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The transformation process a prominent actor undergoes to embody a role, typically gets swept under the rug with all the glamor and glitz Hollywood likes to bestow upon its stars. For an A-lister like Jake Gyllenhaal, he’s never allowed the sideshow affect his dedication to his craft. His new film Southpaw; a heart wrenching tale combined with a slugfest of emotions, showcases such a dedication.

Gyllenhaal, 34, stars as Billy Hope, a seemingly invincible boxing heavyweight champion who is dealt a blow far harder than any he’s felt in the ring. In a blip of an eye, he loses his lifelong love (played by Rachel McAdams) and his daughter (Oona Laurence) and is forced to literally fight when the will to live is also seeping from his gloves. While preparing for the film, the days (and sleepless nights) of training and punches taken were authentic as the sweat from his brow, easily making it one his compelling roles to date.

Hip-Hop Wired was fortunate to get face time with Gyllenhaal in Beverly Hills ahead of the Southpaw‘s release and we were more than intrigued what music blared through his headphones. Of course, he needed rhyme and reason to keep him pumped up.

“It’s funny because I began listening to Hip-Hop and I listened to Hip-Hop through the entire filming process,” an energetic Gyllenhaal recalls. “But there was this weird song I played all the time where Beats had this deal with the World Cup and [Jay Z] did a verse over this Ambassador X song where Antonine [Fuqua’s] name is in it where he talks about Training Day. It was such a good beat and I was like ‘Man, the verses are so good,’ it would always fire me up. But I couldn’t download because it was only on YouTube and sometimes we’d be in places where there was no Wi-fi and I would just go crazy like, ‘I JUST NEED TO HEAR THIS SONG!!!’ [Laughs].

Naturally, the provider for film’s soundtrack–Eminem, also played a huge role in Gyllenhaal channeling the prize-fighter within.

“Eminem was definitely a major motivator through a lot of it–like every other song–but as I started to discover the techniques [of boxing]; and you watch someone like Miguel Cotto fight or train, he’s always listens to salsa or merengue and I started to realize, ‘This isn’t all about just rough or that Hip-Hop vibe.’ This is also about style and it’s a different swagger. You need that Hip-Hop swagger and it’s all about a certain dance or rhythm. But ultimately it was Hip-Hop that got me through.”

Photo: Instagram/Eminem

“You start to feel like you’re [actually Billy]. I’m not unaware of the fact that this character ends up needing that pressure to get to the place where he has hope but acting is also about imagination,” Gyllenhaal continued, when asked whether or not the depression of Billy actually found its way into his own head. “Acting is also being able to create a world that is a part of your mind; that’s what’s so great about it. But even when we shot in the real foster care spaces and there were real children in the system, it actually makes you feel that it’s something to fight for.”

Catch Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw starting July 24.

Photo: The Weinstein Company