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Maggie Gyllenhaal
File:Maggie Gyllenhaal at the 82nd Academy Awards (cropped).jpg
Gyllenhaal at the 2010 Academy Awards
Margalit Ruth Gyllenhaal

(1977-11-16) November 16, 1977 (age 46)
Alma materColumbia University
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1992–present
(m. 2009)
ParentsStephen Gyllenhaal
Naomi Achs
RelativesJake Gyllenhaal (brother)

Margalit Ruth "Maggie" Gyllenhaal Sarsgaard[1][2][3] (English pronunciation: ;[4][5] born November 16, 1977 in New York City)[6] is an American actress. She is the daughter of filmmakers Stephen Gyllenhaal and Naomi Achs and the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal. She began her film career as a teenager with roles in her father's films and appeared alongside her brother in the psychological horror film Donnie Darko (2001). She garnered critical praise for starring as Lee Holloway in Secretary (2002), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. For her performance in Sherrybaby (2006), she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. She also received recognition for starring as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight (2008). For her performance in the musical-drama Crazy Heart (2009), she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She subsequently starred in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), Won't Back Down (2012) and Frank (2014), for which she was nominated for a BIFA Award.

In 2014, she made her Broadway debut in a revival of The Real Thing, and also starred in the television BBC miniseries The Honourable Woman. For her performance in the latter she won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award.

Early life[]

Gyllenhaal was born in New York City, the daughter of Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (née Achs) and Stephen Gyllenhaal. Her father is a film director and writer and her mother is a screenwriter.[7] She has one sibling, actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Her father, who was raised in the Swedenborgian religion, is of Swedish and English ancestry, and is a member of the Gyllenhaal family.[8] Her last native Swedish ancestor was her great-great-grandfather Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal, a descendant of Leonard Gyllenhaal, a leading Swedenborgian who supported the printing and spreading of Swedenborg's writings.[9] Her mother was born in New York City, and is from a Jewish family which emigrated from Russia and Poland. Her mother's first husband was Eric Foner, a noted historian and history professor at Columbia University.[8][10][11][12][13] Gyllenhaal has stated that she "grew up mostly Jewish, culturally", though she did not attend Hebrew school.[14] Her parents married in 1977, and filed for divorce in October 2008.[15] The first name on Maggie's birth certificate is "Margalit", which she did not discover until 2013, when adopting her husband's surname.[2] Margalit (מרגלית) is a Hebrew word meaning "pearl"; some news stories have spelled it "Margolit".

Gyllenhaal grew up in Los Angeles, and studied at the Harvard–Westlake prep school.[12] In 1995, she graduated from Harvard–Westlake and moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where she studied literature and Eastern religions.[12]


Early work[]

Gyllenhaal's first films—her feature film debut at the age of 15, Waterland (1992); A Dangerous Woman (1993); and Homegrown (1998)—were directed by her father; the last two also featured her brother; they had supporting roles as children.[12] With their mother, she and Jake appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network.[16] After graduating from college, she played supporting roles in films like Cecil B. Demented (2000) and Riding in Cars with Boys (2001).[17] Gyllenhaal later achieved recognition in her own right playing her real brother's on-screen sister in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko (2001).[18]

She made her theatrical debut in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Patrick Marber's Closer,[19][20] for which she received favorable reviews.[21][22] Production started in May 2000 and ended in mid-July of that year.[21] Gyllenhaal has performed in several other plays, including The Tempest,[23] Antony and Cleopatra, The Butterfly Project, and No Exit.[24]


