WHAT I’VE LEARNED
ACTRESS Maggie Gyllenhaal, 36, starred in the Batman film and has been nominated twice for Golden Globes for her roles in and
She stars as Nessa Stein in TV series She lives in New York with her husband, actor Peter Sarsgaard, and their two daughters. Here she reflects on her life and career,
CHARRED ants taste like lemon. My husband and I went to Noma in Copenhagen recently, which is “the best restaurant in the world”. At one point I was given a live langoustine, then raw beef with charred ants on it. They were delicious — much easier for me to eat than the langoustine. I’m not equipped to judge that kind of food, but I was curious. Peter and I hadn’t been alone together in weeks, but we had this one night. It was an emotional, alive experience.
It’s such a relief when you allow yourself to be a human being. In your 20s, you have a fantasy of who you are supposed to be. My 30s, so far, have been about letting go of that. I RECENTLY found out that the name on my birth certificate is Margalit. My parents didn’t remember what they put down. Margalit is a beautiful name, but it’s not mine. I’ve lived my life as Maggie. At the same time, it’s interesting to have a primary source from the day I was born: one name was written down, then crossed out, and another written in. BE curious . It is the opposite of being judgmental, whether that’s judging yourself, which I cer- tainly do, or judging others, which I’m guilty of sometimes. It kills human interaction. THERE are parts of us that are beautiful and parts of us that are ugly. I’m trying to embrace the ugly parts. ASK for help. I remember working with Oliver Stone on World Trade Center. We’d had a morning of really good work and I was feeling great. Then Oliver came up to me after lunch and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” It hurt and I just said, “OK. Can you help me?” He was surprised I had asked him and then he said, “I give you the power of Zeus.” Great, OK, I’ll take it. But the lesson is in the experience we had together. He told me the truth, I asked him for help, he gave me the power of Zeus and then we were friends. I’M braver with my work than I am in life. I take lessons from my experiences. A few years ago Peter and I appeared together on stage in Chekhov’s Three Sisters and it taught me a lot about love. I played Masha, who loves Vershinin, although he is flawed, but so is she. She loves him anyway. It was a relief to discover that all the darkness in every relationship between two human beings, and certainly in the relationship between me and my husband, is valuable. That’s where love is. IF you see an injustice in the world, it’s your responsibility to speak out about it. But you have to say it in a way that will make people listen. When I was young I made a comment about 9/11 that made so many people angry. (Gyllenhaal suggested America had, in some part, a responsibility for the attacks.) What was the point? If you have a platform to say something, you need to do it in a way that will make people hear you. In America if I were to say on a chat show some of the things that my character Nessa in The Honourable Woman says about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so many would shut down and stop hearing me. I don’t know why it is, but the show is able to say things that people would not otherwise accept. People are hearing it. I LIVE by EM Forster’s quote: “Only connect”. I don’t always succeed, but I’m striving for it.