After years of speculation, rumors, innuendo and conspiracy theories, Jake Gyllenhaal has addressed one of the enduring mysteries of our time. In a chat with Esquire, the 41-year-old actor was asked for his reaction to the pointed lyrics in Taylor Swift‘s 2012 tune “All Too Well,” and said it wasn’t him.
“It has nothing to do with me,” Gyllenhaal told the mag about the song that was rebooted in a 10-minute version on the re-release of Red (Taylor’s Version) in November 2021. Gyllenhaal and Swift dated for a few months in 2010, and their relationship was back in the spotlight in a major way after Swift released a video for the new version of the emotional song. The expanded take featured previously unheard lyrics and was accompanied by a video directed by Swift that reignited fan fury and resulted in a public Swift boating of Jake for, among other things, long-held suspicions that he allegedly made off with one of Taylor’s beloved scarves.
“It’s about her relationship with her fans. It is her expression,” Gyllenhaal said. “Artists tap into personal experiences for inspiration, and I don’t begrudge anyone that.” And though he never uttered Swift’s name in the interview, the actor who turned off his Instagram comments during last fall’s flurry of speculation said Taylor was right to remind Swifties that they should not publicly attack him over their suspicions.
The new version features lyrics about “weeping in a party bathroom” after an older partner — Gyllenhaal is nearly a decade older than Swift — tells her that “if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine,” which she hits back at with the biting couplet, “I was never good at telling jokes/ But the punchline goes/ ‘I’ll get older, but your lovers will stay my age.” As another seeming reference to the relationship, the always-shrewd Swift cast 19-year-old actress Sadie Sink and 30-year-old actor Dylan O’Brien in the video.
“At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name,” Gyllenhaal told the mag about surviving the slings and arrows of the renewed ire from Swifties and stars’ responsibility to keep things civil. For the record, Swift has not explicitly commented on her fans’ reactions or the subject of the song. “That begs for a deeper philosophical question. Not about any individual, per se, but a conversation that allows us to examine how we can — or should, even— take responsibility for what we put into the world, our contributions into the world,” the actor said.
Frankly, Gyllenhaal added, “There’s anger in divisiveness,” which he said can turn “life-threatening” in the most extreme cases, though he clarifies that his life has not been threatened over the “All Too Well” controversy. “My question is: Is this our future? Is anger and divisiveness our future? Or can we be empowered and empower others while simultaneously putting empathy and civility into the dominant conversation? That’s the discussion we should be having,” he said.
And while Gyllenhaal said that he had not listened to the new Red version — which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, with the song taking No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — he did have some thoughts about the public response to the song’s re-release. “I’m not unaware that there’s interest in my life. My life is wonderful. I have a relationship that is truly wonderful, and I have a family I love so much,” he said of his relationship with model Jeanne Cadieu, 26. “And this whole period of time has made me realize that.”
When asked if Gyllenhall might be able to channel his second experience in the Red zone into his own art on screen, he said he wasn’t sure yet. “I don’t know. I can’t tell you that,” he said. “Ask me in a month. I don’t start work till the end of January.”
Gyllenhaal had previously avoided commenting on the song’s reboot or Swift, though he did seem to allude to them in a photo shoot last year when he wore a red button-down shirt and a pair of heart-shaped glasses on his head, which conspiracy-minded fans suspected was his wink-wink to the album’s title and the shades the singer wore in her video for “22.”