LONDON (Reuters) - A bulked-up Jake Gyllenhaal has moved from dark, edgy roles to big budget action adventure in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” a movie that could succeed the hit “Pirates” franchise as Disney’s next big thing.
While the 29-year-old, Oscar-nominated actor is being typically coy about future plans, Gyllenhaal said in an interview that he was ready to return to the role of a swashbuckling 6th century Persian prince.
Prince of Persia, based on the popular video game which first appeared in 1989, premieres in London on Sunday and hits theatres in late May.
“Of course, if there’s an opportunity to do another one and people respond to it,” Gyllenhaal told Reuters in an interview to promote the movie, when asked if he envisaged the film as part of a series.
“I don’t think that’s really on our mind. I think our mind is to get this one out. But of course, it would be an honor. If an audience asks for a sequel, then that’s an honor,” added the actor, who trained hard for demanding stunt and fight sequences.
The three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films to date, starring Johnny Depp, are a hard act to follow, having grossed $2.7 billion at the global box office.
Industry followers see an additional challenge in that big-screen adaptations of video games have struggled to meet expectations. Estimates of Prince of Persia’s production budget range from $150-200 million.
Gyllenhaal is braced for a rough ride from followers of the Prince of Persia game series, which he played as a young boy.
“I know ... this will not appease all gamers, and I know there is a lot of skepticism about the translation of a video game to a movie, but I also feel excited that I think we’ve done something that’s better than any of the translations that have come out thus far.
“These games haven’t been given the respect they deserve in the movie world and I think (producer) Jerry (Bruckheimer) has done that and I think that we tried so hard to make it our own and at the same time stay true to the games.
“They (gamers) are tough, and I appreciate that. I come from a tough family. I don’t mind tough critics.”
Gyllenhaal cut his acting teeth as a troubled outsider in smaller-budget movies which won him critical acclaim.
“Donnie Darko” (2001) is considered by some to be his breakthrough, while “Brokeback Mountain” earned him his sole Academy Award nomination and a BAFTA award in Britain.
He was linked with several action hero parts in the past, notably Spider-Man and Batman films, but it was Prince of Persia which finally brought him into the Hollywood mainstream.
“I think it was about time I stopped taking myself so seriously,” the actor said, when asked why he had followed the likes of Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. into action movies.
“When I was a little younger, and I did start (acting) so young, I think you tend to try and be a little bit more of what you think other people might want or what people might consider to be interesting.
“And then I think I found that I’ve just decided to do what I find interesting. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do films that are darker later on,” he added.
In Prince of Persia Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a boy adopted by King Sharaman who becomes embroiled in a quest to protect a magic dagger that can access the legendary Sands of Time, capable of turning back time.
Directed by Mike Newell and starring Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina and Gemma Arterton, the movie features battles, chases, plenty of special effects and light-hearted dialogue.
Gyllenhaal said he looked back far into Hollywood history for inspiration.
“I like to think of this as a little bit more Errol Flynn in a way, I’ve always thought of it that way and I was always inspired by him in this movie.”
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato