Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose breakout role came as a kinky administrative assistant in the 2002 sadomasochistic romance “Secretary,” presumably doesn’t blush easily. And her latest film, “Hysteria,” which explains how a disillusioned young doctor (Hugh Dancy) invented the vibrator in Victorian England, might seem tame by comparison. But, Gyllenhaal recently revealed while on promotional rounds for the movie, she discovered its subject matter is still curiously taboo.
“When I watched it, I was flushed and people in the audience were hysterically laughing,” Gyllenhaal says. “And it came out of not being used to seeing stuff like that, and even I felt that way. And the first movie I made was an S&M movie. I do not think of myself as prudish at all. I’m interested in sex; I’m curious about it. I think of myself as pretty open. But I was surprised by my own response and the audience’s response, every time I’ve been around the movie or been interviewed about it, and how, kind of, uncomfortable it still makes us.”
Gyllenhaal’s character, an ardent champion of women’s rights and advocate for the poor, doesn’t actually appear in the film’s bawdier scenes, which depict misguided physicians attempting to cure women of the titular affliction through womb massage. But it was the film’s humor and delicately balanced tone that won her over. “It’s like that English, clever, really tight dialogue where you have to pay attention and you have to use your brain,” she says. “But I liked the mix of this kind of intellectual comedy with ladies having loud orgasms in doctors offices.”
Gyllenhaal says she was less concerned with tending to historical accuracy than exploring the depths of her rebellious character. “I did research more inside myself, like challenging myself to be as wild and as free and as strident as I could be,” she says. “And that’s kind of why I decided to do the movie, really -- I wanted to see how wild I could be,” she continued. “I’ve played characters who are a lot wilder. But in the constraints of that time and those clothes, I just thought it would be cool to see how far I could go.”
The role also reveals that she does an impeccable British accent -- one that might have a familiar ring. “Everyone tells me I sound like Emma Thompson,” Gyllenhaal says. “That was probably how I learned it -- from ‘Nanny McPhee.’ [Gyllenhaal starred in 2010’s “Nanny McPhee Returns.”] I was actually just watching ‘Nanny McPhee’ with my daughter and thinking ‘is my accent okay?’”
While Ramona, 5, is finally old enough for an introduction to her mom’s oeuvre, the family’s focus is likely now on its newest addition. Gyllenhaal and husband Peter Sarsgaard welcomed daughter Gloria Ray on April 19. And the actress’s pregnancy was well-documented by the baby-bump-obsessed tabloids. But if you ask her, paparazzi shots are the one subject of which ignorance is bliss.
“I do not go near them,” she says. “I don’t know if they do it to me or if they don’t, because when I used to even peek a little bit I found it so brutal, and so unkind. Sometimes someone will send me something or say ‘Oh, I saw a picture of you and Ramona on the street.’ And I always write back and say I just don’t want to know ... It’s funny because I feel this way about almost nothing else. Everything else in my life I think ‘I want all the information.’ I want to know as much as I can know,” she adds. “In this case, if someone followed my 5-year-old to kindergarten and I didn’t know, I would rather just not know. I get so confused by all of that.”
But she says moving to Brooklyn has made life more low-key. “It’s much better now. Last time, when my daughter [Ramona] was born, I was living in the West Village. Everything was different. I had, like, seven movies come out at once.”
Gyllenhaal says that doing international press for “Hysteria” has sparked some unexpected conversations. “My favorite was where this woman asked me which did I think did more for women’s rights and the women’s movement: the vibrator or the dishwasher?” she says. “I think I have to go with the dishwasher.”
Miley Cyrus and her denim short shorts arrived via private jet to Miami, Florida, on Dec. 18.
Talk about a beautiful bunch: Lilly Ghalichi, Carmen Electra and Joanna Krupa were spotted leaving Riva Bella in Los Angeles on Dec. 17.
Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt did some Christmas shopping at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 17.
Stylish Nicole Scherzinger caught a flight to Los Angeles out of Heathrow airport on Dec. 17.
Alec Baldwin braved the New York snow on Dec. 17.
Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber enjoyed the day at Bondi Beach with their sons in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 16.
Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep arrived at The Weinstein Company's Los Angeles premiere of "August: Osage County" on Dec. 16.
Abigail Breslin shone on the red carpet at the premiere of "August: Osage County" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on Dec. 16.
Kim Kardashian was mobbed by the photographers while out and about with her daughter North on Dec. 16 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Amanda Seyfried took her dog Finn for a stroll in New York City on Dec. 16.
Kristen Wiig and Christina Applegate attended the "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" premiere at Beacon Theatre in New York City on Dec. 15.
