How a Coyote and Real-Life News Stringer Helped Jake Gyllenhaal Prepare for 'Nightcrawler' Role

PHOTO: Jake Gyllenhaal is seen in this undated still from the film "Nightcrawler."PlayOpen Road Films
WATCH Jake Gyllenhaal's Grueling 'Nightcrawler' Transformation

Hollywood’s latest movie inspiration has been drawn from horrific, high-speed, heart-stopping, caught-on-tape moments.

In “Nightcrawler,” which is in theaters nationwide on Friday, Jake Gyllenhaal plays the man behind the camera, a hungry freelancer named Lou Bloom who hopes to make it big by capturing the exclusive on film and peddling it to a local TV station.

“He’s part of a generation of people who are looking for jobs in a world where jobs are redefining themselves,” Gyllenhall said. “He’s a thief, a sort of petty thief at the beginning at the movie. He runs across this accident scene and he sees these stringers, these guys who film accidents and crimes and stuff for the local news, and he finds his calling in an instant.”

To become Lou Bloom, Gyllenhaal drew inspiration from one of Southern California’s nocturnal creatures.

“I wanted him to look like a coyote,” he said. “And in order to do that, I had to look hungry and be hungry.”

Gyllenhaal meant that literally. He lost nearly 30 pounds for the role by eating a diet of kale salads and running regularly.

"I would do this loop, this 10-mile loop… and I would picture myself as sort of a coyote, like I was running with my brethren,” Gyllenhaal said, laughing. “The sort of transformation that I went through to play this character is very different from many of the roles that I played in the past. It was a physical one, it was a mental one.”

Gyllenhaal's pre-production research included heading out after dark with a man named Howard Raishbrook, a real-life Los Angeles “nightcrawler” who has spent the past 15 years roaming the streets and selling his video.

Gyllenhaal and “Nightcrawler” director Dan Gilroy found Raisbrook after the Lou Bloom character was written, but he still gave them a heavy dose of reality when he allowed them to come along with him.

"The first thing he said was, ‘Do you guys want the bullet... proof vests or not, because you get shot at a lot,” Gilroy said. “We were racing at 100 miles an hour and we arrived at a car accident in which three young women has been ejected from a car, and it was very horrible, bloody, violent scene… and Howard, very professionally, got out his camera and filmed it and cut it together.”

In his down time, Raishbrook hangs out in a parking lot with easy access to the highway to wait for breaking news. He works with his younger brother Marc too so that they can fan out over more territory.

“Gold is getting something like a crash on tape,” Howard Raishbrook told “Nightline.” “Say you get a huge pile-up on the freeway. We will go to minor crashes on the freeway and sometimes we’re there before the CHP manages to block the freeway and we get cars piling into everything. And that’s worth a bit of money.”

Raishbrook served as the technical advisor on the “Nightcrawler” film, helping to translate the complicated language of emergency scanners, among other things. He also said he is somewhat misunderstood. He doesn’t consider himself a “nightcrawler” or “paparazzi” but a “news stringer.”

In “Nightcrawler's” fictionalized, over-the-top plotline, Gyllenhaal’s character Lou Bloom stops at nothing to get the money shot, and doesn’t hesitate to violate all sorts of professional and legal codes, such as drag a body to a different spot.

In reality, Raishbrook said he doesn’t cross those lines, saying, “There are a few laws we would break. We have to get to the scene of things quite fast. We do go over the speed limit sometimes. We are very, very safe though.”

As filming progressed, Gyllenhaal said he found himself identifying more and more with all of the different shades of his character.

“There are pieces of me that are in Lou,” he said. “[We’re] a generation… that’s been raised with, which is sort of ‘success at any cost.’ That ambition is admired. But-- at the same time, I think it can be very easily misused.”

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