Denis Villeneuve, Jake Gyllenhaal team up again for 'Enemy'

Jake Gyllenhaal in

Jake Gyllenhaal in "Enemy."

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:28 PM ET

If you were surprised by the intense performances director Denis Villeneuve got from Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in the 2013 child kidnap drama Prisoners, just wait -- here comes Enemy.

A second collaboration between Gyllenhaal, 33, and Canadian director Villeneuve, 46, Enemy is a psycho-sexual thriller about identity that stars Gyllenhaal in a double role as a man who encounters his doppelganger.

Enemy opens in major Canadian cities this Friday. It's nominated for the lion's share of honours at Sunday night's Canadian Screen Awards (CBC, 8 p.m.) with 10 CSA nods, including best picture, best director for Villeneuve, best actor (Gyllenhaal) and best supporting actress (Sarah Gadon).

In Enemy, a lacklustre college lecturer named Adam is stunned to encounter his double -- a charismatic actor named Anthony. Gyllenhaal plays both men.

Did that get confusing on set?

"Jake was in total control of both characters," says Villeneuve. "To work in that kind of risky and strange landscape, you need to have strong boundaries; yet to create life in such an artificial world, we needed to have time, time to spend with the actors, and to improvise in order to create sparks of life in front of the camera."

Above all, adds Villeneuve, they avoided the rushing around that's typical of most movie shoots.

"I wanted to have time to really explore cinema with one actor."

Gyllenhaal is that actor. He and Villeneuve have become very close in the course of making two movies together.

Gyllenhaal says of Enemy, "It was always clear that it was about the struggle, about a man and his struggle toward intimacy, his struggle with sexuality and being faithful, all those things as he headed toward a real committed relationship with this woman who was pregnant with his child."

The movie has sci-fi overtones, to be sure, "But in some ways it was a very typical story about evolving into being men -- and the fact that you're obviously seduced by the same sort of biological things you always tend to be seduced by, regardless of whether you've decided to commit. That's what makes it a horror film for him, that you never escape."

Playing two characters in Enemy could be compared to juggling private and public personas, something every famous actor has to do.

"The irony in that, is that I was at a place in my life and in my work where I wasn't really interested in presenting anything that wasn't closest to me, be it what you present as an actor, or what you present when you're doing press, or whatever," says Gyllenhaal. "What was more important was to be as clear as I could be, and as honest as it was possible to be in any given moment."

We all play with identity, says the actor, and that ties into Enemy.

"You're not the same here as you are if you go home, and you're with your family. We are not always the same person. You go to a cocktail party or wherever, you're going to switch and change. So what is authenticity? What is our true self?"

What's come out of this work relationship between Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve is a strong friendship and a lot of mutual respect.

Says Villeneuve: "As a director, I'm deeply inspired by Jake. He's a very strong actor, very creative, and I love his will to take risks. I love how, with all his skills and talent, he can take massive risks in front of the camera. And it's very important because he creates such strong beauty and poetry."

Sadly, they may not work together again immediately, says Villeneuve, "As the inspiration for my next project will probably be with a lead actress."

"So he's going to cast me," quips Gyllenhaal. They both laugh.


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