VELVET BUZZSAW takes place in today’s art world, where paintings are bought and sold not for appreciation but for profit. When paintings of an unknown artist sell for a good price, some people in the art fraternity manipulate the market to drive prices even higher. A supernatural force then seeks revenge on those who have put greed before art. In this drama, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a powerful art critic who can make or break an artist’s career. He finds it annoying when people are more interested in his relationships than his politics.
This is the second time you have worked with writer and director Dan Gilroy. What do you find attractive about him?
When I read Velvet Buzzsaw, I just thought that the idea was exactly where we are today. Gilroy writes these parables; like Nightcrawler (2014) felt somewhat prophetic. And I felt the same here. It’s a different kind of style, but he’s challenging and trying to kind of get at a particular space in our world and comment on us. So, it’s that simple; he can call on me anytime to do anything. I would have played any part in this movie.
What are your thoughts on commercialism in art?
I think those things are inevitable. It’s just a question of value. There will always be commerce in art. There will always be a financial aspect to it—and people will buy and sell it and it will gain and lose value. But I think the real question here is, what do we value? Are we swayed by a group of people saying this is a more interesting piece of art because it sold for $90 million? Is this a more interesting piece of art because other people told me that it is, or is it some thing that I respond to and love, and that I think is extraordinary? These are the questions brought up in the film and brought up in a satirical way. What do we value separately, and individually? And that is what matters. Even in our business we talk about opening weekends all the time—it’s such a huge discussion. Does that give a movie value? Does it give a human in the movie value? It’s always an interesting question.
Despite your good work you hardly figure in award seasons. Do you pay any attention to awards?
Of course, I pay attention. As you know I have been doing this for a really long time, and I think the movies themselves that resonate are random. And from my side of the artist in this space, I think what you start to realise after a long period is you find what you love to express as an actor. Outside of producing films or trying to help people make films, it is the only thing that you truly have as an actor. The movie comes out way after you have done it. The response and reaction to it are more for the actor’s ego than anything else—it’s not for the process of what you do, that is what I have come to realise. But of course I pay attention to that, particularly when it’s a small movie. If it’s nominated, then people will go to see it. And I am also an ambitious and caring person about the projects I do, and I want them to be seen by as many people as possible.
What do you like to do when you are on your own in a foreign land?
A meal for me defines the area I’m in—a meal specific to that place. I am always trying to find that out. I’m texting friends before I go to any new place and asking them to recommend restaurants they love. I was recently in Paris and I went to the Le Grande and had an incredible meal there—an extraordinary meal, it was quite wonderful.
What wines do you prefer?
Red wine. And strangely recently I have started preferring not a heavy red wine, but a lighter red, sort of a kind of effervescence.