Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Sturridge, & Carrie Cracknell: “Broadway’s Sea Wall / A Life” | Talks at Google

Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Sturridge, & Carrie Cracknell: “Broadway’s Sea Wall / A Life” | Talks at Google


[MUSIC PLAYING] [VIDEO PLAYBACK] – I remember reading
somewhere, maybe somebody saying to me once,
that decline remains our fate. – She asked me to
come into the bedroom because there’s something
she wants to show me. And I get there, and
she’s wearing this dress. And the idea that I
was married to her and we had our girls
and this was our life. – Who wants to think
about the future when the present
is this monumental? Her. Her. She gives her to me. She looks like a heart. We’re smiling. – You used to try
and convince me the understanding of
the rational number that’s commonly
known as pi, that is term five decimal places– – Can I ask you something? – Uh-huh. – Do you ever think
about getting married? – I ask him, where is he? – You mean generally or
you mean specifically? – He says, who? I say, God. – I said, Dad, Dad! Some guy on TV, he’s
stolen your song. – Just because we don’t know,
it doesn’t mean we won’t know. One day, we will. [END PLAYBACK] [APPLAUSE] JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
Welcome to Google. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Hey, everybody. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: OK,
so just to start off, can you guys give
us a little bit of a rundown of
what this show is? Because it’s actually
two different pieces put together to make one
complete work of art. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah. Oh. [LAUGHTER] What is this? Well, it’s interesting
because the piece, it’s evolved from when we
made that first sort of promo and the video of the show. It’s really a show about two
men getting up and speaking about their lives,
both being fathers. My characters about to become
a dad, and then he is a dad. And the story is really about– both of our stories is about,
like, faith, and family, and love, and how
much we love our wives and how much we kind
of love our children. And it’s pretty– it’s hard
to explain and put into words. You kind of have
to experience it because it’s a different
experience with every audience every night. It really is us all communally
coming together and kind of sharing our own
lives and our stories with the audience,
and then you with us. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: That’s great. So where did the idea to
take two separate monologues and put them into
one show come from? CARRIE CRACKNELL: Well, we’d
been talking for a while, haven’t we, about trying to
find something to do together? And I had a pre-existing
relationship with both of the writers. Nick Payne and Simon Stevens
are both British playwrights, and they’re both writers I
grew up with a lot at home. And Tom had a long held
love affair with “Sea Wall,” and Jake had been
kind of obsessed with doing Nick’s piece. And I think Jake
had been bugging Nick for about seven years,
haven’t you, trying to persuade him to let him do the piece. Nick first wrote the play
for himself to perform, and it’s incredibly personal. It’s a really, really interior
piece about his own life. And so it’s kind of evolved and
grown on this lovely journey. And then we decided to put
the two pieces together, and they have a sort of strange
amount of connected themes and ideas. And so over time, the
writing has evolved, and it’s sort of become like
a holistic evening of theater. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: So you both had
the individual pieces in mind, as opposed to like, oh, we’re
going to pick these two plays, and let’s find two
actors to do it. So Tom, can you tell us about
how you found “Sea Wall” and where you kind of
fell in love with it? TOM STURRIDGE: So
this is the third play that I’ve done with the
writer Simon Stevens. And he came to see a play,
a production of “1984” that I did here in New York. And afterwards, he just
gave it to me and said, would you read this? And I mean, I found it just
an extraordinary perfect piece of writing. And that in itself
was kind of was the beginning of my
love for it, but also very specifically,
it was about someone my age who was the father
of a young daughter. And I happened to be my age and
the father of a young daughter. And I was like,
fuck, wait a second. And I hadn’t really experienced
a kind of drama that explored that kind of love. And I was kind of
excited to talk about it in front of people. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: That’s great. And I think you said you
were asking the writer to let you do this show. So how did that come about? How’d you get him to say yes? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Well,
the real special thing about this show for all
of us behind the scenes is that he’s obviously done
three shows with Simon. This is my third show with Nick. I’ve done two others. And then Simon, and
Nick, and Carrie have been friends for
a really long time. So we have this kind of
strange familial thing between all of us. And Nick, I had done a show
called “Constellations” a few years ago on
Broadway, and it’s just this beautiful show about
this couple and their love. And he gave me the piece
that he wrote was actually just about his dad. And I fell in love
with the piece. Every time I would read it,
I would just be laughing and then I would cry. At the end, I would just
find myself so moved by it, which, over and over
again, never happens to me. I mean, occasionally
there’s a book or something, a movie that I see, like the end
of “Jerry Maguire,” I’m always, like, crying. It has a “Jerry Maguire” feel. And so I just would
ask him yearly, and it was so personal to him
that he said no for five years. I would ask him
every six months. Like, maybe we could just
do it in this little space, and it’s fine, whatever. He’d be like, no, thank
you for asking, but no. And then finally when
the two shows kind of came together as
an idea, he felt like maybe it was an evening. And he also had just
had his daughter. And talking about his dad
and their relationship and then his dad passed away and
then the birth of his daughter became a show that he
felt like he could tell. And that’s what he’s done. JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
And then Carrie, were you kind of the one
who put this all together. Or was this idea already there,
and you kind of helped form it? How did you come into this
production specifically? CARRIE CRACKNELL: Actually,
Jake had contacted me because he’d seen a
show of mine in London, and we’d been looking
for something to do. And then it was just a sort
of confluence of events. Sometimes it happens. The public were interested. They were both available. I was available. I flew out. We did a reading of both plays
in a tiny dressing room, sat around a table with mirrors
and about seven people, and everyone wept. And at the end of it, we
thought, well, we have a show. There’s something here. And there was a journey to go
on with some of the writing to kind of evolve
the two pieces, but it was very clear that
day that there was something really special in the room. And so then it became
