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Gyllenhaal's father, who was raised as a Swedenborgian, is of Swedish and English descent, and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family.
On his 13th birthday, Gyllenhaal performed a "barmitzvah-like act, without the typical trappings", volunteering at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to give him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle.
Also for Brokeback Mountain, he and Ledger won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Kiss" in 2006.
Shortly after the 2006 Academy Awards, Gyllenhaal was invited to join the Academy in recognition of his acting career.
For Nightcrawler, his performance was widely acclaimed and received rave reviews from critics and he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, his older sister, appeared with him in the film Donnie Darko.
Directed by Richard Kelly, the film is set in 1988 and stars Gyllenhaal as a troubled teenager who experiences visions of a 6-foot (1.8 m) tall rabbit named Frank who tells him that the world is coming to an end.
Gyllenhaal said his parents encouraged artistic expression: "I do have parents who constantly supported me in certain ways. Definitely, it's in expression and creativity where my family has always been best at." As a child, Gyllenhaal was regularly exposed to filmmaking due to his family's deep ties to the industry.
He made his acting debut as Billy Crystal's son in the 1991 comedy film City Slickers.
You know it's flattering when there's a rumor that says I'm bisexual. Gyllenhaal starred opposite Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and Reese Witherspoon in the October 2007 release Rendition, a Gavin Hood-directed political thriller about the U. The film was released on September 21, 2012 and received positive reviews, with Roger Ebert saying that "End of Watch is one of the best police movies in recent years, a virtuoso fusion of performances and often startling action", and Salon.com's Andrew O'Hehir stating that the film was "at least the best cop movie since James Gray's We Own the Night, and very likely since Antoine Fuqua's memorable Training Day (which, not coincidentally, was written by Ayer)".
The first of films to be released, the thriller Prisoners, starred Gyllenhaal as a detective named Loki in search of the abductor of two young girls, one of which is fathered by Hugh Jackman's character.