Margaret Ruth "Maggie" Gyllenhaal is an American actress. She is the daughter of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal and the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal. She made her screen debut when she began to appear in her father's films. Gyllenhaal achieved recognition in a supporting role in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko (2001). Her breakthrough role was in the 2002 sadomasochistic romance Secretary, for which she received critical acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination.
Gyllenhaal has appeared in an eclectic range of films, including the indie film Sherrybaby (2006), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe, the romantic comedy Trust the Man (2006), and big-budget films such as World Trade Center (2006) and The Dark Knight (2008). She next starred in the 2009 musical-drama Crazy Heart, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Gyllenhaal has also appeared in theatrical plays, including Closer (2000), and television productions, including Strip Search (2004).
Gyllenhaal has been in a relationship with actor Peter Sarsgaard since 2002. In 2006 the two became engaged, and Gyllenhaal gave birth to their daughter, Ramona, on October 3, 2006. On May 2, 2009, she married Sarsgaard in Italy. She is a politically active Democrat and, like her brother and parents, supports the American Civil Liberties Union. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq she participated in anti-war demonstrations. Gyllenhaal drew criticism in 2005 for her opinion that America was "responsible in some way" for the September 11 attacks. She is actively involved in human rights, civil liberty, and anti-poverty campaigns.
Gyllenhaal was born in New York City to film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (née Achs). Jake Gyllenhaal, her younger brother, is also an actor. Her father was raised in the Swedenborgian religion and is of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family; her last purely Swedish ancestor was her great-grandfather, a descendant of Leonard Gyllenhaal, a leading Swedenborgian who supported the printing and spreading of Swedenborg's writings. Her mother is from a Jewish family in New York City and is the ex-wife of Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University. Her parents, who married in 1977, filed for divorce in October 2008.
Gyllenhaal grew up in Los Angeles and studied at the Harvard–Westlake prep school. In 1995 she graduated from Harvard–Westlake and moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where she studied literature and Eastern religions; she graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, she took a summer job working as a waitress in a Massachusetts restaurant.
Gyllenhaal's first films – her feature film debut at the age of 15, Waterland (1992); A Dangerous Woman (1993); and Homegrown (1998) – were directed by her father; the last two also featured her brother; they had supporting roles as children. With their mother, she and Jake appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network. After graduating from college, she played supporting roles in films like Cecil B. Demented (2000) and Riding in Cars with Boys (2001). Gyllenhaal later achieved recognition in her own right playing her real brother's on-screen sister in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko (2001).
She made her theatrical debut in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Patrick Marber's Closer, for which she received favorable reviews. Production started in May 2000 and ended in mid-July of that year. Gyllenhaal has performed in several other plays, including The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Butterfly Project, and No Exit.
Gyllenhaal's break-out role was in the black comedy Secretary (2002), a film about two people who embark on a mutually fulfilling BDSM lifestyle. New York Times critic Stephen Holden noted: "The role of Lee, which Maggie Gyllenhaal imbues with a restrained comic delicacy and sweetness, should make her a star." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the self-destructive secretary, is enigmatic and, at moments, sympathetic." The film received generally favorable reviews, and Gyllenhaal's performance earned her the Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, her first Golden Globe nomination, and an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Secretary was Gyllenhaal's first film role which featured full frontal nudity. Although impressed with the script, she initially had some qualms about doing the film, which she believed could deliver an anti-feminist message. Yet after carefully discussing the script with the film's director, Steven Shainberg, she agreed to join the project. Although insisting Shainberg did not exploit her, Gyllenhaal has said she felt "scared when filming began" and that "in the wrong hands ... even in just slightly less intelligent hands, this movie could say something really weird." Since then, she is guarded about discussing her role in the film, saying only that "despite myself, sometimes the dynamic that you are exploring in your work spills over into your life."
She next played a supporting role in the comedy-drama Adaptation. (2002), a film that tells the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief into a film. She later appeared in the unauthorized biography Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), part of an ensemble cast that included Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts. The movie grossed $33 million worldwide. That same year, she had a smaller role in the comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights.
In 2003 she co-starred with Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile in the role of Giselle. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she revealed the reason for accepting the role was "to play somebody who feels confident in herself as a sexy, beautiful woman". The film generated mostly critical reviews, with Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times describing it as "smug and reductive". Her next roles were in smaller independent films: Casa de los Babys (2003), a story about six American women impatiently waiting out their lengthy residency requirements in an unidentified South American country before picking up their adoptive babies, and Criminal (2004), a remake of the Argentinian film Nine Queens, with John C. Reilly and Diego Luna. Gyllenhaal plays an honest hotel manager forced to help her crooked brother (Reilly) by seducing one of his victims. Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2004. She starred in the HBO film Strip Search (2004), where she portrayed an American student in China suspected of terrorism.
In 2004 Gyllenhaal returned to theater in a Los Angeles production of Tony Kushner's Homebody/ Kabul as Priscilla, the Homebody's daughter, who spends most of the play searching for her elusive mother in Kabul, Afghanistan. Kushner gave her the role in Homebody/ Kabul on the strength of her performance in Closer. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: "Ms. Gyllenhaal provides the essential bridge between the parts of the play's title." John Heilpern of The New York Observer noted that Gyllenhaal's performance was "compelling". Viewed as a sex symbol, she was ranked in the "Hot 100 List" by Maxim magazine in 2004 and 2005.
Gyllenhaal's next film role was in the 2005 comedy-drama Happy Endings, in which she played an adventuress singer who seduces a young gay musician (Jason Ritter) as well as his rich father (Tom Arnold). She recorded songs for the movie's soundtrack, calling the role the "roughest, scariest acting ever" and adding she is more natural when singing on screen than when acting. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly declared Gyllenhaal's performance "as wonderfully, naturally slouchy-sexy as her character is artificial".
