Jake Gyllenhaal, the Face of Prada Luna Rossa Ocean, on His Career, His Craft, and the Best Advice He Ever Got

Jake Gyllenhaal needs no introduction. The 40-year-old actor, producer, and former Sharp cover star has starred in more than 60 films alongside Hollywoods most celebrated filmmakers. But now he’s taking on a new role: his first-ever advertising campaign, for Prada Luna Rossa Ocean, the Italian brand’s new men’s fragrance.

Artisanal craftsmanship meets cutting-edge technology to create a masculine, fresh fragrance that nods to the open waters. The fragrance’s materials and design recall the sleek design and advanced craftsmanship of extreme sailing boats, projecting strength and sophistication. The bottle is lacquered in a blue gradient — a nod to the surface of the sea — and the iconic Prada red line symbolizes the brand’s commitment to innovation and excellence. An elegant, night-black cap is finished with a red dot, a symbolic reference to luna rossa, the red moon. The scent is formulated using a high-tech process called molecular distillation, which ensures the selection of the finest molecules, for an entirely made-to-measure fragrance with a clean, woody vetiver note. 

Gyllenhaal is a natural fit to front the fragrance campaign. A lifelong adventurer — he grew up sailing with his uncle — Gyllenhaal’s rugged charm telegraphs strength, intellect, and a quiet intensity that radiates on and offscreen. Here, he talks about committing to his craft, the best advice he ever got, and how the Prada partnership came about.

What are your first memories of fragrance? 

I think you can wear it as an everyday [fragrance]. There’s a sense that it’s about adventure, an active quality. I feel that the campaign is about movement and adventure and not just [the] sort of adventure out into the world but an adventure internally. I think the ocean represents that – the ocean is awe-inspiring but also terrifying because it’s the ultimate unknown and, hopefully, that’s what you venture into every day. It’s not just about the fancy or special occasions, it’s about how you treat yourself on a daily basis.

What is it about Prada that you connect with?

There are so many things about it [the brand] that just felt like it was the right match for me. For instance, take the Luna Rossa itself, the boat, it’s this spectacular work of art. When you see it, it’s all these things that you see, it’s black it’s matte. It’s just gangster. It’s awesome. Then you see what it can actually do – it’s like a HyperFoil on the sea that harnesses the power of wind and water and travels at speeds that risks people’s lives to win races. That is the epitome of what Prada is – there is a sense of serious technology, where they’re not messing around, of serious design where they’re not messing around, and they’re down to win. I think that they’re down to take risks in trying to do, which means they’re also recognizing that there’s the possibility of failure. I think as a brand there’s no real way to have design push the boundaries if you don’t have that mentality. Everything they do has that idea. In a world where we [are constantly considering] risk management I think to have a brand that says go out and takes risks, but use a rational mind to do it, is super inspiring.

What’s your relationship like to the sea?

I grew up around the ocean, I grew up sailing, my uncle was an avid sailor. He passed a decade ago. Every time I’m on a sailboat I’m reminded of him. Even in the hard times with his health [or in] his life, sailing was just such a freeing time for him.

And so, I grew up around the ocean and I am in awe of it, but I am also terrified of it. I love scuba diving [and] what’s so interesting about that for me is I can be so scared of going under the water but as soon as [I’m] under it’s just a whole different feeling, I’m never so calm. I love the ocean.

There’s a real sense that you’ve devoted yourself to the craft of acting. What keeps you inspired?

I just really respect the craft and I think that there is one. [I think that’s] the only way to maintain a semblance of sanity because it’s an odd job. Let’s be frank: to perform something or to perform words is not the same as to write them or create them and it takes a certain type of immaturity to do that. I think that craft is where the maturity meets the immaturity. It’s necessary and its work, it keeps you sane. You can intellectualize it; you can use your mind for work that can easily be dismissed. That’s why I like the craft.

There’s a great joy I get, particularly from being on stage, like I’ve found my place. I wish it for everyone that they find their place. I thought for a long time that it was the attention that you get from that place but it’s not [like that] for me. I have just always loved being in that space, that’s what motivates me. I like being a professional, you know? When you’re a professional it requires a consistency. I remember a chef saying, the difference between an amateur chef and a professional chef is that the amateur chef can cook three great steaks and then like four or five bad ones. I have to cook exactly the same every single night for each table and I love that type of precision. That’s what motivates me – the precision, [the] dedication and [the] study.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

There was a moment where I was working with an actor [when] I was young, I was 16. You know, there’s nothing like fight scene, it’s like the best. Not the fighting but like the yelling, you know? That’s acting! When I read the scene earlier on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. [When] I came into the scene I was yelling and doing my stuff and I remember this wonderful actor coming up to me and stopping me after the second take and just saying to me I just need you to listen to me, just listen to what I am saying to you. And I was like ‘okay, great’, I thought it was great but like okay.

So when I came into the scene I said I’m going to take this time to focus and listen and when he started saying things, he actually started to get me angry. I was like what’s that? That’s real. Then, all of a sudden, the scene shifted into a place that felt alive, that felt like people could hear it and actually relate to it. It just changed everything. Him saying to me “Just listen to me, listen to what I’m saying to you” I have to say it was the best advice I’ve ever gotten, which was “Just listen”. [and] that was Chris Cooper who gave me that advice.

How do you best prepare for roles now that you’ve been given that advise? If you even prepare for roles.

I do sometimes and sometimes I don’t. I do sometimes very intensely and sometimes I don’t. I think the key is that if you’re curious other people will give you so much. Other people will have the answer. So, that’s been very helpful for me. If you’re working with people that you really respect nothing is ever criticism, it’s just another idea. That’s the way I kind of approach it. I think you have to find certain like-minded people and that’s very helpful. Even if you don’t agree at least there’s something your instinct tells you that is correct about the connection.

Finally, how did the partnership come to be?

Prada approached me and told me their idea of what they wanted to do with the fragrance, it was really that simple. Something in me just said yes, that feels right. It feels right because, frankly, you can speak about it because you’re aligned. That’s how I feel with Prada, we’re aligned. I approach my work in a similar way, I believe that rational thought is very important, I trust the science. But, as you can tell from this interview, I also have a ridiculously convoluted, abstract mind.

Prada Luna Rossa Ocean
Prada Luna Rossa Ocean, $95. prada.com