Walking the red carpet at the Tribeca Film Festival with boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal caused a storm over comments she made about September 11 and terrorism. She decided to swear off talking about politics in public, but that's not stopping her from talking about sex.
The 27-year-old actress, who plays a wispy seductress in her latest movie, Happy Endings '- a part that was written for Gwyneth Paltrow '- is continuing her streak as the bad girl of independent film. She may look like your quintessential date-movie sweetheart, but in fare like the kooky Donnie Darko, in which she costarred with brother Jake, and the racy Secretary, she shows a real wild side.
What makes you choose such sexy roles?
Most movies that I've done, I can't tell you exactly why I've done them. But I think that most people in the world are interested to see 27-year-old women in movies somehow connected to sex, especially little movies, which have trouble getting made.
Just young women?
I think they're interested in sex for people of other ages as well. Look at Julianne Moore. She includes her sexuality in everything she does. She's naked a lot, and she's in her 40s. Or Diane Lane. Those are both actresses who are older than me who are sexy. It's part of all of our narratives. But I think it's particularly for young actors.
Is it just about looking beautiful and turning people on?
For me, both in my life and work, I'm interested in how sex is a way of communicating. It's another way of talking. Even if you will not communicate at all, and you're fighting, fighting, fighting, there's still sex. It's like for some people math is the way they communicate.
How does that come out in your work?
In movies, I'm interested in: Why communicate an idea through sex? Is there no other way of getting the point across without having these two people making love to each other? I'm not really that interested in the fantasy of sex being like soft-core porn and everyone looks perfect. Look at Secretary. It's very funny. It does have a lot of sex in it, but sex is a gateway to talking about a lot of other complicated intimate things.
Casa de los Babys doesn't really have any sex in it. It's about a group of women [Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Mary Steenburgen, Lili Taylor and Marcia Gay Harden] in a Central American country waiting to adopt babies. Why did you choose to do that movie?
It's not like I'm only compelled to tell stories about sex. What brought me to that is that I was interested in John Sayles and his movies. I was interested in the politics of it. I was interested in working with all those actresses. I'm 27 now, so I was 23 or 24, and it was interesting to me that my character was really, really young and had decided already that she couldn't get pregnant. And to be so much younger than everyone else there was a very interesting dynamic.
You've mostly done independent movies and small dramas. Do you want to make big-budget action movies like your brother Jake?
I did make a movie that was much bigger, called Stranger Than Fiction, with Will Ferrell and Queen Latifah, directed by Marc Forster.
But that's not exactly a summer blockbuster...
When I first started and I was like 22 or 23, I kind of thought, I don't care if people see my movies. I was younger, and I had a different point of view. Now I think I do care if people see my movies. I make them because I believe in what they're saying. I want to have some effect on the way that the world works, in whatever way I can. I also want to have the power to help get the movies that I think are important made. And so I think it would be really hard for me to do it in something I didn't believe in.