As Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer Brian Taylor, actor Jake Gyllenhaal finally gets to play a cop for the first time in “End of Watch.” Written and directed by former South Central Los Angeles resident David Ayers, the movie follows two young police officers played by Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena who are marked for death by a notorious cartel after they confiscate some money and firearms from them. Although it was shot in 22 days on a budget of just $7 million, Gyllenhaal did not skimp on the details and went through a seriously intense preparation that extended far beyond him getting a buzz cut.
Gyllenhaal ended up undergoing five months of training with the LAPD, and this included going on 12-hour ride-alongs through various crime-ridden neighborhoods. These ride-alongs had a schedule that started at 4:00 p.m. and went through to 4 a.m., and Gyllenhaal went on them as much as three times a week.
“On my first ride-along in Inglewood, someone was murdered. We were the second car on the scene,” Gyllenhaal said of his experience. “That was definitely a wakeup call. We were involved in stolen vehicle chases. You see domestic violence, disputes that turn violent. You really see your city differently after that.”
Gyllenhaal admitted to getting “a little nervous” at times as he and the police rode up on crimes involving domestic disputes, attempted murders and stolen cars. The actor pointed out, however, that he was with “some pretty amazing officers” who made him feel much protected in such a dangerous environment.
In addition Gyllenhaal went to a dojo in the mornings for fight training, and he also got a lot of exposure to weapons and tactical training as well.
“We did training with live ammunition and training with the Swat Team a few times a week for six-hour sessions,” Gyllenhaal said. “We had to learn tactic exercises and moving exercises with live ammo and then we did fight training in Echo Park. David Ayer, our director, his best friend has a dojo, so we trained there in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting too. Eventually, after getting the crap beaten out of you and being on the street, you start to actually come into the role and feeling like you really can play the part.”
But one of the most interesting stories regarding his preparation to play Officer Brian Taylor involved him getting shot by a taser.
“I did get tased. We were at the police academy, and they asked us if we wanted to try it out and me being me said, ‘Yeah, of course, yeah!’ Actually they gave us a choice between pepper spray and being tased,” Gyllenhaal recollected.
When it came to choosing getting tased or pepper sprayed, Gyllenhaal’s decision proved to be a well-informed one:
“Pepper spray is long and painful, it lasts for like 45 minutes and the taser just lasts for five second,” Gyllenhaal said. “But afterwards it’s actually kind of relaxing. After you’ve had thousands and thousands of volts of electricity going through your body.”
It looks like Gyllenhaal’s preparation for “End of Watch” has really paid off as the actor is getting some of the best reviews of his career. It is clear that playing a police officer has had a tremendous impact on him as he talked of the “stigma” that constantly deal with when they’re out on the street in uniform. He has also gone on to say that the experience of making this movie has “completely transformed” not just his idea of law enforcement but of Los Angeles as well.
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Colin Covert, “Jake Gyllenhaal’s education on the mean streets,” Star Tribune, September 22, 2012.
Zac Shull, “Q&A: Jake Gyllenhaal Talks ‘End Of Watch,’ Training With Police & If He Gets Pass For Speeding,” September 21, 2012.
Justin Harp, “Jake Gyllenhaal: ‘I was tased while preparing for End of Watch,'” September 18, 2012.