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The Makings of an Action Hero
Jack Gyllenhaal Leads a Powerful Cast

What qualities make a hero? The role of Dastan required an actor who could be multi-layered: dashing in the classic-movie mode; wily, with a sense of raffish fun; burdened with the underlying gravitas of poverty; and driven to become a better man. Jake Gyllenhaal had already demonstrated his serious acting chops in such films as David Fincher's "Zodiac,” Sam Mendes' "Jarhead” and Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain,” which brought Gyllenhaal an Academy Award® nomination and a BAFTA Award.

"Jake Gyllenhaal is an actor that I've been watching and wanted to work with for a very long time,” says producer Jerry Bruckheimer. "He's a wonderful actor, exceedingly handsome and a great gentleman. Jake is also incredibly dedicated. He did an amazing job training himself for ‘Prince of Persia,' putting on an enormous amount of muscle—fight training, sword-fighting, parkour training, horse-riding. And he continued to work out and train every single day of the more than 100-day shoot.”

Adds director Mike Newell: "Jake has a man-of-the-people quality. He's curious, open, gentle, very tough, and has great comic abilities, and in ‘Prince of Persia,' he uses all of that. I saw pretty much everything he had made and thought him a marvelous actor, with terrific charisma. But what I didn't know about Jake was that he would be an absolutely God-given action hero. He can fight, hold a sword, run, clamber, jump and ride a horse as if he were glued to the back of it. And that I didn't expect. It's no small thing.”

Gyllenhaal also received a ringing endorsement from the man who created the prince: Jordan Mechner. "Any time you have a character that an audience has connected to through another medium, whether it's a novel or a video game, people are going to have strong feelings about it,” says Mechner. "But I think that if you have a good actor and a good movie, then after the first minute it's no longer an issue. I think Jake is a fantastic choice for the role. Once you see him in costume and in action, you have no doubt that he is a prince in sixth century Persia. He's strong, heroic, humorous, sensitive and vulnerable, and you have no doubt he's going to do the right thing.”

When offered the role by Bruckheimer and Newell, Gyllenhaal was overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the project. "‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' was just so different from anything that I had been involved in,” says Gyllenhaal. "I thought that creating an iconic character like Dastan could be both fun and a huge challenge. I've always loved movies in which the hero has the capability to do almost anything, but still be a human being, and not a superman.

"The development of the character was massively physical at first,” Gyllenhaal continues, "getting in shape and learning parkour, sword-fighting and the mentality of a warrior. I knew that if I got through that, I'd be halfway there. And when it was decided that Dastan would speak in a standard British accent to be consistent with the rest of the performers, I worked hard at that as well with a dialect coach named Barbara Berkery.”

After a worldwide search, Gemma Arterton was summoned by to star as Tamina in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” "Gemma is a wonderful young actress whom we found in London—a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts,” says Bruckheimer. "She had a small part in ‘Quantum of Solace,' and we cast her before that picture hit the big screen, so we feel very fortunate that we got in on the ground floor, because she's been turning a lot of heads ever since the Bond film was released. Gemma is going to be a really big star.”

Adds Newell: "What I loved about her is that—and long may she retain the quality— Gemma has none of those layers of artifice, defense and arroganc

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