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How Ambulance’s Jake Gyllenhaal And Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Responded To Spending So Much Time In The Titular Emergency Vehicle

It frequently gets glamourized, but filmmaking can be a tedious process for actors. On top of the repetition that comes with doing take after take of a single shot, there is also a great deal of time spent between shots setting up lighting, sound, blocking, and more. This general atmosphere can be exacerbated in productions where performers are confined to contained primary locations – and Michael Bay’s Ambulance is a great example, with the majority of the movie’s runtime featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jackson White inside the titular emergency vehicle.

Nobody could blame the actors for getting that long road trip feeling of “I need to get out of this car” late into production, but Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II had their own ways to make peace with the tight environment.

As captured in the video at the top of this article, I interviewed the two stars earlier this month during the Los Angeles press day for the movie, and during the conversation I asked them about their experiences inside the eponymous ambulance. For Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the key for him was in just adapting to his space and making a kind of home in it. Rather than constantly getting in and out of the truck between set ups, he found his “own space” in it. He explained.

I would say it's easy to want to get out of that space, but also it's easy to just say, 'You know what, this is my little corner, and I'm just gonna rest here.' Because as soon as you get out, you gotta get right back in. You know what I mean? It's interesting. Sometimes you get frustrated with it, and then other times it's like, 'Look, this is just where I am for the day and for the rest of the day. So this is just my own space.'

In the film, Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play a pair of bank robbers who see their heist go awry when their exit is beset upon by a team of waiting, undercover Special Investigation Section agents. Looking for an escape, the criminals take a police officer (Jackson White) hostage, and the cop gets shot when trying to get away. They end up hijacking an ambulance with an EMT (Eiza Gonzalez) on board, and she tries to save the officer’s life while the fugitives try to figure out a new getaway plan.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Danny, does a lot of screaming and gun-waving in Ambulance, but what kept the actor from feeling any kind of claustrophobia during production was reminding himself what typically happens in an emergency vehicle like the one they were riding around in. The movie was shot between January and March 2021, which was a time when COVID-19 cases were spiking in the United States, and Gyllenhaal was cognizant that the back of the vehicle he was making a movie in was usually a space where lives were really being saved:

I mean, in truth, I think being in that small space and trying to act in that space, making it, it's pretty difficult. You just start realizing about the people who actually do real job in that space, saving people's lives. And we were shooting the movie in the middle of the second wave in Los Angeles and everyone was talking about first responders and EMTs, and we were in this ambulance shooting these sort of crazy scenes. I just thought, 'What an extraordinary job to get what they get done in that small space.' I mean, we could hardly act in it, let alone get anywhere close to saving someone's life.

This is a sentiment that surely Eiza Gonzalez can relate to, given that she had a panic attack while just pretending to perform surgery in the back of an ambulance.

Among the best Michael Bay movies, Ambulance is a ridiculous thriller that knows exactly what it is, as I note in my CinemaBlend review. It stars Garret Dillahunt, Keir O'Donnell, Moses Ingram, A Martinez, and Cedric Sanders in addition to Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jackson White, and it’s now playing in theaters everywhere. You can check the official website for local listings.

To learn about more films on their way to the big screen and streaming between now and the end of the year, head over to our 2022 Movie Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.