really kind of simple, actually, which was
just to find the dates and move towards production. JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
That’s fantastic. And you mentioned the Public. So this show originally was off
Broadway at the Public Theater. I actually got to
go to opening night. It was amazing. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I know. But how did– JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
We were there, too. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I know, right? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh, yeah. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: You
were really good. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Thank you. You were such a good audience. CARRIE CRACKNELL: Just you. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: Yeah. That’s it, nobody else. But was it always the intention
to bring the show to Broadway? You just started previews. You’ll be opening soon, and
it’s a new room and a new type of audience coming in. Did you know that you wanted
to bring stuff to Broadway, or was it just let’s
see where it goes? CARRIE CRACKNELL:
I think we always felt that it had a sort of
really private, quiet, simple feel at the public. And then we realized
it was really connecting with
audiences, and people just had a massive
energy for the work. And so then it felt like
a kind of an ethical thing to try and grow it and bring
it to a bigger audience. And what’s been brilliant about
moving into the Hudson is even though it’s got a
much bigger space and there are lots more seats,
it feels really intimate because the data’s
so well designed, everybody’s kind of tucked
around, focused on the stage. And for me, as a
director, it’s been fascinating to watch the
kind of energy change. And there’s something
that happens in this room each night, which
is kind of alive, actually. It’s like an animal thing. And you can hear a pin drop. Everybody’s listening,
and it feels like the audience are holding
Jake and Tom in their hands, and it’s really special. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: Yeah, the
original theater I read was 299, and now I think it’s
975, so that’s a big jump. But it does feel very intimate,
and you guys have really transformed the theater. I know you did some
different art projects, and the lobby has
a lot of Polaroids. And you’re just seeing the
back of the theater now. You did a collaboration
with an artist. Can you tell us a
little bit about that and how you made this
theater your home? JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Yeah, well, yeah, JR, installation
artist who’s done just the most incredible
work around the world, and he’s just an amazing artist. I’ve known him for a
while, and somehow there’s something about this show
that we, as Carrie said, is all about the audience. I mean, the show is really– I cannot explain how
different it is every night. It just depends on
the group of people that all come
together to see it. And so we came
with up this idea. I thought I sort
of was thinking, how do we do Broadway
in a different way than it’s ever really been done? I’ve loved Broadway
my entire life. I still do. It’s, like, one of
my deepest loves. And but how can you do
it in a different way? There’s a lot of similar things. And I just thought, Broadway
shows always sort of look the same. And hey, there’s the backside
of the Hudson theater that we’re in, and people
pass by it all the time. And that’s where Tom and I
enter every single night. There’s this huge brick wall. And so I just called
up JR, and I was like, hey, do you want to
do one of your pieces on the backside of the wall? And he was like, yeah. And then through a
lot of very hard work from a lot of other
people that were not us, they figured it out. And we took pictures of the
first preview, our first show that we did at the
Hudson, the audience. And then they printed them
on huge pieces of paper. And we then glued
them all up the side of the backside of the audience. And it’s this
beautiful art piece that goes up the whole backside
of the audience of everybody’s faces with all these expressions
and our entire audience. And JR was just– had his whole
team at the inside out project, that the work that
they do, just, they did this incredible piece
on the backside of our show. And it’s almost
like the audience that we’re looking at is
literally right behind us on the backside of
the wall, the theater. It’s just a really
magical thing. JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
That’s fantastic. I believe there’s a
video on the “Sea Wall” on, like, Instagram kind
of showing that process. So you guys should check
it out and just watch it. It’s cool. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Yeah, it’s cool. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: So
moving a little bit, I want to talk more about
theater specifically. But this show, I have
seen a lot of shows. I’ve seen everything
this season so far. And this is one of
those reruns where you don’t have an ensemble. You don’t have a cast
to kind of support you. It’s you on the
stage by yourself. You guys aren’t
even in it together. It’s separate acts, and
it’s separate stories that somehow flow together. And that seems
terrifying to me to just be by yourself with almost
a minimalist set in kind of a spotlight. So how you go about
directing that? How do you guide them? And then how do you
guys kind of conquer that potential fear or that
challenge of it’s just me, there’s nothing else? CARRIE CRACKNELL: In terms of
directing, I think, I mean, for me, the great pleasure
of being a director is to work with actors. And all the work is about
finding truth, and detail, and specificity, and thinking
about human behavior. So when you get to work
with artists of this kind caliber, it’s, at times,
feels like an almost religious experience. We just can work
with such intensity because there, in a
way, is a lot of space for us to sit and talk and work. And so both sets of rehearsals,
both the original time and then coming back to it,
there’s just been this kind of very collaborative
somehow really open dialogue and conversation
about the work. And I think we’ve all
really maybe enjoyed that. Found it really satisfying. I can’t speak to how terrifying
it is to go out on your own because I think it
is completely wild. TOM STURRIDGE: It is pretty
scary, but at the same time, you can’t really fuck it up. I’m not being facetious. Like, normally
when you do a play, you kind of have to
go, OK, I’m in Russia. It’s 1922. My dad is being played by
a man I met two months ago. And I’m in love with a horse. And like, no matter
how– you know– JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
What is that play? That’s fine. TOM STURRIDGE: This
is a play on Broadway. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I am
rushing out to see that one. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: On
Broadway next season. TOM STURRIDGE: But it means– JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I mean,
I do know that play. Anyway, yeah. TOM STURRIDGE: But so
you have to kind of– you have to force yourself
into this tiny space that didn’t exist before. Like, it was so however
