"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

End of Watch, a short story from New York City.

Jake Gyllenhaal interview End of Watch New York City

End of Watch, a short story from New York City.

In June 2010 I arrived in The Netherlands with the notion of finally ‘settling down’. Young, in love and still just a little wet behind the ears, my girl and I had all the typical rat race dreams.

Get the jobs so we could save money. Save money so we could get the house. Get the house so we could have kids. Have kids so we could be a happy family, a regular functioning cog in this big old machine we call society. What could possibly go wrong?


“He’s not shaking hands with anyone!” announced the chubby Asian guy from CNN. “They say he’s got a cold, but who knows, maybe he’s just in one of his moods”. A general murmur of disapproval rippled around the room as this revelation sunk in. There was a cocked eyebrow from the mousy little BBC woman. Folded arms and a huff from the bespectacled, grey-haired man from some Nordic TV station I couldn’t pronounce.

As the new kid on the block, I decided not to comment. Hell, I was just happy to be there. In fact, sitting in New York City’s Crosby Street Hotel waiting for my interview with Jake Gyllenhaal was certainly a surreal moment. At some point, coffee in one hand, a giant aniseed glazed donut in the other, it really hit me that this was my job!

End of Watch, a short story from New York City.

The Crosby Street Hotel New York City.

The Crosby Street Hotel, New York City.

After years of teaching English around the world, I’d somehow managed to blag my way into a job writing and voice presenting movie news. As if that wasn’t enough, I was now getting in on the interview action too. It was an unbelievable opportunity to indulge my love of cinema in a way most people could only dream of. The expression I had to pinch myself didn’t even begin to cover it.

End of Watch Jake Gyllenhaal.

The buildup to my arrival in NYC felt like a dream. Back in Amsterdam I’d been sent off to a pre-screening of the movie End of Watch, a gritty L.A. cop flick in which Gyllenhaal starred opposite Michael Peña.

The movie was pretty good, a winning combination of ferocious action, sharp dialogue and fully-fleshed characters audiences could care about.  I’d been a huge fan of Gyllenhaal for years, going all the way back to his child star days in City Slickers and A Dangerous Woman

Jake Gyllenhaal City Slickers.

Jake in City Slickers.

There was so much I wanted to discuss with him. I wondered how it really felt to grow up in a moviemaking family. I was desperate for details from the set of Brokeback Mountain, when he worked with the late Heath Ledger.

Furthermore, I would’ve loved to hear about being directed by David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones in Source Code. However, all of that was pie in the sky, because I’d only be getting ten minutes in Jake’s company. Hence our conversation would be strictly on End Of Watch. You can’t have everything I suppose.

Brokeback Mountain Jake Gyllenhaal.

Jake Gyllenhaal with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

“This is Leighton Thomas from The Netherlands. He’s with Old Harbour Productions”.

The spacious interview room was a decadent man cave decked out in framed movie posters, leather sofas and lamp-laden shelving. At the far end, to the side of the popcorn machine and minibar, sat a giant mahogany pool table. It seemed to have been abandoned mid game.

And then I caught sight of Jake, sat at the back of the room stretching his limbs in a brown armchair. Behind him, a posse of unknown men munched on sandwiches at a long, glass table. None of them paid me any attention whatsoever.

“Hi” I said tentatively, dropping into the chair opposite Jake. “Hey” he replied with a throaty sniff, reaching for the cup of coffee on the table beside him. “How are you feeling?” I asked, as a lady appeared out of the shadows to hook me up with a microphone.

“Ah, I’m a bit under the weather. But it’s not so bad, you know. All I gotta do is sit here and talk”.

With a full head of scraggly hair and an equally fulsome beard, this was not the Jake Gyllenhaal I’d expected. In fact, he was a million miles from the clean cut boy-next-door handsomeness of his many movies. Nor was he anywhere near the shaven-headed tough guy look he’d adopted for End of Watch.

Was this really Jake Gyllenhaal? Or had the studio drafted in a lumberjack lookalike while the real Jake lay bedbound somewhere with the flu? “Ok Leighton… you have speed in three, two, one… rolling!”

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End of Watch, a short story from New York City.

Before my trip to New York, I’d spent hours in the office watching archive interview footage on the company server. As interesting as they were, I found myself frustrated with how wasteful and uninventive most of the interviewers had been with their precious time. It was really perfunctory stuff, with a hundred and one “What was it like working with {insert actor’s name here}?” and a zillion “Do you see any similarities between yourself and your character?”

With actors having to do 40-50 interviews a day, it was no wonder they often got tired, bored and irritable. As a result, I promised myself that I’d do my best to come up with something different. I wanted to surprise Jake by asking some questions nobody else would think of. Thus I began with:

“I heard that you spent months researching the life of an L.A. cop. But be honest, how much of that time actually went on perfecting the wedding dance scene?”  