Gyllenhaal's break-out role was in the black comedy Secretary (2002), a film about two people who embark on a mutually fulfilling BDSM lifestyle.[25] The New York Times critic Stephen Holden noted: "The role of Lee, which Maggie Gyllenhaal imbues with a restrained comic delicacy and sweetness, should make her a star."[25] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the self-destructive secretary, is enigmatic and, at moments, sympathetic."[26] The film received generally favorable reviews,[27] and Gyllenhaal's performance earned her the Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures,[28] her first Golden Globe nomination,[29] and an Independent Spirit Award nomination.[30] Secretary was Gyllenhaal's first film role which featured full frontal nudity.[31][32] Although impressed with the script, she initially had some qualms about doing the film, which she believed could deliver an anti-feminist message. Yet after carefully discussing the script with the film's director, Steven Shainberg, she agreed to join the project.[33] Although insisting Shainberg did not exploit her, Gyllenhaal has said she felt "scared when filming began" and that "in the wrong hands ... even in just slightly less intelligent hands, this movie could say something really weird."[18] Since then, she is guarded about discussing her role in the film, saying only that "despite myself, sometimes the dynamic that you are exploring in your work spills over into your life."[18]

She next played a supporting role in the comedy-drama Adaptation. (2002), a film that tells the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief into a film.[34] She later appeared in the unauthorized biography Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), part of an ensemble cast that included Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts.[35] The movie grossed US$33 million worldwide.[36] That same year, she had a small role in the comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights.[37]

In 2003, she co-starred with Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile in the role of Giselle.[38] In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she revealed the reason for accepting the role was "to play somebody who feels confident in herself as a sexy, beautiful woman".[39] The film generated mostly critical reviews,[40] with Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times describing it as "smug and reductive".[41] Her next roles were in smaller independent films: Casa de los Babys (2003), a story about six American women impatiently waiting out their lengthy residency requirements in an unidentified South American country before picking up their adoptive babies,[42] and Criminal (2004), a remake of the Argentinian film Nine Queens, with John C. Reilly and Diego Luna.[43] Gyllenhaal plays an honest hotel manager forced to help her crooked brother (Reilly) by seducing one of his victims.[43] Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2004.[44] She starred in the HBO film Strip Search (2004), where she portrayed an American student in China suspected of terrorism.[45]

In 2004, Gyllenhaal returned to theater in a Los Angeles production of Tony Kushner's Homebody/ Kabul as Priscilla, the Homebody's daughter, who spends most of the play searching for her elusive mother in Kabul, Afghanistan. Kushner gave her the role in Homebody/ Kabul on the strength of her performance in Closer.[46] Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: "Ms. Gyllenhaal provides the essential bridge between the parts of the play's title."[47] John Heilpern of The New York Observer noted that Gyllenhaal's performance was "compelling".[48] Viewed as a sex symbol, she was ranked in the "Hot 100 List" by Maxim magazine in 2004 and 2005.[49][50]

Gyllenhaal's next film role was in the 2005 comedy-drama Happy Endings, in which she played an adventuress singer who seduces a young gay musician (Jason Ritter) as well as his rich father (Tom Arnold). She recorded songs for the movie's soundtrack,[38][51] calling the role the "roughest, scariest acting ever" and adding she is more natural when singing on screen than when acting.[51] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly declared Gyllenhaal's performance "as wonderfully, naturally slouchy-sexy as her character is artificial".[52]


File:Maggie Gyllenhaal - 003.jpg

Gyllenhaal attending an event in Barcelona, Spain, in 2008

Following Happy Endings, she starred in the 2006 films Trust the Man, Stranger than Fiction, Monster House, World Trade Center, and Sherrybaby. In Trust the Man, featuring Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, and Billy Crudup, she played Elaine, who has been dating Tobey, Crudup's character, for seven years and has begun to feel that it is time for her to settle down and start a family.[53][54] The film was critically and financially unsuccessful.[55][56] Ethan Alter of Premiere felt that the performances by Gyllenhaal and Duchovny were "much more at ease" and concluded with "that's probably because they're Template:Sic played these characters many times before".[57] In Stranger than Fiction, Gyllenhaal played a love interest of Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell.[58] Her performance in the film received favorable reviews; Mike Straka of Fox News wrote: "Gyllenhaal has never been sexier in any film before and her interplay with Ferrell will propel her to more A-list films, leaving her indie-darling days behind, no doubt."[59] She voiced Elizabeth "Zee" in the computer animated horror film Monster House.[60] Gyllenhaal played Allison Jimeno, the wife of Port Authority officer Will Jimeno, in Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, based on the September 11 attacks in New York City.[61] She regarded this as "one of the films she most enjoyed making".[18] The film received favorable reviews and proved to be an international success, earning US$162 million worldwide.[62][63]

