Suddenly | The Jake Gyllenhaal movie that fell apart in four days

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An in-depth report paints a portrait of star power run amok on the set of Suddenly – a Jake Gyllenhaal drama that fell apart days before filming.


Whether it’s Val Kilmer’s antics on the set of The Island Of Doctor Moreau or Sly Stallone demanding last-minute changes during the filming of Rambo 3, cinema history is littered with stories of star power gone wild. According to a report in France’s Technikart magazine (and spotted by World of Reel) we can add the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring survival drama Suddenly to the list.

The film – essentially a two-hander about a pair of lovers trapped on an inhospitably cold island – was originally due to begin filming in the autumn of 2021. It was to be directed by Thomas Bidegain, with the script co-written by newcomer Valentine Monteil. For Bidegain, known for writing such films as A Prophet and Rust And Bone, it would have been his first step into Hollywood filmmaking, with Jake Gyllenhaal starring alongside Vanessa Kirby (Margot Robbie, Ana De Armas and Jodie Comer all passed).

With the script written, everything seemed to be on track, with locations already chosen in a quiet part of Iceland and construction set to begin on an expensive set – some sort of whaling facility – on the nearby coast.

It was when Gyllenhaal – who’d also signed on as producer for the $26m film – arrived in Iceland that things began to go awry. Technikart’s report – which includes extensive quotes from Bidegain – describes some distinctly erratic behaviour from Gyllenhaal, including demands that the script be rewritten to a curious moment in which he stripped down to his underwear and jumped in the freezing cold sea in front of the whole crew.

The magazine even has a candid photograph, appearing to show Gyllenhaal wading into the icy waters. “When I see the sea, I swim in the sea,” the star reportedly said.

Other curious moments described in the feature include Gyllenhaal specifying what colour his hire car should be (“neither red nor white”), Gyllenhaal and Kirby reading the script aloud in mock French accents like Pepe Le Pew, and Gyllenhaal arguing that the script should be rewritten to make his character an ex-soldier.

“For a scene on a boat, [Gyllenhaal] sells us the idea that he slaps a fish,” one passage reads.

Eventually, matters came to a head on day four of the project, with Gyllenhaal still demanding changes to the script and even – allegedly – saying that the production’s set builders had to sleep in their cars in order to prevent the spread of Covid. When producer Alain Attal dug his heels in and refused to change the script, the entire project fell apart.

“I’m going to talk to Jake and we agree that there’s no point in persisting, our visions diverge too much,” Bidegain told the producer.

Weeks after the project came to an abrupt end, Vanessa Kirby reportedly tried to buy the script off Bidegain so she could embark on another attempt to make the film with Gyllenhaal – but without Bidegain. Bidegain and his producer refused.

The story does have a happy ending, of sorts: Bidegain rewrote the script in French, and cast actors Gilles Lellouche and Melanie Laurent in the lead roles once occupied by Gyllenhaal and Kirby. Now called Suddenly Alone, it sounds as though production on the new iteration of the story went much more smoothly the second time around – the completed film is due for release in December.

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