Maggie Gyllenhaal

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Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maggie Gyllenhaal Berlinale 2017.jpg
Gyllenhaal at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in 2017
Margalit Ruth Gyllenhaal

(1977-11-16) November 16, 1977 (age 42)
EducationColumbia University (BA)
OccupationActress, producer
Years active1992–present
Peter Sarsgaard (m. 2009)
RelativesJake Gyllenhaal (brother)

Margalit Ruth Gyllenhaal[1][2][3] (/ˈɪlənhɔːl/;[4] born November 16, 1977)[5] is an American actress and producer. Part of the Gyllenhaal family, she is the daughter of filmmakers Stephen Gyllenhaal and Naomi Achs, and the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

She began her career as a teenager with small roles in several of her father's films, and appeared with her brother in the cult favorite Donnie Darko (2001).[6] She received critical acclaim for her starring roles in the independent films Secretary (2002) and Sherrybaby (2006), earning Golden Globe nominations in the Comedy and Drama categories, respectively. In 2008, she received widespread recognition for playing Rachel Dawes in Christopher Nolan's superhero film The Dark Knight. Her other film credits include Adaptation., Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (both 2002), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Happy Endings (2005), Paris, je t'aime, World Trade Center, Monster House, Stranger Than Fiction (all 2006), and Away We Go (2009). For her performance in Crazy Heart (2009), she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She subsequently starred in the films Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), Won't Back Down (2012), Hysteria (2011), White House Down (2013), and Frank (2014).

In 2014, Gyllenhaal made her Broadway debut in a revival of The Real Thing, and starred in the BBC television miniseries The Honourable Woman. For her performance in the latter, she received a Golden Globe and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. She starred as Candy on the HBO series The Deuce (2017–2019), which she produced. Her other producing credits include the 2018 film The Kindergarten Teacher.

Early life

Gyllenhaal was born in Manhattan, the daughter of Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (née Achs) and Stephen Gyllenhaal. 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".[7][8] She has two brothers; actor Jake Gyllenhaal and a half-brother named Luke from her father's second marriage.[7]

Her father is a film director and poet, and her mother is a screenwriter and director.[9] Her father, a member of the Gyllenhaal family, is of Swedish and English ancestry, and was raised in the Swedenborgian religion.[10] 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.[11]

Her mother was born in New York City (growing up in Brooklyn),[12] and is Jewish,[13][14][15][16] from families that emigrated from Russia and Poland. Her mother's first husband was Eric Foner, a noted historian and history professor at Columbia University.[10][17][18][19][20] Gyllenhaal has stated that she "grew up mostly Jewish, culturally", and she identifies as Jewish,[21] though she did not attend Hebrew school.[22][23][24] Her parents married in 1977, and filed for divorce in October 2008.[25]

Gyllenhaal grew up in Los Angeles and studied at the Harvard–Westlake prep school.[19] She spent four months as a student at The Mountain School, a semester school for high school juniors in Vermont.[26] In 1995, she graduated from Harvard–Westlake and moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where she studied literature and Eastern religions.[19] She also studied acting for a summer term at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, England.[27]


Early work

Gyllenhaal's first films—A Dangerous Woman (1993); and Homegrown (1998)—were directed by her father; which also featured her brother; they had supporting roles as children.[19] Prior to that she also, at the age of 15, made a brief appearance in her father's film, Waterland (1992). With their mother, she and Jake appeared in two episodes of Molto Mario, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network.[28] After graduating from college, she played supporting roles in films like Cecil B. Demented (2000) and Riding in Cars with Boys (2001).[29] Gyllenhaal later achieved recognition in her own right playing her real brother's on-screen sister in the indie cult hit Donnie Darko (2001).[30]

She made her theatrical debut in the Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Patrick Marber's Closer,[31][32] for which she received favorable reviews.[33][34] Production started in May 2000 and ended in mid-July of that year.[33] Gyllenhaal has performed in several other plays, including The Tempest,[35] Antony and Cleopatra, The Butterfly Project, and No Exit.[36]