He looked at me for a second, a wry smile forming at the sides of his mouth. And then he burst into laughter, his eyes closed for just a moment. His top row of front teeth sparkling in the dimness. 

Jake Gyllenhaal Interview end of Watch.

Interviewing Jake Gyllenhaal for End of Watch, October 2012.

“You know that wedding dance, we spent hours on that… getting it JUST right. And it was clear from the beginning that I obviously have a distinct sense of style and rhythm and… ha ha! NO… I think we just nailed it in like twenty minutes. The rest of the time was spent learning what it’s like to be an L.A. cop”.

“People have made a lot of your look in the movie. I read one review that described you as ‘bald and beefy’. Does it frustrate you that people tend to concentrate on stuff like this?”

He gave me a patient smile, a shrug of the shoulders.

“This is the world we live in. You know, we’re all animals and sometimes we tend to focus on the visual. But I’m not interested in all that. I just try to choose work that speaks to me and find characters and storylines that are interesting.

All the rest… the hairstyle, putting on a bit of weight, who’s dating who, it’s all secondary to me. As the character in the play I’m doing now says: It’s all much of a muchness”.

“I heard there was some friction on set between yourself and Michael Peña. Is there any truth in that?”

Again Jake remained completely unflustered.

“As ever these things get blown out of proportion. Sometimes people forget that actors are often just thrown together. Maybe you haven’t worked together before and maybe you come from different backgrounds. And basically you’re expected to just click and become best friends.

Life doesn’t always work like that, you know? In our case we just had to find our way of doing the job. And in the end we did. There really wasn’t any more to it than that”.

Jake Gyllenhaal End of Watch.

Jake Gyllenhaal with Michael Pena in End of Watch.

End of Watch, a short story from New York City.

There were a few more questions, but with the passing of time I honestly couldn’t say what they were. “Thank you Leighton!” said the woman, as Jake leaned back in his chair with a manly grunt-stretch.

“Hey, did you like the movie?” he asked me, locking his eyes firmly into mine. “I did!” I confirmed, mightily relieved that I wasn’t in a situation where I had to lie. “In fact, I think it’s the best thing you’ve done since Brokeback”. He raised both eyebrows at this, pursing his lips together thoughtfully. “Thanks man!” he said and with a long sniff shuffled over to the table to claim one of the few remaining sandwiches.

“Leighton Thomas, End of Watch!” called the scruffy man in the back office.

It was time for me to pick up my flash disk. So I strode out of the press lounge and down the corridor to claim my treasure. As I went, Anna Kendrick suddenly emerged out of a side door in front of me. She had a petite Gucci handbag slung over her shoulder, a cup of coffee clutched protectively in both hands. “Hey!” she said with a side glance, her hair swinging back and forth. “Here you go,” said tech dude and I popped the flash disk into my pocket.

Exiting the hotel into the chilly New York afternoon, I realised that I now had the rest of the day to myself. I could do whatever I wanted before my flight back to Amsterdam the next morning. Subsequently, I set about planning my afternoon. I was gonna grab a shake at Tick Tock, my favourite NYC diner. Afterwards, I’d take a walk out to West 18th Street for some browsing at Academy Records.

5th Avenue New York City.

5th Avenue, New York City.

For dinner I’d decided on pizza on Bleecker Street, with Simon & Garfunkel on the headphones. Finally, I’d take in the evening’s Manhattan views from the top of The Rockefeller. I remember making my way down the sidewalk as a flurry of yellow taxis zoomed past. One or two of them shrouded in the billowing smoke of a nearby drain. I recall wondering if, professionally at least, this autumnal New York afternoon was as good as it gets.

‘End of Watch’ is the third installment of my short story series Notes From The Netherlands.

You can also check out my bite sized travel reports from around New York City.

To read tales about my adventures in Qatar, Slovakia, India, China and Belgium, take a look at more of My Short Stories.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Jake's Beard

    Hey, nice article. I actually remember this interview. end of watch is overlooked I think in Jakes back catalogue.

    January 25, 2018 - 10:31 am Reply
  • Memo

    Wow. You make me feel like I’m present for the taping. Too bad you didn’t have access to the full Gyllenhaal interview. That would be a blast to see.

    December 3, 2020 - 7:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I guess it’s still on the company server. Maybe If I ask an old editor nicely.

      December 3, 2020 - 7:52 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    What an amazing job! I would have loved to ask about Brokeback Mountain, a tour-de-force for both actors. Good for you for digging up some interesting questions.

    June 19, 2021 - 7:23 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Ruth, it was an amazing job. I was a lucky boy.

      June 19, 2021 - 7:26 pm Reply

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