“It has nothing to do with me. It’s about her relationship with her fans,” Gyllenhaal, 41, said in his Esquire profile, published on Thursday, February 17, when asked about the track. “It is her expression. Artists tap into personal experiences for inspiration, and I don’t begrudge anyone that.”
According to the journalist, the actor said that the months following Swift’s rerecording of Red weren’t difficult for him — but he went on to acknowledge the social media attention.
“At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name,” he said. “That begs for a deeper philosophical question. Not about any individual, per se, but a conversation that allows us to examine how we can—or should, even—take responsibility for what we put into the world, our contributions into the world. How do we provoke a conversation? We see that in politics. There’s anger and divisiveness, and it’s literally life-threatening in the extreme.”
He added: “My question is: Is this our future? Is anger and divisiveness our future? Or can we be empowered and empower others while simultaneously putting empathy and civility into the dominant conversation? That’s the discussion we should be having.”
When asked whether he’s listened to Swift’s album, Gyllenhaal simply responded, “No.” He concluded, “I’m not unaware that there’s interest in my life. My life is wonderful. I have a relationship that is truly wonderful, and I have a family I love so much. And this whole period of time has made me realize that.”
The exes dated for three months in 2010 before going their separate ways that December. Two years later, Swift used the heartbreak as the inspiration for her album Red, which featured hit songs like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” At the time, the Grammy winner revealed that she had been in touch with Gyllenhaal after the record’s debut.
“He was like, ‘I just listened to the album, and that was a really bittersweet experience for me. It was like going through a photo album.’ That was nice,” the singer recalled to New York magazine in 2013. “Nicer than, like, the ranting, crazy e-mails I got from this one dude. It’s a lot more mature way of looking at a love that was wonderful until it was terrible, and both people got hurt from it — but one of those people happened to be a songwriter. So what are you going to do? Did you not Wikipedia me before you called me up [for a date]?”
Gyllenhaal, for his part, later explained why he tends to stay quiet when it comes to his dating life.
“I think when you’re in a relationship, you are constantly scrutinized, your friends are scrutinized, but … I would love to not talk about my personal life,” the Nightcrawler actor told The Guardian in March 2017 when asked about his romance with the Miss Americana star.
While leaving her former record label, Big Machine, in 2019 and attempting to win back ownership of her masters, Swift began to reinterpret her entire discography. She began with 2008’s Fearless and teased her plans for Red earlier this year.
“Musically and lyrically, Red resembled a heartbroken person. It was all over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together in the end,” the Pennsylvania native wrote via Instagram in June. “Happy, free, confused, lonely, devastated, euphoric, wild, and tortured by memories past. Like trying on pieces of a new life, I went into the studio and experimented with different sounds and collaborators.”
The 30-track album dropped five months later alongside a 10-minute rendition of “All Too Well.” Fans were quick to decode all of Swift’s lyrical clues about her relationship with the Guilty star in the new verses, including her mention of their age difference.
“And I was never good at telling jokes but the punch line goes / I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age,” Swift sang, with listeners pointing out that Gyllenhaal and his current girlfriend, Jeanne Cadieu, are 16 years apart.
The Cats actress, for her part, has been dating Joe Alwyn since 2017. The “Willow” singer later got honest about her decision to keep this relationship more private than she has in the past.
“But I think that in knowing him and being in the relationship I am in now, I have definitely made decisions that have made my life feel more like a real-life and less like just a story line to be commented on in tabloids,” she explained to Paul McCartney for Rolling Stone magazine in November 2020. “Whether that’s deciding where to live, who to hang out with, when to not take a picture — the idea of privacy feels so strange to try to explain, but it’s really just trying to find bits of normalcy. That’s what that song ‘Peace’ is talking about. Like, would it be enough if I could never fully achieve the normalcy that we both crave?”