you feel that day, you have to lie to yourself and
go, I don’t feel like that. And there are 1,000
people in the room, and you have to do the
biggest lie of all, which is to pretend
that you don’t exist. Whereas with this,
what’s amazing is that we don’t do any of that. We walk on stage, and
we go, hey, what’s up? Let’s do this. And we look in all of your
eyes and go, let’s be in this together. And however I feel,
if I’m exhausted, if I have the best
sleep of my life, if I’m in love, if, like– I don’t know– have burnt
my foot with a fire ball– JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Sure. TOM STURRIDGE: But, like, not– JAKE GYLLENHAAL: We do that
as our pre-show ritual. We made fireballs and
we burn feet with them. It’s fine. TOM STURRIDGE: [INAUDIBLE]. But I mean, we bring that. You limp on stage or whatever. And I’m really taking
this metaphor too far. But it does make
it less frightening because it’s the present
moment, and the present moment informs everything. And you can’t really be
afraid of the present moment because you can’t control it. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Mm, yeah. I mean, when we first
started doing this show, it was terrifying. I mean, the thought
of doing a monologue– I mean, a monologue is such,
like, an actor indulgence. When you hear about it,
you’re like, oh, yeah. It’s like we’re acting and
saving the world kind of thing. But I– Team America
reference for anybody, who’s– but I think that
really, I think what we realized was
that, like Tom said, there’s something really
deeply comforting when you sort of break the idea of
faking it and creating something fictional. And there are fictional
things in this story. I mean, there are tons
of fictional things, but really sharing something
with a group of people. But being alone up
on stage, I actually find when your audience is
your scene partner, just the best thing ever. I don’t know how I’m going
to be able to go back. I’m going to be, like,
asking for a group of people behind the actor
I’m working with. But it was terrifying at first. It really felt like– I remember– this
is a strange thing, but I remember being so
scared three or four months before we even went on. Tom and I would text
each other back and forth and be like, why
are we doing this? He’d be like, I don’t know. Should we stop it? I don’t know if we can. Let me figure out if
I can stop it first. It was like that. And then I saw “Free
Solo” and I was like, if that dude can
climb that thing alone, I can get on stage and do
a monologue for an hour. And then it was just like,
it was a jump in from there. TOM STURRIDGE: Also, I
remember you would ask– Jake, like, asked
a number of people who’d done monologues really
successfully [INAUDIBLE] expecting them to go, hey, fine. Yeah, no, go for it. And I remember it
didn’t quite [INAUDIBLE] go like, what the
fuck are you doing? JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Four people were like, why are you doing that? That’s a terrible thing to do. It’s like the absolute
worst thing to do. But really, the way we
do this is so different, and a lot of it has
to do with the way Carrie has staged the show
and what she’s created. It just feels like– it feels like something else. I mean, we can try and talk
about it as much as we can. But like, just to
come and see and have that experience with us, I
mean, that’s what it feels like. You’re just having this
experience with me and Tom. And anyone who’s seen
it I think can kind of understand that feeling. But it’s very, very
hard to put into words. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I 100% agree. Like I said, I’ve seen
a lot, and I’ve never seen anything like this before. The rest of the world doesn’t
exist when you’re on the stage. And when both of the
monologues, they’re different, but they still have the same
theme and the same relation. And you forget that, Tom, you
finished your first monologue, and the first act
ends and you’re like, oh, I’m in a theater. Like, we’re not
just talking 101. You’re listening to
someone tell you a story, and it is just so
jaw-droppingly beautiful. And it’s something
that– go see it. Just go see it. But so my question then is we
keep talking about the audience and how important it has been. How do you rehearse? Because you don’t
have an audience. What was that process like? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh my god,
poor Carrie and the whole– and our assistant director
Rory who sat there for weeks. CARRIE CRACKNELL: I’m
going to do the face now. I was just really intensely
listening the whole time. And then your kind
of eye would droop, and they’d be like, I’m
not doing it anymore. You’re not listening. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: It’s true. There’d be a moment where
they’d stop going like, mm. Oh, so interested. They would be like,
oh, that didn’t work. But they had to sit through
hours and hours listening to the same thing
over and over again. CARRIE CRACKNELL: I mean, eight
hours a day for five weeks. But we used to get
grapes in, and we had seats in the rehearsal studio. We had a kind of
bank of seats and so we would just get people
off the street, basically. Maybe sort of round the men
and make them sit attentively. And so we tried to practice
the whole time what that would feel like. But of course then, when
we moved into the theater both times, we’ve had to
completely rediscover the show because it kind of just keeps
shunting and shifting in ways that you can’t anticipate. And the first night at the
Hudson was completely wild. I don’t think any of us have
ever experienced anything like it. The laughs were
coming, and there was this kind of engagement
that was, yeah, really exciting. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I’ve
never experienced something that doesn’t have music, that
doesn’t have all that stuff and felt like a rock concert. I was like, whoa, the energy was
so incredible with all of us. It was just palpable,
the waves of this, like– the fun we were all
having and all that stuff, it was just– it was so special. I don’t think we could have
ever anticipated that feeling. Yeah. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I
saw it on the night, too, with the fire alarm. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh, nice, yeah. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: So story, so
I saw it on Saturday night, and there’s haze
in the beginning. And all of a sudden, the
fire alarm just goes off. And Tom was already onstage. Like, it’s about to start. And we’re just, like,
should we get up? No? Cool. All right, we’re just
going to hang here. And then Jake comes out. He’s like, yeah,
we think it’s fine. But we’re just going
to check it out. So just hang out. It’s fine. Live theater, it’s great. How do you deal with
moments like that, where if something goes a little
crazy or awry, and you guys have done a lot of
theater in the past and had those different
experiences, what do you do? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Well,
if it was a real fire, we would have told
everybody to leave. It’s a really
special experience. We’re all going to burn. That’s not OK. But we were all very
aware that night that there was not a problem. There was just not
