In the new biographical drama Stronger, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman—a real life survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing—who loses both his legs and has to figure out how to persevere despite extreme physical limitations.
When Bauman found out that one of the most renowned movie stars in the world was bringing his real life experiences to the big screen, he was equal parts flattered and confused. “He doesn’t look anything like me!” he insisted. After joking that he’s “never seen” any of Gyllenhaal’s movies, he admitted that he’s admired the Nocturnal Animals actor since watching October Sky when he was 12 years old. When someone’s familiar with the first half of your Wikipedia filmography, that’s how you know they’re a true fan.
As the conference went on, it became clear that Gyllenhaal and Bauman have a bit of a bromance going on. At one point, Gyllenhaal admitted that he and Bauman are very much alike—other than the fact that Bauman is funnier than he is.
And it’s no surprise that Gyllenhaal and Bauman grew close. Gyllenhaal revealed that he asked Bauman a lot of “hard questions” before shooting the movie to make sure he stayed true to how Jeff really felt after losing his legs. But the hardest questions weren’t the “big ones” we might expect. Instead, they were smaller and more focused, about details like the type of shoes Bauman wore to the marathon. “It’s a very important thing that that be right to me,” Gyllenhaal explained.
Opening up about the day of the marathon couldn’t have been easy for Bauman. But Bauman’s candidness and generosity is ultimately what made Gyllenhaal realize how strong the survivor really is. Gyllenhaal even went as far to say that Stronger—not Batman, or Spider-Man, or any other comic book inspired film—is his superhero movie. Is that sweet or what?
If you want to learn more about Bauman’s story, check out the Stronger trailer (which also features Canadian superstar Tatiana Maslany as Bauman’s girlfriend Erin) below.