A Conversation With Maggie Gyllenhaal

Justin Meinken

As part of the Hamptons International Film Festival, a conversation with actress Maggie Gyllenhaal was held at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Friday, October 5.

HIFF’s co-chair Alec Baldwin, who frequently hosts HIFF conversations with directors and talent, led a lively and entertaining discussion with the Academy Award-nominated actress.

The discussion covered many topics, one of which was Gyllenhaal’s childhood with film director parents (Naomi Foner and Stephen Gyllenhaal).

“Were you home watching ‘Gilligan’s Island’ like the rest of us?” asked Baldwin. The answer was no.

The opening of her new film The Kindergarten Teacher was also a topic of discussion. The film, which opened the festival on Thursday evening, stars Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Rosa Salazar, and Gael García Bernal, and tells the story of a kindergarten teacher who seeks to cultivate the poetic talents of one of her students using questionable methods. Writer and director Sara Colangelo was also in attendance at this week’s festival.

Gyllenhaal described the film as having a feminine energy and loved working with Colangelo, who is a 2013 alumna of HIFF’s annual Screenwriters Lab.

After receiving a degree in literature from Columbia University, Gyllenhaal starred alongside her brother Jake in Donnie Darko. Her breakout role was in Secretary in 2002. Her acting credits include films such as 40 Days and 40 Nights, Mona Lisa Smile, The Dark Knight, Stranger Than Fiction, and many others. She is currently staring in HBO’s “The Deuce” with James Franco, which is now airing its second season.

From inaccuracies in her Wikipedia page (according to Baldwin and Gyllenhaal, there are many) to her expansive resume of work, the conversation went on for an enjoyable and informative hour. “Different sets give way to a different way of working,” she stated. She described The Kindergarten Teacher as one she had a really great feeling about, and loved the experience of working with Colangelo.

“Every little thing you do reads on film so great,” said Baldwin, singing Gyllenhaal’s praises. The actress is not one to be typecast and has a wide range of acting abilities.

At the end, the audience was invited to ask questions. One audience member asked, “If you weren’t an actor what would you do?”

“I’m not good at very many other things,” laughed the actress. “I’m an OK cook. I’d love to think I could be an English teacher but I wouldn’t be any good at it. Are you good at other things?” she turned and asked Baldwin.

“Sooo good,” he replied.

“Maybe professional ice skating,” she landed on as her backup career. The audience laughed at the banter between the two.

As the final question, Baldwin asked if her husband, actor Peter Sarsgaard, is “really as sweet as he seems?”

“He’s a damn good husband,” Gyllenhaal replied.

What’s next for Gyllenhaal? “I did just option a book,” she said. “I’m adapting it and I’m going to direct it and it’s called The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante.”

It looks like we all have something to look forward to.

The Kindergarten Teacher will launch on Netflix on October 12.

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