Serial Killers, Liquor and Short Shorts: A Brief History of Jake Gyllenhaal in Music Videos


While he never appeared in one of Taylor Swift’s music videos during their short-lived courtship in late 2010 (and surprisingly may never be the subject of one of her songs), Jake Gyllenhaal has nonetheless found an adjacent career as a star of music videos to compliment the one he’s got going in the movie business. This seems to suit Gyllenhaal just fine as one of film’s most idiosyncratic actors, willing to show up in “Jarhead” with nothing but a Santa hat to cover his privates and long ago polishing off the rough edges on movies such as “Bubble Boy” and “Donnie Darko” to become a chiseled leading man. With the release last week of “Time to Dance,” his most extensive effort to date in video form, he’s gloriously letting his freak flag fly and to commemorate the occasion we offer this short but sweet look back at his three-video rise as a video superstar.

Jamie Foxx – “Blame It” (Featuring T-Pain) (2009)

Thus far the only video Gyllenhaal has actually received top billing on, this favor for his “Jarhead” co-star is perhaps both his biggest credit as a music video star and his shortest appearance as he clearly takes a backseat to a laid-back Samuel L. Jackson blowing smoke and a man in a panda head (later revealed to be Foxx) in this Hype Williams-directed clip. Still, Gyllenhaal got to don a trilby and happily sip Grey Goose and Henny with Ron Howard and Forest Whitaker in this most random of hip-hop videos. Perhaps it wasn’t the “We Are the World”-style video that Howard envisioned when he was lured to the set, but as a hit song, it set Gyllenhaal on the path to the music video A-list.


Vampire Weekend – “Giving Up the Gun” (2010)

Helmed by “Big Easy Express” director Emmett Malloy and his brother Brendan, the surreal clip for “Giving Up the Gun” pits Gyllenhaal (as well as Joe Jonas) against frequent Weekend video girl Jenny Murray in a tennis match refereed by RZA. Emmett said in an interview with Pitchfork that Gyllenhaal had picked up the band’s sophomore album “Contra” just a day before shooting and “he was driving down from San Francisco, and he literally just pulled over and did it. It was a combination of second-hand connections and timing.” The result was Gyllenhaal’s oddest onscreen appearance since “Bubble Boy,” drunkenly serving up lobs in tiny blue short shorts.  Soon after it was released in 2010, Paste Magazine dubbed it number 16 of their list of the 20 Greatest Music Video Cameos of All Time.


The Shoes – “Time to Dance” (2012)

At eight minutes, Gyllenhaal’s latest video appearance may feel like a feature on its own and certainly the actor took it as seriously. According to the respected British video helmer Daniel Wolfe, Gyllenhaal had wanted to work with the director on something and it just happened to be this video for the French dance outfit. Demonstrating the same menace in his eyes as he showed in “Donnie Darko,” the actor slashes a girl’s neck in the opening seconds with a fencing rapier and doesn’t slow down from there in what has to be the peppiest portrait of a serial killer committed to film. Obviously, “American Psycho” is a touchstone, but the Brit direction combined with the French discotheque influence blend into a pretty compelling calling card if Gyllenhaal and Wolfe want to work together again on a larger screen.


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