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July 14, 2008

Mega Maggie Gyllenhaal

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The one name missing from that list is Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker in the movie and died of an accidental prescription-drug overdose in January, after the movie wrapped. "My heart really broke when he died," says Gyllenhaal, her winsome face darkening. "I think seeing the movie will be painful. I saw this new trailer, which I loved, but Heath was all over it, and it was very sad to see it. Hard to watch."

"What he does is extraordinarily intense," says Christopher Nolan, "and what works is seeing Maggie reacting to it, which heightens the drama." Is Maggie's character in danger from him? "Oh yeah," Nolan replies. "Everyone is in danger from him."

Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard were Brooklyn neighbors of Ledger and his girlfriend Michelle Williams (the couple starred with Jake in Brokeback Mountain). "We live pretty close to them," says Gyllenhaal, recalling the media maelstrom in the wake of Ledger's death and how bad she felt for Williams. "It was disgusting. I had journalists call me on my cell phone. There were these two shy girls sent from some rag magazine to camp in front of my house. I came home with Ramona and I was so shocked and angry." But then she adds with a hint of sympathy, "These poor girls, it wasn't their fault. They were out of their element."

When Gyllenhaal turned 30 last November, she was surprised to discover she cared about that milestone. "I'm not the youngest person at the table anymore. I'm not the young precocious one," she says, a little wistfully. But, she adds, "I feel like I'm engaging with people in a different way now. I am a woman. I'm treated with respect, as an equal." She is already thinking about having more children ("People say two is so hard, but I think we probably will"), daydreaming about leaving New York City ("Peter and I have a hankering to move to the country"), and wondering what character she'll inhabit next—be it someone edgy and offbeat in a small-scale gem, or the smartest, freshest thing in a money-minting franchise.

"I've read scripts and thought, I could do this in my sleep," she says. "Then I've read things I don't understand, and I don't know how I'd do it. But I want to try."

Meryl Gordon wrote about Nicole Kidman for the December issue of MC. She is finishing a book, Mrs. Astor Regrets, about Brooke Astor's family.

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