Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners) is building a reputation for moulding himself into whatever role he plays. Having initially dropped weight for the spindly Leo Bloom in Nightcrawler (2014), Gyllenhaal has packed on on pounds to play boxer Billy Hope in Fuqua's boxing drama Southpaw.
According to Fuqua, it was all part of redefining how people see the actor. "Jake is going to change how people see him," he says. "I had him training twice a day in the boxing ring, he did two-a-days seven days a week. I pretty much had him with me and my trainer every day. I took him to almost every fight. I had him train at Floyd Mayweather's gym in Vegas and we watched Floyd's fights, and the Manny Pacquiao fight. He trained in New York at Church Gym with real fighters. We literally turned him into a beast... I'm confident that this will change how people see Jake, as a leading man." From a purely visual aesthetic, it seems to have paid off, even if, as Fuqua reports, it apparently led to Gyllenhaal breaking off a relationship to dedicate himself to training.
Southpaw finds Gyllenhaal as Billy 'The Great' Hope, the reigning junior middleweight boxing champ whose trademark Southpaw stance is a brutal, powerful style of fighting. He is driven by an ever present need for fame, money and love even while blessed with a wonderful family in Rachel McAdams (Midnight In Paris) as his wife Maureen and Clare Foley (Sinister) as daughter Alice. But then tragedy strikes and he faces losing everything. He will have to start punching his weight, and not just in the ring. Can he make a comeback?
Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter wrote the original script, though Fuqua brought in The Equalizer (2014) collaborator Richard Wenk to polish it.
From the looks of this, Fuqua has gone all out in the fighting scenes and hired a capable cast that also includes Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Naomie Harris (Skyfall), 50 Cent (Escape Plan) and Beau Knapp (Super 8) to handle the rest.
Southpaw will hit UK cinemas on 31 July.