legitimate emergency, but that the fire alarm,
which we’ve both done shows in that theater, and
occasionally, that fire alarm is persnickety. But it is safe, and there
are just too many sensors– TOM STURRIDGE: You
said persnickety. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah,
it’s a persnickety– a very persnickety alarm. TOM STURRIDGE:
Persnickety is like– JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Well, I’m with Brits. It’s, like, the only– JILLIAN HOCHMAN: Are
they always like this? JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Like, Harry Potter and the Persnickety Alarm. But it, like, um– CARRIE CRACKNELL: I missed that. I was talking to
my other friend. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
But I mean, you were pretty genius in what happened. You just– TOM STURRIDGE: Well,
look, there was a guy– a guy came on, like, a
live real person that said, do not be alarmed. We have an alarm. I was like, surely that is the
fundamental point of an alarm to feel some kind of terror. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I just
took another drink of wine. I’m like, we’re fine. Everything’s good. TOM STURRIDGE: But it was fine. But I mean, I
guess, again, there are people who often,
because they’re pretending to be in love with a
horse in 1920s Russia, get frustrated when
they hear an alarm or a phone go off because
that would never happen then. But what the amazing
thing about this is that we’re just in that room. And if their fire alarm goes
off in the room, then we go, that’s a fucking fire alarm. Like, don’t worry. You’re not going to die. Or maybe you are,
but I don’t know. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: No. TOM STURRIDGE: [INAUDIBLE] JILLIAN HOCHMAN: But it would
have been worth it, so yeah. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah,
no, I mean, we would have, if it were something real,
we would have walked out with everybody else. We were like, whatever
happens kind of happens. I mean, the fire alarm is a
very particular situation. But there are other
situations where I’ve been in situations where
people uncontrollably coughing just without stopping. And so, like, I have
cough drops in my pocket. And I have a lot of other things
that I’ll leave as a surprise, because I don’t want
to preempt anyone who comes to see the show. But there are
things that happen, and when a phone goes off,
we’re not a group of people– Tom and I don’t kind of
go like, we’re acting. We just say, like, I
have a number of times, so do you want to pick it up
in the middle of the show? And I’d be so interested to
see what happens if they did. I mean at one
point, someone did, and I was like, that
was sort of a joke. But OK, I guess we
can all sit here. But that’s what happens, and
we’re not judging anybody, just like we hope
they don’t judge us because we’re telling
these stories that are extremely personal. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: Yeah. I’m happy the fire alarm– there
wasn’t a real fire, although I would have loved to see you guys
do the show on the sidewalk, though. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: That’s
what Nick Payne always said. He was like, you could do
this show on the sidewalk. TOM STURRIDGE: And we went out. Like, if people actually
had to leave the building, we would have done
it on the sidewalk. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Oh, yeah, totally. Like if they were in blackout,
like what everybody else did on Broadway the other night. Yeah, they did their
shows on the sidewalk. TOM STURRIDGE: Really? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Uh-huh. Yeah, so we’re not actually
doing anything [INAUDIBLE].. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: So I
want to take a moment to talk specifically
about “Sea Wall.” And so, Tom, on paper, Alex is
very frantic and disorganized. And he goes through a
whole range of emotions. But he always kind
of has this, like– almost like an ADHD. You move around the stage a lot,
and he kind of jumps around. And that feels like
his personality. And you play it so well. And like I said, I’ve
seen the show before, and it was great then,
but this time, you really, really honed it. And I just felt for
this guy the whole time. And how did you find the
balance of playing frantic in a way that the audience still
connect versus actually being frantic, where it gets
lost and you’re like, there’s a difference between
someone actually panicking and they can’t get through,
versus being able to portray it in a way that’s understandable. How do you get there? TOM STURRIDGE: Um, no,
I mean, honestly, I– I don’t really know. And I try as hard as– I don’t really
intellectualize my process like that, whatever
that word means. But honestly, I just hear,
when I read something, I hear a voice in my head. And my getting there is
just trying to figure out how to be the voice
in my head, and that’s what the voice sounded like. And I mean, the writing
is very specific. I mean, what we talk
about these days is incredibly organic
experiences, which they are. But the writing allows
for that in the sense that its organic nature
is incredibly precise. Like, every piece
of punctuation we respect entirely,
every word, it may feel like we’re kind
of stuck to our angle, doing weird repetitions,
but that’s all in the text. And I think it’s important
to kind of acknowledge that. For shows that seem so– and are– so open
to the evening, like, it’s the genius
of Nick and Simon who created that environment. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: And because
I love that character. He’s just so– I
just want to hug him. I just want to
hug him and take– JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I mean,
you can if you want. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: And then,
Jake, about “A Life,” so I was reading Maggie
gave you some advice, and your mom was, like,
really eager to see it. You yourself are not a father,
but your whole family’s going to see it. Just wondering
how much of advice did you take from other people
versus how much did you kind of just let aid come to you? Because Maggie did give
you some good advice. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah. No, she did. She, as an older
sister, was unimpressed by my re-enactment of
labor as a woman in labor, which I do in the show. I play a woman in
labor, my wife in labor and myself in the midst of that. So I go back and forth between
the two people in that scene. And my sister, when
she first saw it, was like I think you
could work on some things in that part as the woman. And I was like OK, cool. So we talked a little
bit about that. But yeah, I mean, the show is– I mean, I just love my family
for all of their complications and all the spaces
in which we deeply love each other and all
the spaces in which we have a real difficulty
in loving each other. I still realize
when I look up out and I look at it from above
that I deeply love them. And who I am and I’ve
been formed by them. And so the piece is
really about that. And that’s what it makes
me feel every night. And whether or not you’re
a father, whether or not you’re a son, and whether you’re
a daughter, or you’re a mother, or you’re an uncle,
or whatever you are, whether you’ve
seen anyone and you’ve had loving feelings
complicated, whatever they are, that’s what the show is. And so to me, it’s
not necessarily the specific experience
of being a father, as much as being a part of
a family and being a part– and that doesn’t
even necessarily have to be a biological one. The idea that you are
included in something, and in that space, as we
walk through our lives, they are the things that
give us that support, whoever that might be. I think anyone could
play this part. Like, really, man or
woman in that way, and it just needs a little
bit of transposing. And that, I think, is
the beauty of this piece. And the other beauty
is that, like, my older sister will
always be my older sister, no matter what. If she threw something
on the ground and told me to pick
it up, I’d pick it up. And if I did something
wrong in the scene, it is the most lasting,
most impressionable thing someone can say to me, is
the thing that she says. So every night, I try and
strive harder and harder towards being a woman in labor
in the best way that I possibly can. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: You’re
getting pretty close. I think you could do it. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Well, what’s amazing is, like, Carrie has
really just guided us as a director of that, too,
but she is a mother of three. And so she’s really been able
to illuminate a lot of things for me and try as
best as she can to show that experience to me. And that has been very, very–
and to have parents around me– Tom, too– to really direct
me has been very, very, very helpful. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I mean,
you’re doing pretty good then. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Thanks. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: You
pull it off well. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Thanks. JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
So I want to talk a moment about the creative
side and some of the more– things that aren’t
necessarily you guys talking at
us doing the show. It feels very minimalistic. The set, you guys can
see pictures online, but it’s kind of just a brick
wall and then a platform. And it just looks– there’s a piano, there’s a
couple lights, and that’s it. But if you actually think about
it, it’s very, very detailed. That set was built. That
was not there before. It’s the same that
was at the public. There’s actually,
there’s lighting. There are very
specific sound cues. There’s two costume designers,
which I was very amused by. I’m like, two people, two
designers, that make sense. But where did this
concept come from? Did you know you wanted
to just kind of have a very minimalistic show? CARRIE CRACKNELL: So I worked
with a brilliant set designer here in New York
called Laura Jellinek and we had a kind
of long process. And every show, you start
not knowing, really, and that’s one of the
most gorgeous things about directing. And so what we both did was
we just kept reading the texts and trying to find the
kind of common themes. And we did a massive image
bank, so we would collect, like, thousands of pictures. And then we just– it’s so odd. It’s a kind of mixture
of thinking and instinct. And ultimately, you both try
and set in your instincts. And you kind of build
things in a model, and you test them as ideas. And sometimes they
feel illuminating, and sometimes they don’t. And what became
clear was that we had to find a space where
both of these people could just come, and arrive,
and bring themselves, and their coats, and
their bags, and whatever baggage they had from that
day, and walk into the room and connect with the audience. And so the more we
did with the set, the more it got in the way. And ultimately, we
were really inspired by the architecture of
the original theater that we were working
in at the public. And so we had this idea to
just extend the brick walls and to try and make something
that felt atmospheric, and beautiful, and kind of
decaying in its own way, but simple. And I think Laura has done
a really beautiful job. And then we’ve kind of evolved
the design for the transfer, and we were really inspired
by some photographs that were taken in London of a group
of really expensive houses on a place called Billionaires
Row in London, which are all empty and deceased. And there’s kind of moss growing
up in ferns and gold taps with kind of plants growing out
of them because the houses have been empty for so long. And so this time, we’ve
really taken that idea on, and there are kind
of this plant life growing up the brick
wall and this feeling, really, that the
kind of two people just walk in each night
to this abandoned room and then they start talking. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: And I
love the specific parts of this that doesn’t agree. I wanted to push your
sleeves up the whole time. You’re a new dad,
and you’re frantic. And I’m like, Jake,
just the sleeves. Come on. And same with you, Tom,
you’re wearing– like, your clothes feel,
again, very disheveled, as the character does, because
he’s still all over the place. And I’m just like, this
is brilliant design because it’s making
me feel a kind of way, and they’re not even
pointing it out right now. But I also want to talk a
bit about the blocking, which for anyone who doesn’t
know what blocking is, it’s the actual motion that the
actors take during the stage. Tom, yours is very– you move around the whole
set, whereas, Jake, you are almost always entirely
in one specific spot. And did you, up
for all of you, did you find that this was
kind of in the script? Did your characters inform that? Was that something that was
developed along the way? How did that come about? Because it felt very
specific to this is what these guys
would actually be doing. CARRIE CRACKNELL: I mean,
the rehearsal process, there was a lot of
experimentation, and there were versions
of Jake’s piece that had an enormous amount of
movement and whole sequences that all got cut at
different points. And I mean, it’s trial
and error and instinct, rehearsals, always. And as a director, you
come in with a plan, and as actors, you
come in with a plan. And then you tend to throw
that all away, and kind of ultimately, it felt
most meaningful for Jake to be in stillness and Tom to
be kind of exploring the space and in motion. The fact that they counterpoint,
I think, is really helpful. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
But I mean, Carrie would try a different thing. I mean, at one point, she said,
I brought a microphone in. Do the whole thing on a
mic stand and a microphone. And that was sort of the initial
idea of staying in one place, and then that
didn’t really work. And then the first preview
when we first did it downtown, Tom just said, I want to try it
with a microphone one night out of the middle of nowhere. His preview process is one of
the most incredible ones ever. He just makes the
craziest choices. And then when he finally locked
the show, it is what it is. But over the week before
we opened the show, or 10 days before
we opened the show, and we were performing
in front of an audience, he does like, I’m just going
to do this like a monkey. And you’re like, oh, OK. And then so he did it
