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Jake Gyllenhaal digs into police work again for ‘Prisoners’

Jake Gyllenhaal 'Prisoners.'

Jake Gyllenhaal in "Prisoners."

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Updated: October 18, 2013 6:03AM

No one told him the snakes would be real.

“I knew there was a snake scene,” says Jake Gyllenhaal, but after a decade plus in the business, he thought he knew the drill.

“You’re playing a cop who walks into a room filled with snakes, which is creepy,” Gyllenhaal says. “But as an actor, you know it will all be CGI.”

Not so on “Prisoners” (opening Friday), a gritty film about two kidnapped girls and the cop who vows to save them. “I’m in the room and the director grabs six or seven or maybe 10 real, slithering snakes out of a bag and tosses them.

“I’m pretending I’m not afraid of them,” adds Gyllenhaal. “I’m about to pee in my pants. The snakes were everywhere. They were crawling into little holes they found and getting lost in the walls.”

Why not mention his fears?

“Are you crazy? I can’t admit that when I’m standing next to Hugh Jackman. He’s Wolverine,” Gyllenhaal says with a friendly laugh.

Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki and Jackman plays Keller, a father and small-town carpenter whose 6-year-old daughter is abducted.

Gyllenhaal, 32, really wanted to say no to “Prisoners.” Blame the acclaimed 2012 movie called “End of Watch,” in which he also played a cop.

“I had done so much research to play that previous role and had immersed myself for so long into that world,” he says with a sigh. “Honestly, I thought I might want to explore something else.”

“Luckily, we ended up going to a whole different place with ‘Prisoners.’ ”

Playing a detective working on a double kidnapping case meant that his own motives were divided.

“You have to walk the line between being fascinated and infatuated with the mind of the criminal,” he says. “At the same time, you have to care so deeply about the victims.

“You can’t show the victims how much you actually care because you have to follow protocol. You also have to keep everyone a suspect, including the people in the family and around the family who grow to hate you.”

Clashing with Jackman onscreen was good fun.

“The idea of this movie, deep down inside of it, is that if only these two men came together, they might find these little girls before it’s too late,” Gyllenhaal says.

“When they do help each other, Hugh’s character ends up confessing so much to me. There’s this strange vulnerability between these two men who are working on the same side, but don’t really like each other.”

The same can’t be said for the two actors.

“I have so much love for him. People are so skeptical about how someone can be nice in this business. They ask, ‘How is that possible?’ ” he says.

“I also found with Hugh is that, despite the fact he has played all these tough characters, there’s a beauty about him that comes from a deep vulnerability.”

Jackman said there was only one issue when it came to working with Gyllenhaal.

“We only have four or five scenes together and wanted to make the most of those moments,” Jackman says. “As actors, none of us really wanted to leave the scene. We wanted to dive in and investigate.”

Gyllenhaal recalls, “Afterward, we would drink. I remember spending evenings just letting go of whatever we did during the day. Since we shot in Atlanta, food became therapy in a way.”

Some days, a little fried chicken and grits came in handy.

“I remember being driven to work, and I’d try to meditate on an upcoming scene. Then I would pop on a real interrogation video. Sometimes these were really horrific videos, and there were a number of times on the way to work where I felt myself resisting this dark world of child abductions.

“Sometimes it would panic me,” Gyllenhaal admits.

“I’m only making a movie. What happens in real life … well, it’s beyond comprehension.”

Big Picture News Inc.

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