Maggie Gyllenhaal on Becoming a Director, The Deuce and Collecting Louise Bourgeois

Also, the star is a big David Byrne fan.

Montblanc x The Webster Collaboration Launch Event
Brian Ach

Maggie Gyllenhaal may have just wrapped up her final season starring as Candy on The Deuce, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been keeping herself busy with other things.

Take, for example, the fact that she’s working on her film directorial debut. It is an adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel “The Lost Daughter.”

And, this past week, Gyllenhaal was also the guest of honor at the launch party for Montblanc and The Webster’s first limited edition collaboration: a pink-hued fountain pen and stationary set. The actress was handpicked for the soiree by Montblanc’s creative director, Zaim Kamal. “Like Montblanc, she has this idea of exploring new territory in her work,” says Kamal. “She pushes herself, she’s never in a safe zone.”

At The Webster, Gyllenhaal spoke to W online about working as a director for the very first time, what it was like to play Candy (her longest standing role ever), and her dream art piece.

You just wrapped up the final season of The Deuce. What was that like?

I’d never worked on anything for so long, where I knew everyone so well. It was over four years of work. I was playing a character that I had created over all of those years and it was just heaven. I miss it already.

In The Deuce, you played Candy, a sex worker turned pornography director. What was the most challenging part of playing that role?

It was always a challenge. Every single day was a challenge. I was just always defending her. It was such a pleasure but it was a lot of work, and I think it’s very hard when you’re so involved and then it ends. There’d be a week where I wouldn’t play Candy at all, and then I’d have to pop in and play her for three intense days and then have another four days off. I actually think it’s sort of counterintuitive to do things that way, but there’s also the argument of going into the tunnel and doing it. Sometimes, I just turn into her. Especially if someone wants to fight!

You’re working on directing a film adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s book “The Lost Daughter.” What is it like making that transition from actress to director?

It is incredibly invigorating and terrifying at the same time.

What’s the first thing you read in the morning?

My phone. That’s the truth. Right now, I’m working on a movie in Israel. So I often wake up in the morning to really juicy information about the project, because they’ve all been up for hours at that point. Specifically, I go on WhatsApp, which is what I use to communicate with my team there.

How do you get your news?

I have a combination of ways of getting my news. I have the Guardian app on my phone. I try not to look at my Guardian app more than twice a day. When we’re on long car rides, we catch up on the Intercept, which is the Jeremy Scahill podcast. My husband Peter listens to Democracy Now, basically every day, and fills me in on things that the mainstream news isn’t covering.

What books are on your bedside table?

I am reading Jane Eyre, which I’ve never read! Even though I was a literature major in college. I have huge gaps. I became curious about the book because I saw a couple of scenes from Cary Fukunaga’s movie and I just picked it up and started reading it and I love it. I read all of the Rachel Cusk trilogy. I loved that. In two days. And, the new Elena Ferrante novel is coming out soon. I’m very excited for that.

What are your favorite social media accounts to follow?

I like Alison Roman and Food 52. I like lots of food ones. I like Yelena Yemchuk, she’s our friend. A great one is Veteranas And Rucas. It’s mostly pictures from the 90s. I like this woman, Studio54Laura, she posts these old pictures of old movie stuff. I don’t know where she gets her material from. That’s a great one.

What’s the last thing you Googled on your phone?

The truth is not that exciting! I was looking at some Ikea dressers.

What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?

The last movie I saw, which I loved so much is Happy as Lazzaro. I’d never seen anything like it. Before that, it was The Irishman. I loved it. But Lazzaro was kind of like mind blowing.

What podcasts have you been into lately?

Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History. I know there are so many cool ones out there. Again, I love The Intercept.

What’s the last song you had on repeat?

Rosalia’s Flamenco album. I listened to the whole thing on repeat. But I also love that Broadway show, American Utopia from David Byrne. Peter and I were listening to David Byrne’s new album because we really loved the show.

What’s the last concert you went to?

David Byrne’s American Utopia show was really a concert. I mean, no question about it. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve been a Talking Heads fan since I heard them. The show gave this sense of being totally aware of how fucked up the world is at the moment, but also a feeling hopeful at the same time.

What’s the last piece of art you bought or ogled?

I bought a very small woodcut from Louise Bourgeois, but that was a very long time ago. I just bought a Charles Harbutt photograph called “Blind Boy” for Peter for his birthday. I really wanted to buy Louis Bourgeois’ an example of psychoanalytic writings. They’re on pink paper, with the phrase “I want” repeated over and over again. I also loved the John Currin porn series. He painted these almost Renaissance classics, but in poses from pornographic media.

Are you into astrology at all?

I know nothing about astrology, but when someone goes off on it, I’m interested.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?

I don’t know that that’s consistent. Right before I go to bed, I leave things open.

Webster Founder & Creative Director Laure Hériard Dubreuil, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, and Montblanc Creative Director Zaim Kamal attend the Montblanc x The Webster Collaboration Launch Event at The Webster on November 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Montblanc)

Brian Ach