in front of a microph– he used the microphone, and
I remember him walking off stage and literally,
like, handing the microphone off,
being like, well, I’m never doing that again. But that was the first– the
microphone was the first idea of me staying in one place. But it was, like, Carrie was
chipping away at something, but it wasn’t exactly right. And it felt odd to me, but it
was, like, something about– and then finally
the light keeping me in that place and the
idea but without it. It evolved, then it was,
like, it slowly took weeks, but it came. I remember we decided– you were like, want
to do the whole thing in a spotlight in one preview? I was like, sure, we’ll try. And I forgot the entire
second half of the monologue because I usually
was moving so much, I remembered my lines
based on blocking. And I had none. CARRIE CRACKNELL: That
was a great night. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
I walked on stage, and I just said,
what’s my next line? And then our stage
manager told me, and I came back
out and was like– and I said it. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: Well, that’s
the cool thing about this show. We won’t know. It’s not like you’re
relying on anybody else. It’s like, you can walk off
for, like, five minutes, be like, yep, yes. It’s part of the show. So we’re going to start
our audience Q&A a in just a moment. There’s microphones
in the aisles. If you guys have any
questions, just please line up and we will take a couple. So you guys, I mentioned
before, you transferred from off Broadway to Broadway. So what has kind of been the
biggest shift for you guys in that? TOM STURRIDGE: I think the
audience, just the kind of– the 1,000 people, it’s a
significantly different energy. And also, because
of the kind of– it does become an
organism, the audience, and a single consciousness
in a certain way. And it’s just, it’s that kind
of when 1,000 people are forced into thinking about the
same thing, it’s just, it’s incredibly powerful
to stand in front of. And you do feel– I don’t know. Like, when you’re
a single person versus that level of–
it’s sort of afterwards, you just kind of
feel like you’ve been through something
pretty extreme. CARRIE CRACKNELL:
On the first night, they were in shock, really,
when we came onstage. And in fact, Jake said I’ve got
sweaty knees, which [LAUGHS] it was pretty wild. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah,
the energy is just like, it makes you– like, even when
you’re standing in one place, you really don’t realize how
much energy you’re generating and what’s coming at you. And so I was
sweating so much, it was like dripping down my
shirt and then down my knee. And if I bent my pants, all the
sweat was just like right here. Such a strange
thing, but yeah, it’s like, there is
nothing like Broadway. TOM STURRIDGE: Yeah. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: There is just– I mean, there’s nothing like
the experience as an audience, and there’s just nothing like
the experience as a performer. It is true. It is just, it’s inexplicable. TOM STURRIDGE: And also
a lot of the reasons when we can tend to be
ready to be ambiguous when talking about these
plays because there’s something really beautiful
about coming to them not knowing what they are. And the Broadway
audience, unlike– the Public is a relatively
theatrically literate audience. They subscribe. Like, they sort of know
what they’re coming to see. Whereas what’s been– the
feeling I get in the room when we do these things
with this audience is that they don’t know,
and it’s astonishing that that kind of surprise
and the excitement they get from the
intentions of the plays. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Don’t be alarmed. You’re going to be alarmed. TOM STURRIDGE: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
Yeah, it definitely feels like a lot of people when
I saw it came to see you guys and walked away, just
blown away at this piece. And I think that really
shows the craftsmanship of you guys and also the writing
of just how great this really– the show is just really good. We’re going to take a
question right over here. AUDIENCE: Hi. I saw the show last night. It was really great. Thank you. So my question was how did
you decide which order you were going to do the plays in? Because it kind of makes
sense how you’ve done it now, but can you see a universe
where you would have done it the opposite way around? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Hm. The first reading of the show,
we did the opposite way around. And just due to the nature
of the subject matter of both of the shows, I think
there’s sort of an ascension that you feel, like, when
Tom moves through it. I think Tom’s piece
is this sort of– I think does this beautiful
opening of people’s hearts, and then that’s the hard work. And then I get to
sort of pretend like I’ve done
some work and then bring them to a really
beautiful ending, I think. And I mean, right? And– CARRIE CRACKNELL: It just
somehow felt instinctively the right way around. And again, you just
trust your gut. Yeah. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: And over here. AUDIENCE: I also saw
the show last night and loved it, so bravo. And I went with my grandmother
who’s a bit hard of hearing, but she enjoyed it regardless
because of just your body language and the way that
you were able to emote. So my question kind
of stems from that. You said the audience is
different every night, and you’re really sensitive
and emotional every night. So do you take any of your
cues from the audience based on your body language? Or I know that blocking
is probably pretty set, but the way that your
tone or the volume, is there anything different
night to night based on that? TOM STURRIDGE: I mean, entirely. I remember I was talking about,
in the play, my father-in-law, like, two nights ago, having
served in Northern Ireland and saying that it wasn’t like– comparing that to
not being like– I can’t remember what
I said– like a– oh my god [INAUDIBLE] saying
that he wasn’t just playing cool with some kids. Anyway, it’s like a line which
no one normally reacts to, but this guy in the audience
went, [LAUGHS LOUDLY].. There’s this single person. And then for the
next five minutes, I was like this play is for you. And I did. I just walked over to him and
gave him the next five minutes. And the rest of
the audience were like, that wasn’t that funny. Like, fuck, what does
he know that we don’t? And it really– like,
I could feel all of them being jealous of him. And I kind of– and so then everyone
suddenly started randomly laughing at different moments
to see if I would– but yeah, they lead you through
the piece entirely. And when someone is
moved by something, sometimes it is
about parenthood. And sometimes you can feel
the majority of the audience actually aren’t parents. They’re kind of young– younger. And sometimes you can
feel a kind of big section when I talk about the
birth of my daughter. You can just feel a group
of fathers and mothers just kind of remember that
profound moment in their lives. And there’s, like, a swelling
in that space in the theater, and you just, yeah, you move to
it and kind of chat with them. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah,
