Jacob Benjamin Gyllenhaal is an American actor and film producer. Born into the Gyllenhaal family, he is the son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner. He began acting as a child, making his acting debut in City Slickers, followed by roles in his father’s films A Dangerous Woman and Homegrown. Take a look below for 35 more awesome and interesting facts about Jake Gyllenhaal.
1. Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner and film director Stephen Gyllenhaal.
2. Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, his older sister, appeared with him in the film Donnie Darko.
3. Gyllenhaal’s father, who was raised as a Swedenborgian, is of Swedish and English descent and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family.
4. Jake’s last ancestor to be born in Sweden was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal.
5. Jake’s mother is Jewish and was born in New York City to a Jewish family from Russia and Poland.
6. Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself Jewish.
7. On his 13th birthday, Gyllenhaal performed a “barmitzvah-like act, without the typical trappings”, volunteering at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to give him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle.
8. His parents insisted that he have summer jobs to support himself, and he thus worked as a lifeguard and as a busboy at a restaurant operated by a family friend.
9. Gyllenhaal said his parents encouraged artistic expression: “I do have parents who constantly supported me in certain ways. In other ways, they were lacking. Definitely, it’s in expression and creativity where my family has always been best at.”
10. As a child, Gyllenhaal was regularly exposed to filmmaking due to his family’s deep ties to the industry.
11. He made his acting debut as Billy Crystal’s son in the 1991 comedy film City Slickers.
12. His parents did not allow him to appear in the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks because it would have required him to leave home for two months.
13. He was allowed to appear in his father’s films several times.
14. Gyllenhaal appeared in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman (along with sister Maggie); in “Bop Gun”, a 1994 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street; and in the 1998 comedy Homegrown.
15. Along with their mother, Jake and Maggie appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network.
16. Prior to his senior year in high school, the only other film not directed by his father, in which Gyllenhaal was allowed to perform, was the 1993 film Josh and S.A.M., a little-known children’s adventure.
17. Gyllenhaal graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles in 1998, then attended Columbia University, where his sister was a senior and from which his mother had graduated, to study Eastern religions and philosophy.
18. Gyllenhaal dropped out after two years to concentrate on acting but has expressed intentions to eventually finish his degree.
19. Gyllenhaal’s first lead role was in October Sky, Joe Johnston’s 1999 adaptation of the Homer Hickam autobiography Rocket Boys, in which he portrayed a young man from West Virginia striving to win a science scholarship to avoid becoming a coal miner.
20. In December 2006, Gyllenhaal and his sister escaped a fire that destroyed Manka’s Inverness Lodge, a famed lodge and restaurant in Inverness, California, at which they were vacationing.
21. Gyllenhaal’s niece, Ramona Sarsgaard, was born on October 3, 2006.
22. Gyllenhaal has both literal godparents and what he describes as “celebrity godparents”.
23. The late actor and director Paul Newman was his celebrity godfather, and actress Jamie Lee Curtis is both his literal and celebrity godmother.
24. Other godparents of unknown status include a gay couple and cinematographer Robert Elswit.
25. Gyllenhaal himself is the godfather of Matilda Rose Ledger (born October 28, 2005), daughter of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, both of whom co-starred with him in Brokeback Mountain.
26. Gyllenhaal dated actress Kirsten Dunst for nearly two years, starting in 2002.
27. He later dated his Rendition co-star Reese Witherspoon from about 2007 to 2009.
28. He dated singer-songwriter Taylor Swift from October 2010 until March 2011, and model Alyssa Miller from July to December 2013.
29. Gyllenhaal once shot a commercial for Rock the Vote and, along with his sister, visited the University of Southern California to encourage students to vote during the 2004 U.S. election.
30. In 2003, Gyllenhaal participated in an advertising campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union.
31. He recycles regularly, and said in an interview that he spends $400 a year to have trees planted in a Mozambique forest, partly to promote the Future Forests program.
32. After filming The Day After Tomorrow, he flew to the Arctic to promote awareness of climate change.
33. Gyllenhaal is the Honorary Chair of the New Eyes for the Needy Advisory Board, and has signed on to help the TV fundraiser Stand Up to Cancer.
34. Gyllenhaal is on the board of directors for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and volunteered in California juvenile detention centers with Scott Budnick.
35. On December 19, 2011, he was announced as a jury member for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival that was held in February 2012.