Antoine Fuqua was shocked to see Jake Gyllenhaal go to to be a professional boxer in Southpaw’s 2015 film. He decided to do the same training as Gyllenhaal out of solidarity. Fuqua knew that they would be reunited because of their shared experience. The opportunity finally presented itself in the form of Netflix’s The Guilty, which is a new take on the Danish crime thriller of the same name. The movie was about to begin a short 11-day shoot when Fuqua encountered a person who had been positive for Covid-19. So while they didn’t get to partake in the same training regimen this time around, Fuqua and Gyllenhaal were still able to bond through their isolated work environments on The Guilty set.
“I had to work out of a van, outside of the studio, because someone close to me got Covid. I was negative, but I couldn’t jeopardize the whole movie,”Fuqua tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I found myself in a van, alone, with monitors, walkie-talkies and headsets in order to communicate with the crew and with Jake. Ironically, he was in the same situation. He was locked in a room with all my cameras, monitors and the other actors on the phone. We were both trapped, and that wasn’t something that was planned. It just turned out that way, but once again, we were just in it together.”
The Guilty revolves around LAPD officer Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal), who’s been relegated to a 911 call center as he awaits the outcome of a shooting incident he was involved in months earlier. Baylor is contacted by Emily Lighton (Riley Keough) during the film. The call changes Baylor’s life for the better. While Fuqua was blown away by Keough’s performance, he was initially quite sensitive to the fact that she was dealing with such dark material after suffering a personal tragedy of her own a few months earlier.
“After a while, I came to realize that she needed the outlet. I can’t imagine the pain that she was going through at the time, and I think it was good for her to have the outlet,” Fuqua posits. “Early on, when we first talked on the phone, she said to me that this was something she needed to do. So I just found her to be amazing, and then I hired her again on The Terminal List with Chris Pratt. Yeah, I love her. I think she’s such an amazingly strong person. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to do what she did.”
Fuqua recently spoke to THR about his busy 2021 schedule that includes Emancipation, Mayor of Kingstown and The Terminal List with Pratt. Fuqua then looks back at Training Day to see what advice his younger self could have given him.
So Jake is one of several actors you’ve reunited with over the years. Was there a particular moment on Southpaw that made you want to continue working with Jake?
It was quite early. It was his commitment. I knew he was a talented actor; he’s proven that for a long time. It was when I took Jake to the boxing ring that he realized his true potential. Jake had never boxed before so I watched him along with my trainer. I was amazed at how disciplined Jake was. He started doing two-adays seven days a semaine to get in shape and to learn more about boxing science and fighting. So I fell in love with that guy because that’s a tough thing to put yourself through. He gives everything he has. He really gives all he’s got and then some.
Whether it’s Jake, Denzel, Ethan Hawke, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Pratt or Haley Bennett, you’re obviously quite loyal to various actors. This loyalty is a sign of loyalty.
Loyalty is everything. That was just a code I grew up with, which I don’t find a lot of anymore. If people are kind to you, you should also be loyal and helpful to them. If you enjoyed the person and had a great experience and hopefully became friends out of it, why wouldn’t you go back to the well, especially if you learned and grew from the experience?
You mentioned Jake’s intense training on Southpaw, and if I recall correctly, you thought it was only fair to ask Jake to do this if you were also doing it yourself. When it comes to The Guilty was talking on the telephone for 11 days the closest we had a shared experience?
(Laughs. But I was boxing anyway. That’s part of my deal. But I felt that if he was going do two-a day, seven days per week, it would be a great opportunity to do it together so he could see my commitment. It was a very humbling way to learn each other because you’re physically challenging yourself to do something that’s complicated to do. It can also be painful, unless you’re in shape, because you’re in epsom salt all the time. But it’s also a great time to just really sit and talk in between setups, training sessions or during lunch. It just felt much more grounded because we weren’t in some fancy restaurant or anything like that. We were both in a gym, but neither of us was the world’s champion, so it was very humble to be around people who do that job for a living. That was a great experience for Jake.
