Maggie Gyllenhaal is hailed by many as one of the most interesting actresses of her generation thanks to her quirky appeal, unique beauty and seemingly fearless acting. It makes a lot of sense, being that she comes from a family full of filmmakers: her father Stephen is a director (A Dangerous Woman, Waterland); her mother Naomi a screenwriter (Oscar-nominated Running on Empty, Bee Season); and her younger brother Jake, an actor as well (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain). Maggie was born in New York City, but spent most of her childhood in Los Angeles, where she and Jake attended the prestigious Harvard-Westlake preparatory school. She would later return to New York to study at Columbia University, where she received a B.A. in English in 1999. She also studied briefly in London at the renown Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Maggie's movie career began humbly, as her first six movie credits were small roles in films directed by her father. She received her first big break when director John Waters picked her for a supporting role in Cecil B. DeMented, where she played Raven, a Satanic make-up artist. More roles soon popped up, and Maggie began making the rounds and catching the eyes of both audiences and filmmakers in Riding in Cars with Boys, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and Donnie Darko. Darko starred younger brother Jake, and the two played squabbling siblings, fittingly enough.
Both Maggie and Jake have said that there has been sibling rivalry between the two in the past, especially when Jake found fame before Maggie despite the fact that it was Maggie who first decided to go into acting. This rivalry has since dissolved, and siblings say that they turn to one another for advice and support, and that they are each other's toughest critic.
Maggie's breakthrough finally arrived with Secretary, her first starring role in which she played Lee, a sweet but timid young woman who develops a sadomasochist relationship with her employer, played by James Spader. Her skilled performance won her critical praise and many awards and acclamations, such as Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards nominations and the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor.
The stage now set for stardom, Maggie began taking on high profile roles and garnering near-universal acclaim for her performances in varied work such as Mona Lisa Smile, the Julia Roberts-vehicle in which she played the promiscuous yet wounded Gisele, and Criminal as a weary hotel concierge who finds herself roped in her brother's latest con. An outspoken actor who strives to tell stories she feels are meaningful and important, Maggie also took on smaller political projects such as John Sayles' baby adoption drama Casa de los babys and Sidney Lumet's controversial television movie Strip Search, and she performed on stage in Los Angeles and New York productions of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul.
Educated and fiercely opinionated, Maggie has proved that she is not afraid of discussing difficult topics. While on the red carpet discussing her 9/11-themed film The Great New Wonderful at its premiere at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, she was quoted as saying, "I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way, and so I think the delicacy with which it's dealt [in the film] allows that to sort of creep in". She drew criticism for the comment, and has since said that she has learned that "neither the red carpet nor an interview about a movie is the right place to talk about my politics. I realize I have to be careful, because it's very easy to misunderstand a complicated thought in a complicated world."
Don Roos' Happy Endings, in which Maggie plays Jude, a wannabe singer who seduces both a father and son, served not only as the opening film of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, but also as a showcase for Maggie's impressive vocal chords. She sings three songs in the movie (including Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are"), and is featured on the movie's soundtrack.
2006 is set to be Maggie's year, as six of her movies (made over the course of two years) are to be released by the year's end: animated Monster House, to which Maggie lends her voice for Zee, the baby-sitter in charge of three youngsters who encounter a haunted house; 9/11-centered World Trade Center and the aforementioned The Great New Wonderful, the former an Oliver Stone-directed account of the real-life experience of two officers trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers and that of their wives, the latter a collection of interweaving stories about life in post-September 11th New York City; Trust the Man, a romantic comedy about two couples who can't seem to get their acts together, Sherrybaby, an independent drama by first-time writer and director Laurie Collyer about a woman recently released from prison who attempts to reconnect with her young daughter and get her life back on track; and Stranger Than Fiction, the latest project from Finding Neverland director Marc Forster, where she plays an anarchist baker who forms a relationship with an IRS agent, played by Will Ferrell, whose life is being narrated by an author struggling with a case of writer's block.
The year is big for Maggie not only professionally, but personally as well, as it was announced April 2006 that she was engaged to boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard, a talented actor (Shattered Glass, Jarhead) whom she met at a dinner party four years back, and she gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Ramona, in October. … Expand
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