Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight

Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Dark Knight”

Descended from Swedish nobility on her director father’s side, and Jewish intelligentsia via her screenwriter mother, the seriously talented and adorable Maggie Gyllenhaal is the best argument we know for show business nepotism. The beneficiary of a major confluence of both nature and nurture, together with brother Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie is one-half of what has to be the most lusted after brother-and-sister twosome of the 21st century. Born in New York City in 1977 and raised in Los Angeles, the extremely well educated Maggie attended North Hollywood’s exclusive (and expensive) Harvard-Westlake prep school, Columbia University and, just to top it off, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Her father, Steven Gyllenhaal, obeying the old truism that there’s nothing wrong with nepotism as long as you keep it in the family, gave Maggie her first major film roles in a pair of high-end dramas: “Waterland,” starring Jeremy Irons, and “A Dangerous Woman,” written by her mother, Naomi Foner. From there, Maggie kept on working and eventually was the beneficiary of a very logical piece of casting, getting the role of Elizabeth Darko opposite her brother’s title gig in “Donnie Darko.”

From there, Maggie stayed on the quirky train and wowed critics and indie audiences with a fascinating performance in the kinky black comedy, “Secretary,” in which she willingly endured spankings and more from costar James Spader. Though Maggie has since expressed mixed feelings about certain scenes in the film, some of which involved nudity, the complex role impressed just about everyone who saw it and made Maggie a favorite of both critics and mildly pervy males.

Since then, Maggie has kept busy in a mix of supporting and leading roles on film — more often than not in thoughtful and offbeat fare, while also performing on stage and even audio books. In 2006, she took a not very lengthy breather to have a baby with her fiancé, actor Peter Sarsgaard, before dodging some controversial post-9/11 remarks that came back to haunt her while promoting her role in Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center.” Still, there was nothing controversial about her sympathetic role opposite Will Ferrell’s possibly doomed Harold Crick in the underrated low-key comedy, “Stranger Than Fiction.” For some reason, Maggie has no problem playing highly intelligent, sensitive and beautiful woman.

Maggie takes on another challenging role playing a working girl and then adult film star and producer in “The Deuce” on HBO. She’s also a producer on this show and you can read more about it here.

On the Screen

When Maggie walks on screen, there’s always something going on. We’ve never seen her be less than fascinating, but her multi-faceted role in “Secretary” remains a landmark. If you can leave aside the kink and the nudity (and we know that’s not easy), it’s an astonishing piece of work.

Maggie stepped into the role of Rachel Dawes (originally played by Katie Holmes) in “The Dark Knight.”

Maggie says:

On her approach to acting:
“You have to fight. So many people are willing to sleepwalk through things and fall into the not human, not interesting choice”.

On good “cool” and bad “cool”:
“There are two ways to be cool: One is to be disinterested and make it seem like you must be doing something much more interesting than everybody else if you are this disinterested. The other is to be extremely interested. You are not trying to please anyone, but you are really invested are really focused.”

On why Maggie doesn’t really think like us:
“I think sex is very interesting for most people, but I’m interested in sex as a way of communication, I’m not that interested in the fantasy version of a sex scene.”

Related Content

The movie poster for the kinky hit “Secretary” became iconic, and also made our list of one of the sexiest movie posters of all time:

“In keeping with the theme of the movie, this is probably the kinkiest poster you’ll ever see. I’m not sure if that’s really Maggie Gyllenhaal showing off her long stems and derriere, but I’d sure like to think so. Either way, it’s an instantly memorable shot that also happens to be pretty economical with its space. There were plenty of other places they could have put the title, but the fact that they slapped it right there on her ass pretty much ensures you’ll start there and work your way down. The man who designed this poster deserves a medal of some sort. Or at least a handshake and a pat on the back.”

Secretary movie poster