Maggie Gyllenhaal was picked to interview Olivia Wilde for a classic stars-on-stars interview in Interview, an editorial decision that makes sense, considering how much these two buzzy performers-turned-directors have in common. They’re both scions of important families who started acting when they were quite young. In the past few years, both have become notable for their work behind the camera (Wilde directed Booksmart; Gyllenhaal the screen adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter). Neither are film school-trained — they both say in the interview that their school was all the “shitty movies” they acted in, which taught them how not to run a film set.
But there is one thing that these directors do not share: the same level of familiarity with incels. In fact, Wilde has to use Interview’s precious interview space to teach the Patron Saint of Brownstone Brooklyn who the alt-masculinity figurehead Jordan Peterson is. Even though Gyllenhaal played the older sister of real-life brother Jake Gyllenhaal in incel ur-text Donnie Darko, evidently the concept of incels has not ever qualified as knowledge that she needs to possess. (Actually, now that I think about it, Mr. Gyllenhaal has played quite a few platonic ideals of the incel: Bubble Boy, the Nightcrawler, the Zodiac Killer’s BFF Robert Graysmith…)
Here’s the exchange in Interview, regarding Chris Pine’s character in Don’t Worry Darling:
WILDE: Chris [Pine] who I’ve known for, like, 20 years, probably agreed to do the movie at first as a favor to an old buddy, and then he really took it and ran with it.
GYLLENHAAL: Yeah, he’s wonderful.
WILDE: Terrifying. We based that character on this insane man, Jordan Peterson, who is this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community. You know the incels?
WILDE: They’re basically disenfranchised, mostly white men, who believe they are entitled to sex from women.
GYLLENHAAL: Oh, right.
WILDE: And they believe that society has now robbed them—that the idea of feminism is working against nature, and that we must be put back into the correct place.
GYLLENHAAL: Well, they must be psyched. Things are going really well for them.
WILDE: Yeah, they’re actually succeeding in many different ways. But this guy Jordan Peterson is someone that legitimizes certain aspects of their movement because he’s a former professor, he’s an author, he wears a suit, so they feel like this is a real philosophy that should be taken seriously.
WILDE: Yeah. But it was a dream to work with all these evolved men on this movie who understood what we were trying to say.
I guess it’s safe to assume that Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn’t even know how to access Chrome on her iPhone, let alone know what Reddit is. I’m sure that, immediately upon returning home from this interview, she looked up the word “incel” in a set of vintage encyclopedias perched on a shelf next to the mantle of her bohemian Park Slope home. No luck.