Gyllenhaal stars alongside Tom Sturridge in the evening of monologues directed by Carrie Cracknell. Sturridge begins with “Sea Wall,” written by Simon Stephens, and Gyllenhaal performs “A Life,” written by Nick Payne.
“They’re about family and love and loss and my piece is different than his,” Gyllenhaal explained to DeGeneres. “My piece is about the birth of my character’s child and the death of his dad at the same time in this really beautiful way, and really about how we find love and how we appreciate the people that we love.”
Gyllenhaal’s whole family has seen the show; in fact, his mom was particularly excited to come. “My mom wanted to come to the first preview and I said, 'You can't.' She had bought a ticket and I was like, ‘You cannot come to that show,’” he said, knowing he wanted to have some time in the preview process to get it right. “The next night she was like, ‘Great, got a ticket for the second show. Can I come?’” He said no, but just before the show, he realized he wanted his mom there. Watch him tell the full story in the video above.
“This show is really all about family, but to feel her in the audience... it was something I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was one of the most incredible moments I have ever had.”
Before Gyllenhaal left, DeGeneres wanted to know if he’d followed through on the guitar lessons he said he would take the last time he visited her set. But, the guitar she gave him was out of tune, so instead he sang her a little ditty he wrote on the spot.