you do feel the sort of generational differences. There are references you make
to different generations, and they respond and
you can feel them in different parts
of the audience. Sometimes there’s like
one generation spread out, and this is how it can feel,
is like, they’re over here and they’re there. And then there’s like a whole
other generation that’s there. And so when I know there’s
references generationally, you kind of, like,
focus, like Tom said, that thing to those people. There’s a line I talk
about Austin Powers, and there’s like, you know,
probably your grandmother may love Austin Powers. But it’s not the same, you know? For another group. So it is like, we do tailor it. And then things
that they do then tailor our show from there. There are shows
that there are just people who are
laughing so much more, and then there are ones where
they’re just listening deeply. And you just roll. You roll with them. Like, you roll with where
they are and how they feel. TOM STURRIDGE: And you really
can’t see them as well. He can’t as much, but I
can look in someone’s eyes and do a whole section for them. And it’s just really beautiful
when someone goes, like, fuck, you’re talking to me. Like, this is just for me. And it’s really special. AUDIENCE: That’s how
I feel right now. Just saying. [LAUGHTER] JAKE GYLLENHAAL: We’re
feeling the spotlight. That’s how I feel. JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
Right over here. AUDIENCE: Hey, thanks
for coming out again. Jake, on the film
side of things, you have some characters
that have had, like, pretty intricate,
romantic, and parental roles in all this to them. It comes to mind like
“Southpaw,” “Demolition,” even, “Wildlife.” Did you pull on any of those
characters for this role, too? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I mean, I
actually make no reference to anything in this. Some people have
asked me questions about different things
and behaviors that I do. It changes every night, so
I’m not always clear about it. But I do believe that just like
everything, every experience we have in our lives, we
kind of carry them with us. We’re kind of
dragging them around. And when you’re an
actor, you carry around the weird fictional
experiences and characters you’ve created, too, as
well as the experiences you’ve had in your life that
influence those characters. So yeah, I mean, I’m
just sort of dragging all those weird characters
I play around in, like, some strange bag. And so yeah, they’re all there. And truthfully,
Nick’s writing just speaks to something
very personal in me. I’ve fallen in love
with his writing from the minute I read it. So I really carry his story
and his dad, his daughter, his wife. I never met his dad,
but I know his wife, and I’ve never actually
met his daughter, which is so odd to me. But I love them so much. And they’re with me every
night, too, as well as my parents and all the
weird characters I played, and all of it. So kind of yeah. AUDIENCE: Awesome. JILLIAN HOCHMAN:
Right over here. AUDIENCE: So how do you
choose who did which play and if you have thought
about switching at all? TOM STURRIDGE: I mean, our
connection to the plays came from our relationship
with the writers. And so, in a way,
they sort of chose us. And we did. There was a moment where
we talked about doing it. I think that– I mean, firstly, Nick’s piece
is an incredibly personal piece. And there’s a reason
why he’s got his friend and ally to do it. Like, it’s a great
responsibility. And there was a
reason why he wasn’t going to do it because of its
being so personal and so kind of turning it into
an actor’s game. Like, switching
around, I think, didn’t feel necessarily appropriate. And then on the other side, you
try learning two monologues. [LAUGHTER] JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I think the
thing about it, too, was we’re all, like, so down
for a challenge. Like, that’s what we wanted. I mean, and at
first, when we were going to move it to Broadway,
we had that discussion. Because we thought that
would be kind of interesting. You come back, and you
see the other actor do it. The strength it takes to
do Tom’s piece, the craft that it takes to do
his piece, I don’t know if I have that in me. I think it would be really sort
of schizophrenic, particularly given that the really personal
nature of both of the pieces, to be switching back and forth
between those two worlds, they are so clearly
not the same person. And because of the
nature of how we do this, it would just feel
like, to me, in my mind, like a little bit
perverse, like Tom saying. And– TOM STURRIDGE: There’d be
a level of artificiality. Obviously, this is
not real, but we’re trying as hard as
possible to create an environment in which it
feels like the honest shared experience. And I think if you could
come back the next night and see one of us playing
the other character, you’d be a bit like,
that’s kind of impressive. But I think it would take away
from the kind of intention, feelings. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah. AUDIENCE: Loved you
in “Bubble Boy.” JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Thank you. You have great taste. AUDIENCE: I saw the play at
The Public a couple months ago. And oh my god. It was like, you guys captured
lightning in a bottle. I think that’s the cliche. And in fact, the
night I was there, there was like an
ASL interpreter. And in the middle of
this– of “Sea Wall”– no, sorry, “A Life,” all of
a sudden, someone’s phone goes off. And it was “The
Entertainer,” Scott Joplin, like, so loud that the
usher lunges at this guy. Jake, you said, it’s
OK, you can pick it. And I couldn’t believe
that you could get back into the monologue after
breaking it in the middle. So I guess I wanted
to know sort of how you were able to get again. But also you had said
that Nick wouldn’t let you do this for years. What do you think
it would have been like had he said yes back then? JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Hm. AUDIENCE: So those
are questions. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Well, thank you. Thank you for coming. But yeah, I think to answer
your last question first, I was nowhere near ready
to be able to do this show. And somewhere in his
bones, because he’s such an extraordinary writer
and artist, he knew that. His instinct was
telling him that. And he wasn’t ready. And truthfully, I
think the courage that it’s taken from him to
allow me to do it is probably some of the most– the deepest stuff that
I’ve shared with someone in my artistic career. And it has taken us a number
of years to get to that point. Like, any friendship,
any love, it takes a long time to develop
something true and deep. And that has allowed us
to get to this place. In terms of the
movement of the piece and what happens in
it, both Tom and I knew that we– and this
is not like either of us, I don’t think. But we knew we had to
be off book before we started rehearsals. Because a monologue
itself is just, you are fighting with all
of those amazing things that you feel inside yourself,
but also all those demons. And they’re coming at
you right and left, not only from your own
projections or the experiences you’ve had during the