The Guilty then, because it was Covid. I had to work from a van, outside the studio, because someone very close to me got Covid. I was negative, but I couldn’t jeopardize the whole movie. So I found myself alone in a van equipped with monitors and walkie-talkies. Ironically, he was in exactly the same situation. He was locked in a room, with all my cameras, monitors, and other actors on his phone. We were both trapped, and that wasn’t something that was planned. It just happened that way, but we were still in it together. It was an unusual environment where we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything except to communicate with each other and the crew. It worked out well, I believe. Jake and I have a lot in common in our work style. So I can get a sense of what he’s feeling and he can get a sense of what I’m feeling. I can tell when he becomes irritated or aggressive. And that’s good! He knows I try to bring that out of him at times because he tries to go against it, but that’s part of who he is. Jake is intense. That part of Jake is my favorite.
Director Antoine Fuqua
I also read that your van was surrounded by two Navy SEALs. Is that because of all the expensive equipment?
Well, first of all, they’re my friends. Whenever I’m doing a film, I try to embrace our servicemen and women in order to give them other things to do. Chris Pratt and I just finished The Terminal List. I’m doing Emancipation with Will Smith right now, and I’ve got several Navy SEALs here. I’ve got a couple Army Rangers around me who are writers. To make sure that Covid was not spread, the Navy SEALs stayed outside my van. With people walking up and down the street, it was a pretty expensive van, but we didn’t have any issues with that. It was the height of Covid at that time so I took extra precautions to ensure that I and everyone else were safe. So that’s really why they were there. I was on the other side of the studio on a side street with a hardline and was the only one there. They wanted to make sure that I was okay in that situation.
Jake mentioned it the other day. Do you take great pleasure cutting your own hair? “man buns”Offered
(Laughs. I do! Jake’s hair grows faster than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve shaved his hair off twice, and by the time I see him or talk to him again, a few months later, he’s got this long flowing hair. I pretty much hate that part of the guy because I’m bald! I’m like, “Dude, what’s the deal? What are you eating?”
Is it an accident that you ended with another Nic Pizzolatto post-The Magnificent 7 script?
It was just a coincidence. I had no idea. Jake called me and said that he had something that he loved to do with me and that it would speak to him. When I got the script, I saw Nic’s name on it, and I was like, “OK!”I finally read it and loved it. Nic did an amazing job. His writing is wonderful.
Riley Keough is one my favorite actors. She told me a few months back that she found this role very difficult. Now that I have seen the movie, it is clear to me what she meant. Did it make it difficult to ask for another take, seeing as she had to relive such dark material.
It was hard at first, because Jake and myself were sensitive to it. It was going be difficult. She was also very alone. She wasn’t in the room with us, and we didn’t know who was with her just for her support. She was great, and I was reluctant at first. She would do it, I would cut and then I’d talk to her and Jake. And then we’d go into it again, and there were times where she had thoughts and wanted to try something different. After a while, she realized that she needed to vent. I can’t imagine the pain that she was going through at the time, and I think it was good for her to have the outlet. [Writer’s Note: Keough’s brother, Benjamin, passed away a few months before production.] It’s a form of expression that’s out of reality, but there was still a lot of emotion. She told me this to me when we first spoke by phone. I found her amazing and hired her again to work on The Terminal List alongside Chris Pratt. Yes, I love her. I think she’s such an amazingly strong person. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to do what she did.
If I produced the Oscars, the bathroom scene at the end would be Jake’s Oscar clip. What is the most memorable part of that day?
When actors give themselves like that and crawl on a bathroom floor and vomit and cry because their character is a broken human being, that’s a gift when it’s done well like that. It’s the truth. So when I see that kind of performance, I’m always in awe of actors who do that. It’s real because it comes directly from a place. Only Jake knows where it came from. Some people will even say, “Oh, it’s just acting,” but it’s not just acting. Real good acting comes from a real place, so I’m always grateful and humbled when they do those types of scenes. It’s not easy scenes to watch, such as when Denzel is slaughtered in Training Day and Ethan is thrown into a bathtub with his gun pointed at his face. So I think it’s a gift to get actors who give you that kind of performance.
There’s a highly publicized homicide case right now involving a Florida couple who were traveling around the country in a white van, and sadly, it’s reminded me a lot of The Guilty. Before the young woman [Gabby Petito]The couple was found dead in Wyoming. Utah police pulled them over and bodycam footage suggests that they misread the situation. This has been on your radar?