In Sherrybaby, Gyllenhaal played a young drug-addicted thief trying to put her life in order after prison so she can reconcile with her daughter. During promotion of the film, she noted of her portrayal of the character: "I think she's in such dire straights Template:Sic that all she has are these kind of naive, fierce hope. And while I was playing the part I was looking for pleasure and hope in everything, even in these really bleak things. And so it was really mostly after I finished the movie that I felt pain."[64] Her performance in the film was well received: David Germain of the Associated Press wrote, "Gyllenhaal humanizes her so deeply and richly ... that Sherry elicits sympathy even in her darkest and weakest moments",[65] and Dennis Harvey of Variety called her performance "naturalistic".[66] For her work, Gyllenhaal earned her second Golden Globe Best Actress nomination[67] and won the Best Actress category award at the 2006 Stockholm International Film Festival.[68]


Gyllenhaal at the premiere of The Dark Knight in New York City, July 14, 2008

She appeared in The Dark Knight (2008), the sequel to Batman Begins (2005), in which she replaced Katie Holmes as Assistant District Attorney, Rachel Dawes.[69][70] Gyllenhaal acknowledged her character was a damsel in distress to an extent, but said director Christopher Nolan sought ways to empower her character, so "Rachel's really clear about what's important to her and unwilling to compromise her morals, which made a nice change" from the many conflicted characters she had previously portrayed.[71] The Dark Knight was a financial and critical success, setting a new opening weekend box office record for North America. With revenue of US$1 billion worldwide,[72] it became the fourth-highest grossing film of all time,[73] and remains Gyllenhaal's most commercially successful picture to date. In a Salon review of the film, Stephanie Zacharek called Gyllenhaal's character "a tough cookie in a Stanwyck-style bias-cut gown" and stated that "the movie feels smarter and more supple when she's on-screen".[74] IGN film critic Todd Gilchrist wrote, "Gyllenhaal adds real depth and energy to Rachel Dawes".[75]

Gyllenhaal played Yelena Andreevna in the Classic Stage Company's 2009 Off-Broadway production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in New York City.[76][77] The cast also included Peter Sarsgaard, Mamie Gummer, Denis Leary, and George Foreman.[76][77] The production, directed by Martin Scorsese, began previews on January 17 and ended its limited run on March 1.[76][77] Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News was less than enthusiastic about her performance, writing: "Gyllenhaal, who was so dynamic as a druggie in the film Sherrybaby, plays Yelena with a slow-mo saunter and monotonous pasted-on smile that makes it seem as if she's been in Sherry's stash."[78] However, Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant was complimentary, noting that she "ultimately blossoms" as the character.[79]

File:Maggie Gyllenhaal Golden Globes 2009.jpg

Gyllenhaal at the 66th Golden Globe Awards, January 11, 2009

Gyllenhaal agreed to appear in the comedy film Away We Go, where she plays a bohemian college professor who is an old friend of John Krasinski's character.[80][81] The film generated broadly mixed reviews,[82] with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly describing Gyllenhaal's subplot as "over-the-top".[83] However, A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised Gyllenhaal and co-star Allison Janney for their performances, writing that "both [are] quite funny".[84] Scott concluded with, "Ms. Gyllenhaal's line about sex roles in 'the seahorse community' is the screenplay's one clean satirical bull's-eye".[84] Her next role came in the musical-drama Crazy Heart, in which she played journalist Jean Craddock, who falls for musician Bad Blake, played by Jeff Bridges.[85] The movie received favorable reviews,[86] with Gyllenhaal receiving praise from critics. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone reported that Gyllenhaal was "funny, touching and vital as Jean" and that her part was "conventionally conceived, but Gyllenhaal plays it with a tough core of intelligence and feeling."[87] Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.[88]


