In 2012, Gyllenhaal added the police thriller End of Watch to his filmography. The movie was directed and written by David Ayer, with veteran actor Michael Pena as Gyllenhaal’s co-star. Pena and Gyllenhaal played the role of two young police officers documenting their daily experiences on the job on video. As time goes on, the two police officers find themselves in an increasingly volatile situation.
The Nightcrawler star was fascinated by Ayer’s script the moment it reached his hands. So much so that it woke up an already exhausted Gyllenhaal who was tired because of his work schedule.
“I had been doing a tour for Source Code and I came back to L.A. and I was jetlagged. I woke up at like 5 am and it was still dark outside and I started reading the script. I finished the script and I was like, ‘Holy f***, I got to be involved with this,’” Gyllenhaal once told Baller Status. “I called everyone I worked with, and of course, no one was awake. I was telling everyone, ‘You have to get me a meeting with David Ayer.’”
After meeting the filmmaker, Ayer warned Gyllenhaal that the film wouldn’t be for the fainthearted.
“I finally got the meeting and I told him I would devote my life to this movie. He was saying, ‘Man, are you sure? Because I am going to poison your mind and taint your soul.’ I was like, ‘I’m ready.’ Any time anything inspires you, my opinion is to go after it as hard as you can. That is what I always try to do and sometimes it doesn’t work out, but in this case, it did,” Gyllenhaal recalled.
Jake Gyllenhaal witnessed a murder while preparing for ‘End of Watch’ that changed his life
To get ready for the film, Gyllenhaal and Pena accompanied real-life police officers during their day-to-day operations. It was a relationship that proved testy at first, but eventually the actors and the officers learned to reach common ground.
“They did not embrace us right away, definitely not. We were with Inglewood PD and some sheriffs, and at first, there were a lot of politics. They didn’t know if they could trust us and we didn’t know if we could trust them. Eventually, we developed a friendship and we started trusting each other. At first, they weren’t too happy and we had to prove ourselves and that took awhile,” Gyllenhaal said.
But it didn’t take long for Gyllenhaal to be experience the real-life dangers dangers and risks officers were exposed to everyday.
“The first ride I went on I saw someone murdered,” Gyllenhaal once said in an interview with Hitflix (via Digital Spy). “It changes your life. You don’t come back from something like that and not see the world a different way.”
In an interview with Shortlist, he went into a bit more detail about the murder in question and how it affected him.
“We got a call. It was a Code 3 [a life-threat emergency] with reports of a shooting. We drove 80mph down Crenshaw Boulevard, an infamous gang hotspot, hopped out at this house and the shoot-out had just ended. I could see a guy slouched next to his car, with a pool of blood around him. He’d been shot by a rival gangster walking down the street, as he was trying to get into his car. He just bled out and died,” he remembered.
The only time Jake Gyllenhaal wanted to get out of riding with the police officers
Despite the risks he might have put himself in, Gyllenhaal still didn’t mind sticking around with the officers. However, the Far From Home star might have wanted to abort his ride along when activity slowed down.
“The only time I wanted to call it a day was when the job was utterly boring. But that’s when you learn the most – you’d be sitting around watching the world go by, but then get a call at 3.30am and go to a scene of a gang fire-fight and see a bloody body. That’s such a mind-f***,” he said.