day and all those things, but also just what
the text brings up. So you have to be
agile enough when you are in a stranger’s state to
be able to deliver this thing. And so we were just
ready, like ready to go from the second we were out
there, just with the words. And that allows you,
when things happen, to really then forget the words
and connect with the people in the audience. And so when things happen,
I know exactly where I am. And if I don’t know
where I am in my brain, I know it in my bones. And anyone who does
whatever work you do knows that feeling
when you’re just vibing it in just a right way. You know how to do it,
and it’s unconscious, that’s where we want to get to. And I just happen to love
“The Entertainer” as a song, and I didn’t really want it to– [LAUGHTER] Actually, on repeat,
that’s my pre-show, is just “The
Entertainer” on my phone. I found it
serendipitous, and I just wanted to share that moment. And, by the way, you
do this a lot of times. You just want to have something
else different happen. So I was interested
what conversation that person would have or what
they were going through, so. AUDIENCE: Thanks. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Yeah. AUDIENCE: I would love to ask a
“Spider-Man” question, but, um, my question was– JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I mean, you
can ask a “Spider-Man” question. That’s OK. TOM STURRIDGE: I’ll answer it. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] question. My first question’s about the
process of your– both of you as an actor, when you’re
preparing and researching for a theatrical
production as compared to many sort of a
bigger stage, what are the nuances in
prepping for them, and how do you try to bring
those characters to life on both of these bases? TOM STURRIDGE: I mean,
I think by necessity, the main difference is that your
preparation process on a film is normally pretty private. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: It’s short. TOM STURRIDGE: It’s
short or whatever, but you kind of
do it on your own. And then you bring your
work, like, to the day. And you kind of– suddenly a group of people
who prepared totally separately come together. And magic or not happens. Whereas this is very much a
communal experience preparation wise. The rehearsal process is a group
of us all together in a room, slowly trying to attritionally
attack this text. And I think for me
personally, the first idea that comes into my head
is almost always moronic. And therefore to be in
a room in which someone can kind of challenge you on
that is incredibly exciting. Yeah. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: What he said. What’s your
“Spider-Man” question? Yeah. He was like. [LAUGHTER] Spider-Man, Spider-Man, all I
hear, Spider-Man, Spider-Man. [INAUDIBLE] Spider-Man. Yeah. Go ahead, yeah. AUDIENCE: Is it true he’ll be
back in the [INAUDIBLE] Blink twice for yes, one for no. [LAUGHTER] JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh, man. Wow. I mean, like, I think that– I mean, you know. TOM STURRIDGE: I feel like a
dart is just going suddenly shoot– JILLIAN HOCHMAN: I know. TOM STURRIDGE: –into
the [INAUDIBLE].. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Oh, I lost my mic. Sorry. Oh, whoops, I lost my mic. I can’t answer your question. No, I mean, I think that– I think I– CARRIE CRACKNELL: You can
just say I don’t know. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: He’s dead, man. Right? Right? Right? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] JILLIAN HOCHMAN: All right, we
can do one more quick question. AUDIENCE: So I
actually initially had a really similar
question about how the medium informs your
relationship to the character. So instead, I’ll ask about the
other English Tom in your life. [LAUGHTER] JAKE GYLLENHAAL: Oh my god,
I’ve been really trying to keep that secret. Well, we’ve all had a
very complex relationship. It has been a quick
transition from “Spider-Man” press tour to this show,
and they are both named Tom, which is complicated. But I think they’re
willing to share. No, yeah. British Toms are just great. I don’t really know how
to put it any other way. I mean, I just, I have– in all honesty, I
have really never– I feel so lucky to have worked
with two people who I genuinely adore and who are loving
and encouraging, and then also, just so damn
good at what they do. And I think that
does say something about British culture. And yet, somehow
we’re still better. [LAUGHTER] Sorry, I gotta go. No, but they are just such
incredible artists and people. And he and Mr. Holland,
which is opus, is– I don’t know why. TOM STURRIDGE: My favorite song. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: A
generational gap. He’s just great. He’s just great, man. He’s cool. Yeah. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: OK, so one last
question from me for all three of you. What do you hope audiences
take away from the show? What is the one thing
that when they leave, you really want
them to remember? CARRIE CRACKNELL:
The thing I love is when you see people
leave and ring their family. And that happens a lot,
and I watch people come out because I’m obviously in the
auditorium and in the bar. And I think every night,
some people go out, and they ring their dad,
or they ring their mom, or they ring someone they
haven’t spoken to for a while. And there’s something about
a kind of moment of communion to just think about the
things that you value and the people that
you connect with. And that’s pretty rare, I
think, so that’s really special when that happens. JAKE GYLLENHAAL: I mean, I
think Carrie’s said it much more articulately and with a British
accent, so it sounds better. CARRIE CRACKNELL: Way cooler. JAKE GYLLENHAAL:
Yeah, I mean, I hope that people walk away with,
like, just a warm heart and walk out from
this nice cool theater into the warm summer
air and just are thinking about the people
they love and have loved and that they feel
loved, really. I know that sounds
pretty general, but that’s how we feel
when we walk off stage. And we hope that the audience
walks away with that as well. TOM STURRIDGE: Oh, yeah. I mean, I guess
what I love about it is that we kind of don’t need
to be prescriptive about what we want people to feel. There’s something about
theater that I always kind of inherently
mistrust sometimes of just this idea of consensus,
that, like, a large group of people is supposed to
feel exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. We’re all supposed to
all laugh at that joke, and we’re all supposed to
clap at this moment, which I think is wrong. I think it’s an inherently
democratic experience. And what I love is the
fact that 1,000 people are feeling totally
different things and leaving with totally
different experiences. And I hope that we
facilitate that ability to come as yourself
and experience your version of the plan. JILLIAN HOCHMAN: That’s
a great way to end it. “Sea Wall, A Life” is playing
a limited run on Broadway at the Hudson Theater. You can see it
until September 29. You can find more information
at seawallalife.com. Thank you so much, guys. Carrie Cracknell, Jake
Gyllenhaal, and Tom Sturridge. [APPLAUSE]

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