What would it be like to meet your exact duplicate? Would you be intrigued? Horrified? All of the above? That’s the quandary at the crux of the stylish, unnerving new film Enemy (out today), where Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a college professor who becomes obsessed with his dopplegänger Anthony (also played by Gyllenhaal), a part-time actor whom Adam happens to spy in an old movie. Adam pokes into Anthony’s life from afar at first but the more he learns, the more mysterious and complicated their connection becomes, until leather-jacketed Anthony finally agrees to meet rumpled Adam for the first time in a dingy hotel room. What transpires between them in the movie’s most pivotal scene? Press play on this Vulture exclusive and find out.
“It’s by far my favorite moment in the film,” says director Denis Villenueve, who also directed Gyllenhaal in last fall’s Prisoners. “There’s something horrible about seeing yourself, something almost unbearable and frightening. For such a scene to exist, you need a strong actor, and I can’t say enough about how happy I am with Jake’s work.”
And it truly is all Jake: Villenueve and his actor decided against using body doubles for the scene, instead employing a motion-controlled camera and CG wizardry to stitch both bearded Gyllenhaals together in the same frame. “Even if the audience just sees a shoulder or some hair in the foreground, it didn’t matter. We always thought it would be stronger if it was Jake versus Jake,” says Villenueve. “We’d hired an actor to play in front of him who would be erased in the computer, but it didn’t work. The guy was good, but Jake felt that it was not the right energy in front of him — it was actually easier for him to play opposite a tennis ball attached to a stick, listening to himself in a small earphone in his ear.”
The scene took three days to shoot, but even though there were some major technical challenges, Villenueve was continually surprised by what Gyllenhaal could get away with. “He was starting to improvise with himself!” laughs the director, who’ll be attending a Q&A for the film tonight in New York at the Angelika’s 7:50 p.m. show. “Jake was challenging his own acting. It was so beautiful to see him doing that, to be so precise but to take risks like this.”