In 2010, Gyllenhaal appeared in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, the sequel to the 2005 film Nanny McPhee.[89] The role required her to speak with an English accent.[90] The feature received mixed reviews,[91] and earned US$93 million worldwide.[92] Away from acting, she served as host of the PBS television documentary series Independent Lens.[93] Gyllenhaal also appeared in Hysteria, an independent movie focusing on the creation of the vibrator.[94]

In February 2011, Gyllenhaal starred in another Anton Chekhov production as the character Masha in Austin Pendleton's Three Sisters at the Classic Stage Company.[95] The play focuses on the Prozorov sisters (Gyllenhaal, Jessica Hecht, and Juliet Rylance) "unlucky in love, unhappy in the provinces and longing to return to Moscow", as summarized by Bloomberg's Jeremy Gerard.[96] The off-Broadway production began preview performances on January 12, with a limited engagement through March 6.[97]

In the 2012 film Won't Back Down, she played a parent involved in a parent trigger takeover of her child's school. She appeared as a Secret Service agent in the action-thriller White House Down (2013).[98] In 2014, she played the title role as an Anglo-Israeli business-woman in the BBC Television series, The Honourable Woman.[99] Also in 2014 she played Hathfertiti in Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler's River of Fundament.[100][101]

In August 2016, the audiobook mega provider Audible announced that Gyllenhaal's narration performance of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy was available for purchase. Gyllenhaal, when interviewed about the experience said, "Making this, doing this, I feel like it's one of the major accomplishments of my work life."[102]

Personal life[]

File:Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal An Education 2009.jpg

Peter Sarsgaard and Gyllenhaal at the New York premiere of An Education in October 2009

Gyllenhaal began a relationship with actor Peter Sarsgaard,[103] a close friend of her brother Jake, in 2002.[38] They announced their engagement in April 2006,[104][105] and married on May 2, 2009, in a small chapel in Brindisi, Italy.[106][107] They have two daughters, Ramona Sarsgaard (b. 2006) and Gloria Ray Sarsgaard (b. 2012).[108][109] The family lives in Brooklyn, New York.[110]



Gyllenhaal is politically active. At the 18th Independent Spirit Awards, she spoke out against the Iraq war, stating the reason for the invasion was "oil and imperialism".[111][112] In 2005, Gyllenhaal drew controversy for her statement that the September 11 attacks were "an occasion to be brave enough to ask some serious questions about America's role in the world  ... It is always useful as individuals or nations to ask how we may have knowingly or unknowingly contributed to this conflict."[113] Gyllenhaal took part in Artists United to Win Without War, a campaign started by Robert Greenwald with the aim of advancing progressive causes and voicing opposition to the Iraq War.[114][115] She and her brother Jake filmed a commercial for Rock the Vote, and visited the University of Southern California (USC) campus to encourage students to vote in the 2004 U.S. presidential election,[116] in which she supported John Kerry.[117][118] Gyllenhaal supported Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.[119][120] She has campaigned on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization her family strongly supports.[121][122]

In June 2013, Gyllenhaal and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[123][124]

Charity work[]

