Jake Gyllenhaal, an Oscar nominee for his role in Brokeback Mountain, is bona fide American – born and raised in Los Angeles, California.
His character in Disney’s upcoming video game-based fantasy-adventure film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, is the titular character, Dastan, living in 6th century Persia (now known as Iran).
That Dastan speaks with a British accent is curious; that Gyllenhaal, brother to actress sister Maggie, has learned and embraced the accent is rather amusing, especially to his director for the film, the Englishman Mike Newell.
Speaking to inSing.com at a media session during the WonderCon convention in San Francisco in April, the director jokingly made a pained face as Gyllenhaal talked enthusiastically about going Brit.
“Now, I wish I was British, because I feel like I’m British enough with my accent,” he said, glancing at Newell, who simply shrugged, drawing laughs from the assembled press.
“Occasionally, I’ll throw out the British accent, at the dinner table, with my family.”
The film, based on a 2003 game developed by Ubisoft as part of the well-known Prince of Persia video game franchise, was directed by Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), produced by uber producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and also stars Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans), Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina – all English actors, incidentally.
It opens in Singapore on May 27.
Asked to give a sample of his new-found accent, honed with the help of a dialect coach who had previously trained Gwyneth Paltrow and Renee Zellweger, Gyllenhaal turned coy.
“If I did that now, why would you guys go see the movie? Yeah, you gotta wait for the movie man, I’ve worked hard enough for it to be in the movie, I can’t just let you guys (hear it now).”
Bruckheimer, asked about why the Persian prince would sound British in that era, had a ready-made Hollywood answer.
“I think it was the fact that, it doesn’t seem right to have an American accent, back in the 6th century. Somehow you accept the British accent as being real. You don’t want to have an actor saying ‘cool’ or ‘wow’ or something.”
“Words unknown in England!” quipped Newell in his genuine Brit accent, to which Gyllenhaal replied, “How much better did that sound, right?”
Asked if he had modelled his accent after anyone famous, such as Michael Caine, Gyllenhaal said no, but that he did notice that his grasp of the accent wasn’t perfect, particularly if influenced by his many British colleagues on the Prince of Persia cast and crew.
“In fact, I would move in and out of regions (with my accent) at times, and Mike would say …”
Making another jocular pained face, Newell interrupted, “I’d say Jake, get back up the river!” – an allusion to how far out-of-place Gyllenhaal’s accent had gone.
Asked if he had any favourite British word, Gyllenhaal give a mischievous smile and quipped, “I can’t say it here!”