Margaret Ruth "Maggie" Gyllenhaal,
born November 16, 1977, is an American stage and screen actress. She is
the daughter of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner
Gyllenhaal (née Achs) and the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal. She
made her screen debut when she began to appear in her father's films.
Gyllenhaal later achieved recognition in a supporting role in the indie
cult hit Donnie Darko (2001). She made her break-through role in the 2002
sadomasochistic comedy Secretary, for which she received critical acclaim
and a Golden Globe nomination.
Gyllenhaal has appeared in an eclectic range of films, including the indie
film Sherrybaby (2006), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe,
the romantic comedy Trust the Man (2006) and big-budget films such as
World Trade Center (2006) and The Dark Knight (2008). She next starred in
the 2009 musical-drama Crazy Heart, for which she received an Academy
Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination. Gyllenhaal has also appeared
in theatrical plays, including Closer (2000) and television productions
including Strip Search (2004).
Gyllenhaal has been in a relationship with actor Peter Sarsgaard since
2002. In 2006, the two became engaged and Gyllenhaal gave birth to their
daughter, Ramona, on October 3, 2006. On May 2, 2009, she married
Sarsgaard in Italy. She is a politically active Democrat and, like her
brother and parents, supports the American Civil Liberties Union. Prior to
the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq she participated in anti-war demonstrations.
Gyllenhaal drew criticism in 2005 for her opinion that America was
"responsible in some way" for the 9/11 attacks. She is actively involved
in human rights, civil liberty, and anti-poverty campaigns.
Gyllenhaal was born in New York City to film director Stephen Gyllenhaal
and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (née Achs). Jake
Gyllenhaal, her younger brother, is also an actor. Her father was raised
in the Swedenborgian religion and is of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal
family; her last purely Swedish ancestor was her great-great-grandfather,
Leonard Gyllenhaal, a leading Swedenborgian who supported the printing and
spreading of Swedenborg's writings. Her mother is from a Jewish family in
New York City and is the ex-wife of Eric Foner, a history professor at
Columbia Universi Her parents, who married in 1977, filed for divorce in
Gyllenhaal grew up in Los Angeles and studied at the Harvard–Westlake prep
school. In 1995, she graduated from Harvard–Westlake and moved to New York
to attend Columbia University, where she studied literature and Eastern
religions; she graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After
studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, she had a summer
job, working as a waitress in a Massachusetts restaurant.
Gyllenhaal's first films – her feature film debut at the age of 15,
Waterland (1992); A Dangerous Woman (1993); and Homegrown (1998) – were
directed by her father; the last two also featured her brother, where they
had supporting roles as children. With their mother, she and Jake appeared
in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food
Network. After graduating from college, she played supporting roles in
films like Cecil B. Demented (2000) and Riding in Cars with Boys (2001).
Gyllenhaal later achieved recognition in her own right playing her real
brother's on-screen sister in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko (2001).
She made her theatrical debut in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre production
of Patrick Marber's Closer, for which she received favorable reviews.
Production started in May 2000 and ended in mid-July of that year.
Gyllenhaal has performed in several other plays, including The Tempest,
Antony and Cleopatra, The Butterfly Project, and No Exit.
Gyllenhaal's break-out role was in the black comedy Secretary (2002), a
film about two people who embark on a mutually fulfilling BDSM lifestyle.
New York Times critic Stephen Holden noted: "The role of Lee, which Maggie
Gyllenhaal imbues with a restrained comic delicacy and sweetness, should
make her a star." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:
"Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the self-destructive secretary, is enigmatic and,
at moments, sympathetic." The film received generally favorable reviews,
and Gyllenhaal's performance earned her the Best Breakthrough Performance
award from the Online Film Critics Society, her first Golden Globe
nomination, and an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Secretary was
Gyllenhaal's first film role which featured full frontal nudity. Although
impressed with the script, she initially had some qualms about doing the
film, which she believed could deliver an antifeminist message. Yet after
carefully discussing the script with the film's director, Steven
Shainberg, she agreed to join the project. Although insisting Shainberg
did not exploit her, Gyllenhaal has said she felt "scared when filming
began" and that "in the wrong hands ... even in just slightly less
intelligent hands, this movie could say something really weird." Since
then, she is guarded about discussing her role in the film, saying only
that "despite myself, sometimes the dynamic that you are exploring in your
work spills over into your life."
