Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a hungry freelancer who hopes to make it big by capturing horrific and violent events on film and selling the footage to a local TV station.
Like many actors of his generation, Gyllenhaal was inspired by the intense preparation Robert DeNiro would put into his own performances. For example, he wanted his character, who lived and worked mainly at night, to resemble another nocturnal creature. “I wanted him to look like a coyote…And in order to do that, I had to look hungry and be hungry.” So Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds by putting himself on a diet of kale salads and regularly running 10 mile loops.
Gyllenhaal describes the character of Lou as “part of a generation of people who are looking for jobs in a world where jobs are redefining themselves.” Gyllenhaal explains, “He’s a thief, a sort of petty thief at the beginning at the movie. He runs across this accident scene and he sees these stringers, these guys who film accidents and crimes and stuff for the local news, and he finds his calling in an instant.”
In preparation for the role, Gyllenhaal and the director also spent time night-crawling with real-life news cameraman (or “news stringer”), Howard Raishbrook, who had been leading the same life as Gyllenhaal’s character for about 15 years in Los Angeles. (Raishbrook would also serve as a technical advisor on the film.)