Liv Tyler was seen out and about in the West Village in NYC on Dec. 15.
Pregnant actress Emily Blunt took her dog for a hike in Hollywood, Calif., on Dec. 14.
Katy Perry attended the 15th NRJ Music Awards in Cannes, France on Dec. 14.
50 Cent supported Ricky Martin and Eva Longoria and dropped by the Global Gift Foundation & Noor Dubai Foundation charity event in Dubai on Dec. 14. The rapper helped raise funds by auctioning off a pair of his SMS Audio Headphones.
Sofia Vergara was spotted shopping in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 12.
A newly brunette Courtney Stodden attended the World of Wonder's 1st Annual WOWie Awards at The Globe Theatre on Dec. 12 in Universal City, Calif.
Julia Roberts looked beaming outside the "Late Show with David Letterman" studio in NYC on Dec. 12.
Hilary Duff did some shopping at James Perse in West Hollywood, Calif., on Dec. 12.
Pregnant Emily Blunt was seen out and about in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 12.
Josh Duhamel and Fergie took their baby boy Axl to his Baptism at a church in Brentwood, Calif. on Dec. 12.
Zoe Saldana, Aziz Ansari and Olivia Wilde announced the nominations for the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards on Dec. 12 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were spotted holiday shopping at the Nespresso Beverly Hills Boutique in L.A. on Dec. 12.
Khloe Kardashian arrived at The Hollywood Reporter's 22nd Annual Women In Entertainment Breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Dec. 11.
Christina Applegate attended the premiere of "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" at the Vue West End Cinema in London on Dec. 11.
Paris Hilton, in full leopard print, enjoyed a night out at Mastros Restaurant in Beverly Hills with boyfriend River Viiperi on Dec. 11.
Reese Witherspoon channeled her inner Elle Woods while on a grocery run at Whole Foods in Brentwood, Calif. on Dec. 11.
Well, she <em>is</em> Ozzy's wife: Sharon Osbourne covered up in all black while out and about in New York on Dec. 11.
Kim Kardashian did some Christmas shopping with fiance Kanye West and her mom Kris Jenner at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Dec. 11.
Miranda Kerr braved the New York cold by herself on Dec. 11.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum filmed scenes on the beach for "22 Jump Street" in Puerto Rico on Dec. 11.
Olivia Palermo got her christmas shopping started at the Old Navy Holiday Bazaar in NYC on Dec. 11.
LeAnn Rimes posed in the press room during the American Country Awards 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on in Las Vegas on Dec. 10.
Rita Ora posed for a photo shoot on the back seat of a Chrysler convertible on the streets of Miami on Dec. 10.
Josh Duhamel was spotted taking pictures of the perfect Christmas tree on his red Moto X in Los Angeles on Dec. 10.
Jay Z hung out at Hollywood's Lure Nightclub for his concert after party on Dec. 9.
Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke attended the U.S. premiere of Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks," the untold story of how the classic film "Mary Poppins" made it to the screen, at the Walt Disney Studios on Dec. 9.
Reese Witherspoon and her husband Jim Toth went shopping together at APC in Paris, France on Dec. 9.
Lady Gaga looked all dolled up as she left the Langham Hotel in London, England on Dec. 9.
Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner attend the "American Hustle" cast photocall at Crosby Street Hotel on Dec. 8 in New York City.
Josh Duhamel and Fergie at the 15th Annual Trevor Project Benefit at the Hollywood Paladium in Hollywood, Calif., on Dec. 8.
"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi soaked up the sun in a bright orange bikini on Miami Beach, Fla., on Dec. 8.
Rose McGowan rocked a printed one-piece on the beach in Miami on Dec. 7.
Amanda Bynes headed to outpatient rehab with her mom on Dec. 6 in L.A.
Adrian Grenier soaked up the sun on the beach in Miami on Dec. 6.
Lady Gaga left The Langham Hotel in London, England, on Dec. 6 looking like a Picasso painting.
Anne Hathaway and husband Adam Shulman were spotted running errands in L.A. together on Dec. 6.
Demi Lovato totally rocked it at Nylon magazine's December issue party at Stage One in West Hollywood on Dec. 5.
Victoria's Secret model Jessica Hart posed on the beach for a photo shoot on Dec. 5 in Miami, Florida.
Lindsay Lohan rocked an awesome black one-piece as she hung out with her brother and friends poolside in Miami, Dec. 5.
Jessica Simpson left her NYC hotel on Dec. 5 stylish as ever in high boots and a tiny dress.