The Hot Seat: Maggie Gyllenhaal

The actor and activist—and Jake's big sis—has godly power as she starts an Off Broadway Three Sisters.

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Illustration: Dan Park


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Three Sisters is a return to Chekhov for you, right?
Yeah, we did Uncle Vanya, like, two years ago.

Is it a bummer, all that bleak, fatalistic Russian stuff?
It's funny; the thing about Chekhov is that the stakes are so high, and people need things so deeply. It's ecstatic and it's also, you know, desperately sad.

Is it going to be weird to pretend to fall in love with your own husband, Peter Sarsgaard, since he plays your lover?
Umm...[Laughs] It's what happened last time, too. I think it will be easier than having to pretend to fall in love with someone who I'm not actually in love with.

The two of you are a Brooklyn power couple. Are there any parts of Park Slope that you can't handle?
I don't know, I don't want to talk bad about Park Slope.

Not even talk smack about the Park Slope Food Coop? That's the go-to for complaining.
I think I'd better not. I think I'd have an army after me if I did that.

You just finished filming Hysteria; how did that go?
I think it could be great! You know, it's about the invention of the vibrator.

Were you very mature on set or were there orgasm jokes?
I never got to use the vibrator! Maybe I should have volunteered. There were some really great actresses who were playing the women who—well, their doctor had to give them an orgasm. I was talking with Hugh Dancy, who played the doctor, about it. He had to finger them, you know? Women on the set, we're not particularly shy about sex—but we were all blushing just thinking about it.

What's the weirdest note you've ever received from anyone on a set or stage?
I got a great note from Oliver Stone [for World Trade Center]. When we came back from lunch, he said, "I don't know what happened to you, Maggie. You're terrible!" [Laughs] I was like, "Okay, well, can you help me?" He took both my hands and looked into my eyes and said, "I give you the power of Zeus!" And it totally worked.

Three Sisters starts previews at the Classic Stage Company Wed 12.

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