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.[37] 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."[37] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the self-destructive secretary, is enigmatic and, at moments, sympathetic."[38] The film received generally favorable reviews,[39] and Gyllenhaal's performance earned her the Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures,[40] her first Golden Globe nomination,[41] and an Independent Spirit Award nomination.[42] Secretary was Gyllenhaal's first film role which featured full frontal nudity.[43][44] 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.[45] 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."[30] 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."[30]

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.[46] 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.[47] The movie grossed US$33 million worldwide.[48] That same year, she had a small role in the comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights.[49]

In 2003, she co-starred with Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile in the role of Giselle.[50] 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".[51] The film generated mostly critical reviews,[52] with Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times describing it as "smug and reductive".[53] 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,[54] and Criminal (2004), a remake of the Argentinian film Nine Queens, with John C. Reilly and Diego Luna.[55] Gyllenhaal plays an honest hotel manager forced to help her crooked brother (Reilly) by seducing one of his victims.[55] Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2004.[56] She starred in the HBO film Strip Search (2004), where she portrayed an American student in China suspected of terrorism.[57] For her role, Gyllenhaal had to perform multiple scenes of full-frontal nudity as the film tackled issues of strip searches.

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.[58] Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: "Ms. Gyllenhaal provides the essential bridge between the parts of the play's title."[59] John Heilpern of The New York Observer noted that Gyllenhaal's performance was "compelling".[60] Viewed as a sex symbol, she was ranked in the "Hot 100 List" by Maxim magazine in 2004 and 2005.[61][62]

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,[50][63] calling the role the "roughest, scariest acting ever" and adding she is more natural when singing on screen than when acting.[63] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly declared Gyllenhaal's performance "as wonderfully, naturally slouchy-sexy as her character is artificial".[64]


A brown-haired woman with blue eyes wears a dark blue dress with her hair tied back.
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.[65][66] The film was critically and financially unsuccessful.[67][68] 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 [sic] played these characters many times before".[69] In Stranger than Fiction, Gyllenhaal played a love interest of Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell.[70] 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."[71] She voiced Elizabeth "Zee" in the computer animated horror film Monster House.[72] 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.[73] She regarded this as "one of the films she most enjoyed making".[30] The film received favorable reviews and proved to be an international success, earning US$162 million worldwide.[74][75]

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 [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."[76] 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",[77] and Dennis Harvey of Variety called her performance "naturalistic".[78] For her work, Gyllenhaal earned her second Golden Globe Best Actress nomination[79] and won the Best Actress category award at the 2006 Stockholm International Film Festival.[80]

A brown haired woman looking away from the camera. Her hair is tied back, and she is wearing gold earrings and a shoulderless, sleeveless black dress with a yellow, red, and blue pattern
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.[81][82] 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.[83] 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,[84] it became the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time,[85] 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 dress" and stated that "the movie feels smarter and more supple when she's on-screen".[86] IGN film critic Todd Gilchrist wrote, "Gyllenhaal adds real depth and energy to Rachel Dawes".[87]

Gyllenhaal played Yelena Andreevna in the Classic Stage Company's 2009 Off-Broadway production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in New York City.[88] The cast also included her husband Peter Sarsgaard.[88] The production, directed by Austin Pendleton, began previews on January 17 and ended its limited run on March 1.[88] 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."[89] However, Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant was complimentary, noting that she "ultimately blossoms" as the character.[90]

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.[91][92] The film generated broadly mixed reviews,[93] with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly describing Gyllenhaal's subplot as "over-the-top".[94] 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".[95] Scott concluded with, "Ms. Gyllenhaal's line about sex roles in 'the seahorse community' is the screenplay's one clean satirical bull's-eye".[95] 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.[96] The movie received favorable reviews,[97] 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."[98] Her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.[99]


In 2010, Gyllenhaal appeared in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, the sequel to the 2005 film Nanny McPhee.[100] The role required her to speak with an English accent.[101] The feature received mixed reviews,[102] and earned US$93 million worldwide.[103] Away from acting, she served as host of the PBS television documentary series Independent Lens.[104] Gyllenhaal also appeared in Hysteria, an independent movie focusing on the creation of the vibrator.[105]

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.[106] 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.[107] The off-Broadway production began preview performances on January 12, with a limited engagement through March 6.[108]

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).[109]