Following Happy Endings, she starred in the 2006 films Trust the Man, Stranger than Fiction, Monster House, World Trade Center, and Sherrybaby. In Trust the Man, featuring Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, and Billy Crudup, she played Elaine, who has been dating Tobey, Crudup's character, for seven years and has begun to feel that it is time for her to settle down and start a family. The film was critically and financially unsuccessful. Ethan Alter of Premiere felt that the performances by Gyllenhaal and Duchovny were "much more at ease" and concluded with "that's probably because they're played these characters many times before". In Stranger than Fiction, Gyllenhaal played a love interest of Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell. Her performance in the film received favorable reviews; Mike Straka of Fox News wrote: "Gyllenhaal has never been sexier in any film before and her interplay with Ferrell will propel her to more A-list films, leaving her indie-darling days behind, no doubt." She voiced Elizabeth "Zee" in the computer animated horror film Monster House. Gyllenhaal depicted Allison Jimeno, the wife of Port Authority officer Will Jimeno, in Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, based on the September 11 attacks in New York City. She regarded this as "one of the films she most enjoyed making". The film received favorable reviews and proved to be an international success, earning $162 million worldwide.
In Sherrybaby, Gyllenhaal played a young drug-addicted thief trying to put her life in order after prison so she can reconcile with her daughter. During promotion of the film, she noted of her portrayal of the character: "I think she's in such dire straights that all she has are these kind of naive, fierce hope. And while I was playing the part I was looking for pleasure and hope in everything, even in these really bleak things. And so it was really mostly after I finished the movie that I felt pain." Her performance in the film was well received: David Germain of the Associated Press wrote, "Gyllenhaal humanizes her so deeply and richly ... that Sherry elicits sympathy even in her darkest and weakest moments," and Dennis Harvey of Variety called her performance "naturalistic". For her work, Gyllenhaal earned her second Golden Globe Best Actress nomination and won the Best Actress category award at the 2006 Stockholm International Film Festival.
A brown haired woman looking away from the camera. Her hair is tied back, and she is wearing gold earrings and a shoulderless, sleeveless black dress with a yellow, red, and blue patten
Gyllenhaal at the premiere of The Dark Knight in New York City, July 14, 2008
She appeared in The Dark Knight (2008), the sequel to Batman Begins (2005), in which she replaced Katie Holmes as Assistant District Attorney, Rachel Dawes. Gyllenhaal acknowledged her character was a damsel in distress to an extent, but said director Christopher Nolan sought ways to empower her character, so "Rachel's really clear about what's important to her and unwilling to compromise her morals, which made a nice change" from the many conflicted characters she had previously portrayed. The Dark Knight was a financial and critical success, setting a new opening weekend box office record for North America. With revenue of $1 billion worldwide, it became the fourth highest grossing film of all time, and remains Gyllenhaal's most commercially successful picture to date. In a Salon.com review of the film, Stephanie Zacharek called Gyllenhaal's character "a tough cookie in a Stanwyck-style bias-cut gown" and stated that "the movie feels smarter and more supple when she's on-screen". IGN film critic Todd Gilchrist wrote, "Gyllenhaal adds real depth and energy to Rachel Dawes."
Gyllenhaal played Yelena in the Classic Stage Company's 2009 Off Broadway production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in New York City. The cast also included Peter Sarsgaard, Mamie Gummer, Denis O'Hare, and George Morfogen. The production, directed by Austin Pendleton, began previews on January 17 and ended its limited run on March 1. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News was less than enthusiastic about her performance, writing: "Gyllenhaal, who was so dynamic as a druggie in the film Sherrybaby, plays Yelena with a slow-mo saunter and monotonous pasted-on smile that makes it seem as if she's been in Sherry's stash." However, Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant was complimentary, noting that she "ultimately blossoms" as the character.
Gyllenhaal agreed to appear in the comedy film Away We Go, where she plays a bohemian college professor who is an old friend of John Krasinski's character. The film generated broadly mixed reviews, with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly describing Gyllenhaal's subplot as "over-the-top". However, A. O. Scott of the New York Times praised Gyllenhaal and co-star Allison Janney for their performances, writing that "both quite funny". Scott concluded with, "Ms. Gyllenhaal’s line about sex roles in 'the seahorse community' is the screenplay’s one clean satirical bull’s-eye". Her next role came in the musical-drama Crazy Heart, in which she played journalist Jean Craddock, who falls for musician Bad Blake, played by Jeff Bridges. The movie received favorable reviews, with Gyllenhaal receiving praise from critics. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone reported that Gyllenhaal was "funny, touching and vital as Jean" and that her part was "conventionally conceived, but Gyllenhaal plays it with a tough core of intelligence and feeling." Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
In 2010 Gyllenhaal appeared in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, the sequel to the 2005 film Nanny McPhee. The role required her to speak with an English accent. The feature received mixed reviews, and earned $93 million worldwide. Away from acting, she served as host of the PBS television documentary series Independent Lens. Gyllenhaal will appear in Hysteria, an independent movie focusing on the creation of the vibrator.
In February 2011 Gyllenhaal starred in another Anton Chekhov production as the character Masha in Austin Pendleton's Three Sisters at the Classic Stage Company. The play focuses on the Prozorov sisters (Gyllenhaal, Jessica Hecht, and Juliet Rylance) "unlucky in love, unhappy in the provinces and longing to return to Moscow", as summarized by Bloomberg's Jeremy Gerard. The off-Broadway production began preview performances on January 12, with a limited engagement through March 6.