"There's nothing that I do that doesn't relate to my family," he says, somewhat less abrasively. "I think this is why with Jim ultimately, although I may have been a complicated person to work with at times, I think we share a lot in common in that way. My father and I definitely have an interesting and complex relationship."While happy to make fun of Sheridan's modus operandi, Gyllenhaal is reluctant to talk about the almost incestuous fishbowl syndrome of Hollywood, in which he and Tobey Maguire grew up, going to the same schools and parties, even dating the same actresses and models.Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, on-screen couple in "Spiderman" movies.
Most of his girlfriends have been well-known actresses, including Kirsten Dunst in 2002, with whom he had an on-off relationship, Natalie Portman, with whom he co-stars in Brothers, and his relationship, with Reese Witherspoon, who he had been dating since 2007 when they met on the set of Rendition.[After this interview was conducted, the pair were reported to have split up.]"There are all these interesting rumours that fly around about Tobey Maguire and myself and it was so long ago at this point. Our relationship on Brothers definitely was awkward, but respectful as a result," he eventually admits."Things unsaid went into the process of making this movie. I admire Tobey's career, I always have. But there was undoubtedly competition and people have mistaken me for him throughout the years. But I'm always game for complications, and this was one that Jim helped engineer."Given how critical he is of Sheridan's working style, would he work with him again? "Oh yes, definitely," he says emphatically. And given how difficult Sheridan admits to having found Gyllenhaal to work with, does he think he would get asked back onto one of Sheridan's sets. The question really bothers him."What do you mean by that? I have great respect for Jim and it's important that you respect someone's work. The work is not always the same as who they are as a person and navigating that is always difficult and there are lots of different egos and personalities in this business," he says, seeming both hurt and defensive. "I don't mean to wear the fact that I like to challenge people as a badge of honour. I think that's something I've moved beyond."I was born into the film industry and all of us grow up thinking we have a perspective on film-making that's different from the job. But only very recently I realised that film-making is a collaborative process. When I was younger I had an idea that I was the actor there to do the job."For somebody who's gotten to the place where they are directing or writing a movie, they have to have a pretty interesting personality to be doing that. So I realise now that I am in service of somebody else's vision and I think it's changed the whole situation."
Is he competitive with his sibling, Maggie?
"I don't read her scripts or give her ideas and she doesn't to me either. Occasionally, we did in the past, but our interest is more in having a relationship as a family. She has a daughter now and that's more important to me than our performances."
Interview conducted by Patricia Danaher.