In 2014, she played the title role as Baroness Nessa Stein, a British-Israeli businesswoman heiress in the British television BBC Television political spy thriller television miniseries, The Honourable Woman.[110][111] For her role in it, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film. Kevin Fallon wrote in the Daily Beast: "Gyllenhaal delivers what might be the most towering, complex, best performance of her career in the miniseries."[112] Also in 2014 she played Hathfertiti in Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler's River of Fundament.[113][114]

In August 2016, the audiobook seller and producer 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."[115]

In February 2017, she was a member of the jury for the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. She has been working as a producer and is also acting in the HBO series The Deuce.[116]

Personal life

A man and a woman pose together for a photo. The man has short, light-brown hair and a beard, and is wearing a grey suit jacket and grey shirt. The woman has short, shoulder-length brown hair, worn loose, and is wearing large hoop earrings with a sleeveless, strapless black dress.
Peter Sarsgaard and Gyllenhaal at the New York premiere of An Education in October 2009

Gyllenhaal began a relationship with actor Peter Sarsgaard,[117] in 2002.[50] They announced their engagement in April 2006,[118][119] and married on May 2, 2009, in a small chapel in Brindisi, Italy.[120][121] They have two daughters: Ramona (born October 3, 2006) and Gloria Ray (born April 19, 2012).[122][123][124] The family lives in Park Slope,[125] Brooklyn, New York.[126]

They decided to put their townhouse on the market after living there for ten years. They moved there from the West Village for quality of life reasons.[127]



Gyllenhaal is politically active. At the 18th Independent Spirit Awards in 2003, she spoke out against the Iraq war, stating the reason for the invasion was "oil and imperialism".[128][129] 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."[130] Gyllenhaal took part in Artists United to Win Without War, a campaign started by Robert Greenwald that aimed to advance progressive causes and voicing opposition to the Iraq War.[131][132] 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,[133] in which she supported John Kerry.[134][135] Gyllenhaal supported Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.[136][137] She has campaigned on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization her family strongly supports.[138][139]

In June 2013, Gyllenhaal and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[140][141]

Charity work

Gyllenhaal is a supporter of Witness, a non-profit organization that uses video and online technologies to expose human rights violations.[142][143] She co-hosted a benefit dinner with founder Peter Gabriel in November 2007.[144][145] Gyllenhaal helped raise funds for, a non-profit organization that helps impoverished people start a micro-enterprise.[146] 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.[147] 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.[148] In October 2008 she hosted a fashion show event called "Fashionably Natural", which was presented by Gen Art and SoyJoy in Los Angeles.[149][150] The show featured four up-and-coming designers who worked only with all-natural and eco-friendly fabrics and materials.[149][150]



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
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
2018 The Kindergarten Teacher Lisa Spinelli Also producer
2021 Elvis Gladys Presley Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Shattered Mind Clothes clerk TV Movie
1998 The Patron Saint of Liars Lorraine Thomas TV Movie
1999 Resurrection Mary TV Movie
1999 Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story Noreen Bixler TV Movie
2004 Strip Search Linda Sykes TV Movie
2012 Discovery's "Curiosity" Host Documentary
2012 The Corrections Denise Unaired pilot
2014 The Honourable Woman Nessa Stein, Baroness Stein of Tilbury Miniseries; 8 episodes
2016 Inside Amy Schumer Herself Episode: "Brave"
2016 Truth and Power Narrator Documentary
2017–2019 The Deuce Eileen "Candy" Merrell 25 episodes; also producer


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2000 Closer Alice Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Mark Taper Forum
2003 Homebody/Kabul Priscilla Ceiling Mark Taper Forum
Brooklyn Academy of Music
2009 Uncle Vanya Yelena Andreevna Classic Stage Company [151]
2011 Three Sisters Masha Kulygina Classic Stage Company [152]
2014 The Real Thing Annie American Airlines Theatre [153]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2003 Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress Won
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 Nominated
2006 Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Actress Nominated
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 Nominated
2008 Critics' Choice Movie Award Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Saturn Award Best Actress Nominated
2009 Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2014 British Independent Film Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Won
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 Movie Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Nominated
2018 75th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Television Series Drama Nominated [154][155]


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