Gyllenhaal is also a supporter of Witness, a non-profit organization that uses video and online technologies to expose human rights violations.[125][126] She co-hosted a benefit dinner with founder Peter Gabriel in November 2007.[127][128] Gyllenhaal helped raise funds for, a non-profit organization that helps impoverished people start a micro-enterprise.[129] For one of the fundraisers, Gyllenhaal helped design and promote a necklace that sold for US$100; all proceeds from sales went to the charity.[130] Since 2008, Gyllenhaal has been supporting the Hear the World Foundation as ambassador. In her role she is advocating for equal opportunities and better quality of life for people with hearing loss.[131] In October 2008 she hosted a fashion show event called "Fashionably Natural", which was presented by Gen Art and SoyJoy in Los Angeles.[132][133] The show featured four up-and-coming designers who worked only with all-natural and eco-friendly fabrics and materials.[132][133]



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Waterland Maggie Ruth
1993 A Dangerous Woman Patsy
1998 Homegrown Christina
2000 The Photographer Mira
2000 Cecil B. Demented Raven
2001 Donnie Darko Elizabeth Darko Co-starring with brother Jake
2001 Riding in Cars with Boys Amelia Forrester
2002 Secretary Lee Holloway
2002 40 Days and 40 Nights Sam
2002 Adaptation Caroline Cunningham
2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Debbie
2003 Casa de los Babys Jennifer
2003 Mona Lisa Smile Giselle Levy
2004 The Pornographer: A Love Story Sidney
2004 Criminal Valerie
2005 Happy Endings Jude
2005 The Great New Wonderful Emme Segment: "Emme's Story"
2005 Trust the Man Elaine
2006 Sherrybaby Sherry Swanson
2006 Paris, je t'aime Liz Segment: "Quartier des Enfants Rouges"
2006 Monster House Elizabeth "Zee" Voice role
2006 World Trade Center Allison Jimeno
2006 Stranger than Fiction Ana Pascal
2007 High Falls April Short Film
2008 The Dark Knight Rachel Dawes
2009 Away We Go Ellen "LN"
2009 Crazy Heart Jean Craddock
2010 Nanny McPhee Returns Isabel Green
2011 Hysteria Charlotte Dalrymple
2012 Won't Back Down Jamie
2013 White House Down Carol Finnerty
2014 Frank Clara
2014 River of Fundament Hathfertiti
2017 Brigsby Bear Completed


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Shattered Mind Clothes clerk Movie
1998 The Patron Saint of Liars Lorraine Thomas Movie
1999 Resurrection Mary Movie
1999 Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story Noreen Bixler Movie
2004 Strip Search Linda Sykes Movie
2012 Discovery's "Curiosity" Host Documentary
2012 The Corrections Denise Movie
2014 The Honourable Woman Nessa Stein TV miniseries
2016 Inside Amy Schumer Herself Episode: "Brave"
2016 Truth and Power Narrator Documentary
2017 The Deuce Eileen "Candy" Merrell
Year Title Role Notes <templatestyles src="Template:Tooltip/styles.css" />Ref.
2009 Uncle Vanya Yelena Andreevna Classic Stage Company [134]
2011 Three Sisters Masha Kulygina Classic Stage Company [135]
2014 The Real Thing Annie American Airlines Theatre [136]

Awards and nominations[]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2003 Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress
Empire Award Best Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Nominated
Independent Spirit Award Best Female Lead Nominated
MTV Movie Award Best Breakthrough Performance Nominated
National Board of Review Award Best Breakthrough Performance Won
National Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award Best Breakthrough Performance Won
Best Actress Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Award Best Actress Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Award Best Actress Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award Best Actress Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award Best Actress Nominated
2005 Independent Spirit Award Best Supporting Female
Happy Endings
2006 Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Actress
Golden Globe Award Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle Award Actress of the Year Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Saturn Award Best Actress
Stranger than Fiction
2008 Critics' Choice Movie Award Best Acting Ensemble
The Dark Knight
Saturn Award Best Actress Nominated
2009 Academy Award Best Supporting Actress
Crazy Heart
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2014 British Independent Film Award Best Supporting Actress
Golden Globe Award Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
The Honourable Woman
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated
Satellite Award Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2015 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Nominated


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Further reading[]

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External links[]