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Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway get touchy-feely

Anne Hathaway vividly recalls the first time she made out with Jake Gyllenhaal: It was on the set of 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” in which the actress played the neglected wife to Gyllenhaal’s smitten cowboy, and they were filming a steamy tryst in the back seat of a car.


FOR THE RECORD:
“Love & Other Drugs”: An article in the Nov. 21 Calendar section about Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway’s love scenes in “Love & Other Drugs” said the movie was being released Nov. 26. It opens Nov. 24. —


“Jake had touched me everywhere except my boob,” says Hathaway, patting her chest as the pair sits together to discuss their new film, the upcoming romantic dramedy “Love & Other Drugs,” which opens in theaters Friday. “We did it very methodically: I would cover, they’d bring me a towel, I’d get out of the car, go behind a screen and get redressed. All of a sudden I hear a throat clear from behind the screen. It’s Jake. ‘Ah, Annie, so the thing is, in this scene, if it was really you and me in the car, I just think that, you know, ah, can I touch your boob?’”

“And … I don’t think you asked me this time,” says Hathaway, turning to her screen partner to tease him about his behavior during the many loves scenes they shot for their new project and laughing uproariously.

“I already asked. Your offer was still good,” Gyllenhaal says with a shrug.

It’s difficult to watch “Love & Other Drugs,” a film about a young couple struggling to build a relationship in the mid-1990s, without being struck by the number of times Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are called upon to bare it all for the cameras. It’s just not that often that you see two Oscar-nominated actors strip for sex scenes in a mainstream studio movie.

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But the nudity, they insist, was never intended to be cheap or exploitative, an easy way to lure jaded moviegoers into theaters — though the movie’s poster captures the actors in playful buff repose. Instead, it was a purposeful effort on the part of the actors and co-writer-director Ed Zwick to go beyond romantic comedy conventions and authentically depict every aspect of young love.

“We wanted to push it,” Gyllenhaal says. “One of those avenues was when the sheets come off, you don’t cover your breast, you don’t cover a part of your body after you’ve slept with someone you’re falling in love with five or six times.”

Adapted from Jamie Reidy’s memoir “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman,” “Love & Other Drugs” centers on Gyllenhaal’s Jamie Randall, a charming, rakish bachelor with little career direction who falls into the go-go days of pharmaceutical sales just as Viagra is turning into a national phenomenon. Unexpectedly, he falls for Hathaway’s Maggie Murdock, a free-spirited artist whose recent Parkinson’s diagnosis puts finding a boyfriend last on her to-do list. As Jamie’s career in the unregulated world of the drug game takes off, Maggie is chaperoning trips for senior citizens to Canada to buy pharmaceuticals on the cheap. (Although Viagra manufacturer Pfizer is prominently featured in the story, the company was not involved in the making of the film.)

The fact that the film touched on such au courant healthcare debate fodder is exactly why Gyllenhaal — an outspoken progressive who campaigned for Barack Obama — was so eager to sign on. “It’s in the same family of all the movies I love,” he says over a late-afternoon snack at the Four Seasons Hotel. “‘Jerry Maguire,’ ‘Terms of Endearment,’ the movies that have a sense of life and a sense of humor.”

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“Love & Other Drugs” also offered Gyllenhaal, 29, the antidote he craved after shooting the high-octane Jerry Bruckheimer-produced videogame adaptation “Prince of Persia.” “I was desperate for character interaction, for scenes that were intimate, where I could spend a lot of time talking,” Gyllenhaal says. “I loved the action and jumping around, but I get a different kind of action in this one.”

Gyllenhaal had followed the long-gestating project for years, but it wasn’t until he read the most current draft of the screenplay from Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz that he knew he had to do it. “By the end of the script I was crying,” Gyllenhaal says. “I thought, ‘This is it, I will do anything to do this movie.’ It just moved me from the start. Then I had to convince Ed.”

Zwick tells a different story, saying he wanted Gyllenhaal all along. Calling from London, the Academy Award-winning helmer says, “There were so many aspects of Jake in a room that I hadn’t seen on film: charm, charisma and wit. It’s a great thing as a director when you can give audiences a side of an actor they haven’t yet seen on-screen.”

Hathaway’s response to the script was more reserved. Daintily sipping tea, the slender actress speaks of a complex character who could tip into stereotype if not handled correctly. “You take a look at a young woman with a disease and there is always the fear that this is going to be the ‘disease of the week’ film,” she says. “I didn’t want to make that, for obvious reasons.”

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Rather, Hathaway, who spent time with Parkinson’s patients and neurologists and read Michael J. Fox’s book on living with the disorder as part of her preparation, tried to reconcile the psychological trauma that accompanies the diagnosis with this seemingly liberated artist’s bohemian approach to life.

“I wanted to find a way to have a girl who was free-spirited, intelligent, sexually unencumbered,” she says. “But I thought it would be very easy to take all those things I just described and turn her into a male fantasy. I wasn’t interested in that. I wanted to relate to her as a woman, and I wanted girls to relate to her too.”

Before filming began, she, Gyllenhaal and Zwick spent weeks rehearsing, a process that altered the story line from what Gyllenhaal calls “a guy who changes because he falls in love with a girl” to a story “about two people being changed by love.”

Of course, Zwick and company are attempting to breathe life into a genre that’s been gasping for air for some time. In the past few months, some of the leading rom-com stalwarts of our age — Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl — have had a tough time mustering mammoth box-office receipts with such films as “Eat Pray Love,” “The Switch” and “Life as We Know it,” and more recently, actress Rachel McAdams couldn’t turn the “Broadcast News” update “Morning Glory” into a hit, despite a relentlessly perky performance that received warm critical notices.

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It’s telling, too, that every studio in town initially turned down the project, even after Gyllenhaal and Hathaway had signed on. It was only after the actors and Zwick agreed to cut their fees that Fox 2000 greenlighted the $30 million film, according to the director.

It’s impossible to know how “Love & Other Drugs” ultimately will fare with audiences, but the movie’s marketers certainly haven’t shied away from playing up the sultry side of the story when trying to capture the attention of potential filmgoers. As for that shot on the movie’s racy poster, it originally was a threesome, with Zwick in the center — he asked Hathaway and Gyllenhaal to take the photo as a souvenir of their work together but his image was removed thanks to the magic of Photoshop. “As usual, the director gets cut out,” he joked.

“The spontaneity of that photograph is the essence of what we made this movie about,” Gyllenhaal says. “Not just that it’s a picture of us naked, but that photograph shows the utmost intimacy between me, Annie and Ed. That it’s the poster for the movie is crazy. It’s perfect, really.”

“I just thought it was rad,” Hathaway adds. “I have not seen a poster like this, maybe ever. And I found it intriguing and sexy and I wanted to see more.”

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But even Hathaway, who recently completed another romantic comedy, “One Day,” based on the best-selling novel by British author David Nicholls, wants a break from the genre. “I don’t want to focus on romance for awhile,” said Hathaway. “I think I’ve exhausted that muscle.”

The striking brunet says she’s ready to conquer other worlds; in fact, she says she’s just a little bit envious of Gyllenhaal’s most recent job, on the upcoming sci-fi movie “Source Code,” with Vera Farmiga, due out next year. “I want to fly a spaceship,” Hathaway says. “And I want to shoot a laser into some intergalactic goop.”

nicole.sperling@latimes.com


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