter. “I play Robert Graysmith who is a cartoonist who became obsessed with the case and eventually solved it, even though they never found the Zodiac.”

While preparing for his role, Gyllenhaal said he met with the writer “many times,” and wanted to “get the idiosyncrasies of Robert Graysmith.” Gyllenhaal did not explain how anyone could “sort of” solve the case, let alone do so without finding the killer. Graysmith’s suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, had been “found” as far back as 1971, when he was reported to police by an estranged friend. Allen was the subject of ongoing scrutiny until his death in 1992.

Seemingly unaware that the law enforcement agencies involved in the Zodiac investigation did not consider the case “solved,” Gyllenhaal claimed that Graysmith solved the case “for everybody who did not.” Those frustrated investigators would undoubtedly welcome the solution to one of the greatest unsolved crimes in American history. After thoroughly examining Graysmith’s solution, investigators, experts, critics, crime buffs and amateur sleuths alike determined that his methods and conclusions are not to be trusted.

Audiences have yet to see whether Gyllenhaal truly captured the idiosyncrasies of Graysmith, but his inability to recognize the cartoonist’s peculiar habit of distorting and even inventing the facts to suit his own purposes indicates the actor has begun to think like his character. Given his claim that Graysmith “solved” the case, it is doubtful that Gyllenhaal’s performance will address the one idiosyncrasy that made his character famous in the first place. Far from accurate and authentic, Gyllenhaal’s Graysmith would appear to be a hero who “ended up solving the case just out of pure obsession and passion.” Incomplete and sanitized as his portrayal may be, Gyllenhaal’s ability to fool himself will undoubtedly entertain, and perhaps even convince unsuspecting filmgoers that Robert Graysmith stood for truth and justice when, in fact, his exploitation of the Zodiac tragedy has been a true crime.
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Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 12:52 am:   

I wonder if this is essentially a movie about Graysmith?
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Username: Davidmm

Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 10:57 am:   

An even more terrifying movie?

my picture
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Username: Nancydrew

Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - 3:16 am:   

great article. gyllenhaal's zodiac quotes have given me a headache from the first time i read them. i think paula abdul is his media advisor.

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