Inside Jake Gyllenhaal's 'Sunday in the Park With George' Preview Film: Exclusive Director Interview

Courtesy Photo
Jake Gyllenhaal in a rehearsal video for "Sunday in the Park with George."

"The idea of shooting in this cool old Broadway theater with Jake was too enticing to resist," Cary Joji Fukunaga tells Billboard.

On Saturday, Jake Gyllenhaal will make his Broadway debut in the vocally and dramatically challenging role of Georges Seurat in Stephen Sondheim’s beloved musical Sunday in the Park With George. But before his debut, he shared a hint of what audiences can expect when the show officially opens Feb. 23 at the Hudson Theatre: a short film, directed by True Detective Emmy-winner Cary Joji Fukunaga, showcasing his performance of the solo “Finishing the Hat.”

“I knew he could sing, definitely,” Fukunaga said in an exclusive interview with Billboard. “Jake and I are friends, and he just called me up last weekend to say, ‘Hey, I’m doing this.’ I’m in the last throes of writing a screenplay, but the idea of shooting in this cool old Broadway theater with Jake was too enticing to resist.” Gyllenhaal sent him a couple of songs he was thinking of singing, and “obviously ‘Finishing the Hat’ is sort of the most iconic from the musical.”

Fukunaga opted for a simple approach, filming with one camera and capturing Gyllenhaal’s singing live over the course of roughly four full takes, in just three hours -- and after a full day of rehearsals for Gyllenhaal. “I didn’t want it to just sound like a studio recording,” Fukunaga says. “I didn’t want people to think it was lip-syncing. I recorded more of the ambient sound, the creaking of the floorboards, so it reveals it’s recorded live. Ultimately, he had one mic on his front, one on his back, and two onstage for the musicians.”

He found a creative solution to the technical problem of how to follow Gyllenhaal down the stairs and onto the stage. “The easiest thing was for me to just hang from the ceiling and follow him,” Fukunaga says with a laugh. “They thought I was joking when I asked if I could just hang in a harness. But I mean, they hang all this heavy shit -- why can’t they hang me?”

The end result is a film that captures both Gyllenhaal’s stunning vocal control and the refurbished Hudson Theatre’s beauty. “The range in that song, from the quiet moments to the larger more forceful ones are so vast,” Fukunaga says. “It’s such a hard song to sing, technically, and a great moment in the musical about creating something out of nothing. And he nailed it pretty much every time. The guy is a machine.”

This is what happens when Riva Marker (the badass president of NineStories) and I invite #CaryJojiFukunaga to rehearsals for our new Broadway musical. Check out this video we made! #SundayintheParkWithGeorge

Posted by Jake Gyllenhaal on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Broadway


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