She next played a supporting role in the comedy-drama Adaptation. (2002),
a film that tells the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's struggle to
adapt The Orchid Thief into a film. She later appeared in the unauthorized
biography Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), part of an ensemble cast
that included Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, and Julia
Roberts. The movie grossed $33 million worldwide. That same year, she also
had a smaller role in the comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights.
In 2003, she co-starred with Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile in the role
of Giselle. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she revealed the
reason for accepting the role was "to play somebody who feels confident in
herself as a sexy, beautiful woman". The film generated mostly critical
reviews, with Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times describing it as
"smug and reductive". Her next roles were in smaller independent films:
Casa de los Babys (2003), a story about six American women impatiently
waiting out their lengthy residency requirements in an unidentified South
American country before picking up their adoptive babies, and Criminal
(2004), a remake of the Argentinian film Nine Queens, with John C. Reilly
and Diego Luna. Gyllenhaal played an honest hotel manager forced to help
her crooked brother (Reilly) by seducing one of his victims. Gyllenhaal
was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in
2004. She starred in the HBO film Strip Search (2004), where she portrayed
an American student in China suspected of terrorism.
In 2004, Gyllenhaal returned to theater in a Los Angeles production of
Tony Kushner's Homebody/ Kabul as Priscilla, the Homebody's daughter, who
spends most of the play searching for her elusive mother in Kabul,
Afghanistan. Kushner gave her the role in Homebody/ Kabul on the strength
of her performance in Closer. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote:
"Ms. Gyllenhaal provides the essential bridge between the parts of the
play's title." John Heilpern of The New York Observer noted that
Gyllenhaal's performance was "compelling". Viewed as a sex symbol, she was
ranked in the "Hot 100 List" by Maxim magazine in 2004 and 2005.
Gyllenhaal's next film role was in the 2005 comedy-drama Happy Endings, in
which she played an adventuress singer who seduces a young gay musician
(Jason Ritter) as well as his rich father (Tom Arnold). She recorded songs
for the movie's soundtrack, calling the role the "roughest, scariest
acting ever" and adding she is more natural singing on screen than acting.
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly declared Gyllenhaal's performance
"as wonderfully, naturally slouchy-sexy as her character is artificial".
Following Happy Endings, she starred in the 2006 films Trust the Man,
Stranger than Fiction, Monster House, World Trade Center, and Sherrybaby.
In Trust the Man, featuring Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, and Billy
Crudup, she played Elaine, who has been dating Tobey, Crudup's character,
for seven years and has begun to feel that it is time for her to settle
down and start a family. The film was critically and financially
unsuccessful. Ethan Alter of Premiere felt that the performances by
Gyllenhaal and Duchovny were "much more at ease" and concluded with
"that's probably because they're played these characters many times
before". In Stranger than Fiction, Gyllenhaal played a love interest of
Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell. Her performance in the film received
favorable reviews; Mike Straka of Fox News wrote: "Gyllenhaal has never
been sexier in any film before and her interplay with Ferrell will propel
her to more A-list films, leaving her indie-darling days behind, no
doubt." She voiced Elizabeth "Zee" in the computer animated horror film
Monster House. Gyllenhaal depicted Alison Jimeno, the wife of Port
Authority officer Will Jimeno, in Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, based
on the September 11 attacks on the same-title towers of New York City. She
regarded this as "one of the films she most enjoyed making". The film
received favorable reviews and proved to be an international success,
earning $163 million worldwide.
In Sherrybaby, Gyllenhaal played a young, drug-addicted thief trying to
put her life in order after prison so she can reconcile with her daughter.
During promotion of the film, she noted of her portrayal of the character:
"I think she's in such dire straights that all she has are these kind of
naive, fierce hope. And while I was playing the part I was looking for
pleasure and hope in everything, even in these really bleak things. And so
it was really mostly after I finished the movie that I felt pain." Her
performance in the film was well received: David Germain of the Associated
Press wrote, "Gyllenhaal humanizes her so deeply and richly ... that
Sherry elicits sympathy even in her darkest and weakest moments", and
Dennis Harvey of Variety called her performance "naturalistic". For her
work, Gyllenhaal earned her second Golden Globe Best Actress nomination
and won the Best Actress category award at the 2006 Stockholm
International Film Festival.
