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Maggie Gyllenhaal talks about making 'The Kindergarten Teacher'

Alec Baldwin and Maggie Gyllenhaal ham it up

Alec Baldwin and Maggie Gyllenhaal ham it up before the Q and A at the Hampton Film Festival Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Friday. Credit: John Roca

Sorry, Wikipedia: Maggie Gyllenhaal has some words for the folks who wrote her entry.

At the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Golden Globe-winning star of “Crazy Heart,” “The Dark Knight” and the British television series “The Honourable Woman” spoke with festival co-chair Alec Baldwin before a live audience at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theater. Early in the conversation, the actress voiced some objections to her Wikipedia page, disputing the notion that she made her “film debut” at the age of 15 in her father's feature “Waterland” — “I was in 'Waterland' for five seconds,” she said — and noting that Martin Scorsese did not, in fact, direct her in a stage production of Chekhov's “Uncle Vanya” in 2009.

“They got someone to quote a terrible review of me in the play!” she said. “I gotta get on that.”

Mostly, though, Gyllenhaal talked about her new film, “The Kindergarten Teacher,” which opened the festival Thursday night. Directed and written by Sara Colangelo from a 2014 Israeli feature, “The Kindergarten Teacher” stars Gyllenhaal as a Staten Island schoolteacher who becomes disturbingly fixated on a young student (Parker Sevak) with a prodigious gift for poetry. After the film's premiere at Sundance in January, Variety praised Gyllenhaal for “another complex, problematic, not-entirely-likable character in the mode of such prior personal-best roles as 'Secretary' and 'Sherrybaby.' "

Gyllenhaal said she loved the script when she read it and immediately wanted to play the lead role. As a mother of two, however (with her actor-husband Peter Sarsgaard), she said, “I almost didn't do the movie at one point because I thought: No movie, no matter how much I love it, is worth disturbing a child — even for a few minutes.” In the end, she and her director figured out ways to coach young Sevak into performing without asking him to delve into overly dark emotions. What's more, because child actors can't work the same long hours as adults, Gyllenhaal often found herself acting opposite adult stand-ins pulled from the crew.

“I'm like, 'This is weird,' ” Gyllenhaal said. “I'm talking to a hairy, 50-year-old guy.”

Near the end of Gyllenhaal's talk, an audience member asked what work she was most proud of. “Recently, since 'The Honourable Woman,' I’ve had this feeling that I’m most proud of the latest thing that I've done,” the actress said. “I'm sure I'll take a dip and take a wrong route for a while. But at the moment I feel most proud of the most recent work.”

She added: “I’ve got to take that little piece of the Wikipedia thing and put it up somewhere. It was so mean!”

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