Jake Gyllenhaal: Legal Blindness Boosts My Acting

Jake Gyllenhaal reflects on childhood struggles and resilience.

by Nouman Rasool
Jake Gyllenhaal: Legal Blindness Boosts My Acting
© Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

In a candid revelation, Jake Gyllenhaal disclosed how his legally blind state had been a peculiar godsend to his shining acting career. The renowned actor, acclaimed for strong and immersive performances, told the Hollywood Reporter that he finds his visual deficiency far from an impediment but quite helpful to his craft.

"I've never known anything else," Gyllenhaal explained. His morning practice of moving around the world without glasses has become a meditative reflection and capacity to connect with himself. This proved helpful during a crucial scene for the 2015 drama Southpaw, where he played a boxer struggling with profound loss.

At the same time, he emphasized auditory focus and feeling depth, prompting Gyllenhaal to play in the absence of his contacts. This allowed him to act out appropriately when he heard about his on-screen wife's death.

Gyllenhaal's Visionary Strength

This isn't the first time the 43-year-old Oscar nominee has opened up about his eyesight, which is quite bad and measures in at 20/1250.

Speaking to the Telegraph in 2017, Gyllenhall reflected on growing up and how needing glasses at such a young age invited trouble from bullies. He looks at them as part of his early life struggles, which led him to be strong and tender, a balance he aims to bring to his performances.

These traits were convenient for his most recent work, a contemporary version of the Patrick Swayze film Road House. In the movie, Gyllenhaal squares off with former UFC champion Conor McGregor—a matchup that had the fighter himself lauding the actor's dedication and toughness on set.

For his part, McGregor recalled the film's many physical scenes virtually from memory with an almost feverish affection: "I got to throw Jake Gyllenhaal over the bar, so that was pretty fun. I loved it." He then applauded Gyllenhaal for taking hits and giving them back—no doubt ensuring that these two had quite a bit of in-the-moment chemistry.

Through Gyllenhaal, if not focusing on the story, we can identify a process of making limitations perceived into assets. Besides, those challenges forge character and enhance one's capacity to portray complex human emotions on screen.

The openness, apart from sharing his insecurities regarding his disability and its influence on the roles he landed, also shows personal strength and is an inspirational example for other people with the same challenges: an illustration that obstacles can be transformed, hence becoming opportunities for growth and creativity.