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Nightcrawler: 8 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Jake Gyllenhaal Movie

In the fall of 2014, Dan Gilroy gave to the world Nightcrawler, a psychological thriller following a freelance journalist as he records violent events that happen in the dark of night in Los Angeles. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the driven yet morally questionable Lou Bloom, the movie is a damning critique of the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality of broadcast journalism as well as the shadowy figures who capture heinous scenes and put them on TV.

But how did Gilroy, a longtime screenwriter making his directorial debut, create one of the most unsettling thrillers of the past decade? Well, as part of CinemaBlend’s partnership with Plex, where you can watch Nightcrawler for free, we’ve put together a list of behind-the-scenes facts from the making of the iconic film you won’t want to miss…

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

The Work Of Famous Crime Photographer Weegee Was Dan Gilroy’s Inspiration For Nightcrawler

Though Nightcrawler is purely the work of fiction, screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy did draw inspiration from real people and true events. In a January 2015 interview with Deadline, the filmmaker explained how he came up with the idea for the movie in the first place, a process that pretty much started after he became aware of the work of a prolific crime photographer in the 1930s named Arthur Felling, better known by the moniker Weegee.

Nearly a century before the movie came out, Weegee put a police scanner in his car to learn of various crimes and then would sell gruesome photos of shootings, car crashes, and other violent events to tabloids. After Gilroy moved to Los Angeles, he became aware of the modern-day equivalent of that with guys who’d drive 120 miles per hour with multiple scanners. The rest is history.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom Character Was Inspired By Nocturnal Animals Like Coyotes

Throughout Nightcrawler, Lou Bloom acts more and more like a coyote in that he’s very lean, always hungry, and never fully satisfied with what he’s given. In an October 2014 interview with IndieWire, Dan Gilroy said he always imagined Bloom as the “symbolic equivalent to a nocturnal animal” that comes out of the shadows and looks for his next meal, which in this case is a violent act to sell local news stations.

The director also stated that Jake Gyllenhaal liked the idea of his character taking on the characteristics of a coyote, adding that the actor transformed himself both physically and mentally when approaching the character.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Bill Paxton in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Gyllenhaal And Gilroy Rode Around With A ‘Nightcrawler’ When Prepping For The Movie

When preparing for the movie, Jake Gyllenhaal and Dan Gilroy rode around with a real-life “Nightcrawler” named Howard Raishbrook late at night in Los Angeles and watched him go about his business. In a New Yorker profile on the film, Gilroy recalled one night when they came across a “horrific car accident” where three young girls had been ejected onto the street. The director went on to detail that after Raishbrook got a shot of the accident professionally and aesthetically from behind a fire truck, another stringer ran down saying that they had missed an even better shot from the overpass looking down on the scene.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Gyllenhaal Primarily Ate Kale Salad And Chewing Gum, And Ran 15 Miles A Day To Create Lou’s Look

Jake Gyllenhaal is noticeably thin and wiry and disheveled in Nightcrawler, and a lot of that has to do with the way in which he prepared for the role. In an October 2014 Entertainment Weekly profile on the actor and his unnerving performance, it was revealed that he lost almost 30 pounds before the start of production thanks to a diet of kale salad and chewing gum. 

Gyllenhaal also ran 15 miles a day, which had an impact on his mental state as he would start to have “strange fantasies of being one with the animals,” specifically coyotes miles into these extended jogs through Los Angeles.

Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Nightcrawler Was Shot On Film During The Day, Digital At Night

You could argue that the day and night scenes in Nightcrawler look and feel like two completely different movies, and there’s a reason for that. When speaking with the San Diego Reader in October 2014, cinematographer Robert Elswit revealed that day sequences were shot on film while everything at night was on digital. Elswit, who won an Oscar for his work on There Will Be Blood, went on to explain that shooting digitally at night saved a great deal of time and money as the medium doesn’t require massive lighting installations like film.

Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Riz Ahmed Spent Time On Skid Row And In Homeless Shelters To Better Play Rick

Riz Ahmed’s Rick, a desperate homeless man who becomes Lou Bloom’s assistant, is perhaps one of the most tragic characters in Nightcrawler, and the actor went through a lot to prepare for the role. In a November 2014 interview with the Scotsman, the actor talked about how he spent time on Los Angeles’ Skid Row and various homeless shelters throughout the area to get a better understanding of “the system.” In his research, Ahmed learned that a lot of the people in those situations have unhealed trauma from abusive relationships or abandonment issues, insight that he was able to use to bring out more in his character.

Rene Russo in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Rene Russo Channeled Her Own Fears And Memories When Portraying Nina Romina

Rene Russo’s portrayal of KWLA 6 morning news director, Nina Romina, is a major part of Nightcrawler and the effectiveness of its story. And while she had trouble initially getting into the mindset of such an intense character, Russo found a way to get into the role by channeling her own fears and memories of being ashamed by her actions. 

When speaking with the Independent ahead of the film’s release, Russo said she looked back on times in her own life where she “crossed boundaries” and different things she’s been ashamed of over the years. However, she didn’t disclose the exact memories or actions channeled for the part. 

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Lou Bloom Craigslist, LinkedIn, and Twitter Accounts Were Created And Used As Marketing Tools

There have been a lot of inventive marketing tools used to promote movies over the years, but the team behind Nightcrawler’s publicity took things to the next level. In the leadup to the film’s October 2014 debut, Open Road Films, who handled the theatrical release, shared the first video of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom on Craigslist where the stringer was searching for employment, according to TheWrap. A few months later, IndieWire reported that profiles for Bloom popped up on LinkedIn and Twitter where the character presented himself as the CEO at Video News Production, his business in the movie.

Hopefully these behind-the-scenes facts give you a greater understanding and appreciation of Nightcrawler and all the work that went into bringing the movie to life. After checking out these stories, now would be a good time to watch the 2014 psychological thriller, which is streaming for free on Plex. 

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