Yeah, I’ve been watching it, and I can certainly see the comparisons in that situation. But yeah, that’s part of the problem and part of the broken system. But cops make mistakes, too. Every day, we all judge and misjudge one another. This is part of The Guilty’s idea. Just because someone sounds a certain way or you have your own prejudices — whatever you bring to the table in any situation — sometimes you have to check yourself. Sometimes, it might not be as you expected.
I can recall a Pittsburgh incident involving an older Jewish man many years ago. We were playing ball on the streets, and I recall him hitting his car horn hard. So everyone had curse words to use, and he pulled over and spoke to us. But I remember something he had said about the Holocaust, and at the time, I didn’t really understand any of what the Jewish community had gone through. At the time, I thought it was just some white guy who didn’t like Black kids. We were dumb. We shouldn’t have been playing ball in the street, and he was upset about it. Eventually, I remember reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and it just opened my eyes to judgment. This man had probably seen some horrific things in his life, and I didn’t see any of that. I was just a kid who thought a white man didn’t like me. It was me. It was a mistake. When I read about horrors of the holocaust, that was the day I remembered. I assumed someone was one thing because I didn’t like the way they yelled at me, but I was a dumbass kid playing ball in the street. He was doing us a great favor and saving our lives. I was moved by the book. “I wonder what this man may have experienced.”In my little world, “He doesn’t like me because I’m Black,”He probably lost his entire family to that situation. As you grow up, you wish that you could go back and see him again. Taylor Allderice High School in Pittsburgh was where I ended up. So Viktor Frankl’s book floored me. Of course, the atrocity of slavery was something I was familiar with, but I didn’t know about the horrors that other communities went through.
Sometimes we just need time to pause and not be so quick to judge. That’s what I mean. I’m not taking the side of the cops or anybody. We’re in a world now where everyone is so quick to judge each other. Sometimes, Instagram can make you think. “Oh, that’s what it is!” but then you find out that there’s some backstory to what you just saw. But you’ve already made a judgement that’s out there, and the tsunami of judgement has happened until the next horrible or silly thing comes along. The Guilty is a summary of where we are today. You bring your own prejudice and life to what you’re listening to and watching. That’s really where the mystery and suspense begins because you’re already bringing a lot of it to the table.
Haley Bennett was also a conversationalist. She spoke highly about you and the fight you made for her on The Equalizer. She also read me a letter Terrence malick wrote in support of Haley. Did you already believe in Haley before receiving the letter?
Yes, it certainly makes an impact when it’s from someone like Terrence Malick. This type of letter is obviously beneficial, but it confirmed my knowledge. Haley was incredible when I read it. She’s great. She was amazing. I fell in love right away. She was scheduled to call back, and she had already received the letter in time for that callback. I was impressed with that, but I still waited to see her performance at the callback. The callback was the best part of my experience with her. But the letter helped. When someone of that stature writes you a letter about someone, you have to take that seriously because I respect Malick’s work quite a bit.
So you’ve had a busy 2021…
Yes, I did go from The Guilty‘s post process to The Terminal List, Mayor of Kingstown and Emancipation. Yeah, I’You’ve been busy. (Laughs. But I did Mayor of Kingstown with Taylor Sheridan and Jeremy Renner, so it’s been helpful to have partners like that. Similar with Terminal List and Chris Pratt. They can also do some of the heavy lifting.
Are you and Will nearing the end of Emancipation?
Oh, God no. We were ravaged by the hurricane, and had to be shut down for several weeks. And now we’re back down here and ramping back up to start filming. We’re hoping that it happens this week. But, as I say, thunder rolls across our sky. (Laughs.
People often wonder about what they would tell their younger selves. However, if you could talk to your younger self at the time of Training Day what advice would he give you?
My younger self would have probably told me to never let go the fire. He would tell me to keep it burning like I did on Training Day but also to be calmer and more patient. I was quite intense and aggressive while making the movie on Training Day. I’m still aggressive on everything now, but you don’t always have to be so aggressive with everyone to get your vision. While the world isn’t against you, I felt like it was against me while making this movie. My younger self would advise to keep the fire burning but to be patient and calmer.
***The Guilty is now streaming on Netflix.