Jake Gyllenhaal Looks Back at 20 Years of Donnie Darko, the Movie That Changed His Life

Jake Gyllenhaal is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Donnie Darko. The movie first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2001 before opening in theaters that following October. While it was not an initial hit at the box office, it became a cult classic when it was released on home video upon its release in March 2002 and sold million of copies. After the home video explosion, Donnie Darko became a midnight movie success, selling out screenings across North America and Europe.

Jake Gyllenhaal was 19-years old when he took on the title role in Donnie Darko. The production only lasted for 28 days, but the cast and crew all knew that they were working on something special. Gyllenhaal says, “It’s a film that changed my life and my career, and it’s been unreal to watch this story find afterlives with new audiences and new generations. The actor went on to note, “What Donnie said to [actress Patience Cleveland’s] Roberta Sparrow is still true: ‘There is so much to look forward to.'” The actor also shared images of his original Donnie Darko script.

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Over the years, many people have wondered just exactly what Donnie Darko is about. This is not lost on Jake Gyllenhaal, who is still asked what happened in the movie. He says, “Thank you to all the fans who’ve come up to me over the years with that confused look on their faces and asked me: ‘what the f*** is Donnie Darko about??'” Gyllenhaal then wished the movie a happy 20th anniversary, and looks forward to celebrating it all again in 20 more years.

In addition to Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko stars Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Stu Stone, Daveigh Chase, and James Duval. The movie focuses on Donnie, who is lured out of his home by a mysterious figure in a terrifying rabbit suit. Donnie ends up saving a fellow high school student before a plane engine crashes through his bedroom. Richard Kelly directed Donnie Darko, and says that he knew the rabbit costume was a homerun right away. He explains.

“When we brought the rabbit on set, that was a moment where I knew I was either going to live or die by the rabbit and how people responded to it. Everyone just got quiet on the set. Everyone was like, this is really intense. So, I knew it was working, and I felt the sense of relief. I could look around, and the makeup artist and the production assistants and the second AD, they were all just really freaked out about it. Steven Poster, my cinematographer, came up to me, and he was like, ‘Rich, I wasn’t sure about the rabbit… but now I get it.'”

In 2001, Drew Barrymore praised working with director Richard Kelly, who was only 25-years old when he shot Donnie Darko. She said, “You have so much trust in someone when they write something so extraordinary as his script. And then speaking with him, the fact that he was able to articulate all the genius that resides inside of him, I was so excited.” Kelly had written the movie 3 years prior after reading a news story about a jet engine falling from the sky and on to a house. Barrymore’s career received a boost and Jake Gyllenhaal’s kicked off as a result. You can check out images and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Instagram tribute to the movie above.

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