She appeared in The Dark Knight (2008), the sequel to Batman Begins
(2005), in which she replaced Katie Holmes as Assistant District Attorney,
Rachel Dawes. Gyllenhaal acknowledged her character was a damsel in
distress to an extent, but said director Christopher Nolan sought ways to
empower her character, so "Rachel's really clear about what's important to
her and unwilling to compromise her morals, which made a nice change" from
the many conflicted characters she had previously portrayed. The Dark
Knight was a big financial and critical success, setting a new opening
weekend box office record for North America. With revenue of $1 billion
worldwide, it became the fourth highest grossing film of all time, and
Gyllenhaal's highest grossing film to the end of 2008. In a Salon.com
review of the film, Stephanie Zacharek called Gyllenhaal's character "a
tough cookie in a Stanwyck-style bias-cut gown" and stated that "the movie
feels smarter and more supple when she's on-screen". IGN film critic Todd
Gilchrist wrote, "Gyllenhaal adds real depth and energy to Rachel Dawes."
Gyllenhaal played Yelena in the Classic Stage Company's 2009 Off Broadway
production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in New York City. The cast also
included Peter Sarsgaard, Mamie Gummer, Denis O'Hare, and George Morfogen.
The production, directed by Austin Pendleton, began previews on January 17
and ended its limited run on March 1. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York
Daily News, was somewhat less enthusiastic with her performance, writing:
"Gyllenhaal, who was so dynamic as a druggie in the film Sherrybaby, plays
Yelena with a slow-mo saunter and monotonous pasted-on smile that makes it
seem as if she's been in Sherry's stash." However, Malcolm Johnson of the
Hartford Courant was complimentary towards her, noting that she
"ultimately blossoms" as the character.
Gyllenhaal agreed to appear in the comedy film Away We Go, where she plays
a bohemian college professor who is an old friend of John Krasinski's
character. The film generated broadly mixed reviews, with Owen Gleiberman
of Entertainment Weekly describing Gyllenhaal's subplot as "over-the-top".
However, A. O. Scott of the New York Times praised Gyllenhaal and co-star
Allison Janney for their performances, writing that "both are quite
funny". Scott concluded with, "Ms. Gyllenhaal’s line about sex roles in
'the seahorse community' is the screenplay’s one clean satirical
bull’s-eye". Her next role, came in the musical-drama Crazy Heart, in
which she played journalist Jean Craddock who falls for musician Bad
Blake, played by Jeff Bridges. The movie received favorable reviews, with
Gyllenhaal receiving praise from critics. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone
reported: "Maggie Gyllenhaal is funny, touching and vital as Jean, the
decades-younger single mom who might save Bad. The part is conventionally
conceived, but Gyllenhaal plays it with a tough core of intelligence and
feeling." Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best
Supporting Actress. In addition, Gyllenhaal has also signed to appear in
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, set for a release in 2010, the sequel to
the 2005 film Nanny McPhee. The role required her to speak in an English
accent. Away from acting, Gyllenhaal is currently the host of the PBS
documentary series, Independent Lens.
Gyllenhaal has been in a relationship with actor Peter Sarsgaard, a close
friend of her brother Jake, since 2002. In April 2006 they announced their
engagement. They have a daughter Ramona, born October 3, 2006, and live in
Brooklyn, New York. On May 2, 2009, Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard were married
in a small chapel in Brindisi, Italy.
Gyllenhaal is politically active. At the 18th Independent Spirit Awards,
she spoke out against the Iraq war, stating the reason for the invasion
was "oil and imperialism". Gyllenhaal also took part in Artists United to
Win Without War, a campaign started by Robert Greenwald with the aim of
advancing progressive causes and voicing opposition to the Iraq war. She
and her brother Jake filmed a commercial for Rock the Vote and visited the
University of Southern California (USC) campus to encourage students to
vote in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, in which she supported John
Kerry. Gyllenhaal supported Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential
election. She has campaigned on behalf of the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU), an organization her family strongly supports.
Besides acting, she has modeled for Miu Miu, Reebok, and Agent
Provocateur, and recorded the first unabridged audiobook version of Sylvia
Plath's novel The Bell Jar. Gyllenhaal is a supporter of Witness, a
non-profit organization that uses video and online technologies to expose
human rights violations. She co-hosted a benefit dinner with founder Peter
Gabriel in November 2007. Gyllenhaal helped raise funds for TrickleUp.org,
a non-profit organization that helps impoverished people start a
micro-enterprise. For one of the fundraisers, Gyllenhaal helped design and
promote a necklace that sold for $100; all proceeds from sales went to the
charity. In October 2008 she hosted a fashion show event called
"Fashionably Natural", which was presented by Gen Art and SoyJoy in Los
Angeles. The show featured four up-and-coming designers who only worked
with all-natural and eco-friendly fabrics and materials.