Jake Gyllenhaal on ‘Hot Ones’ Proves He’s Charming Even While Eating Wings

It has been a monumental 20th(!) season for Hot Ones, the wildly successful web series from First We Feast. What began as a modest YouTube show has become a cultural sensation, attracting Oscar winners and Elvis impersonators in equal measure, for an unconventional stop in the usually repetitive promotional cycle for stars.

To close out the big 2-0, Hot Ones welcomed Jake Gyllenhaal, who has been doing the rounds to promote his latest dose of light military propaganda, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant—which, yes, literally features the director’s name in the damn title. Though the film follows an Afghan interpreter (Dar Salim) who risks his life to transport an injured Army sergeant (Gyllenhaal) to safety, Gyllenhaal’s time on Hot Ones was arguably more intense.

Seated across host Sean Evans, with 10 chicken wings and hot sauces of varying degrees of spiciness before them, Gyllenhaal made no bones (pun intended) about how he got there. “[My preparation for being on the show] just came from being constantly battered by you guys, for years, to come on the show,” Gyllenhaal said, laughing. “Which has been, actually, really flattering.”

Before getting into the meat (again, people, we’re working with intended puns) of the interview—where Evans prods guests for juicy exclusives on their career while their guard is down and their internal organs are burning—Gyllenhaal spoke about Ritchie’s unconventional style of directing.

“With Guy, it was unlike anything I’d ever done,” Gyllenhaal said. “He said to me, ‘Don’t memorize any of your lines.’ And the script came in 50 pages. It wasn’t a fully written script. Usually, scripts are, like, 110 pages … He said, ‘You come to set, we’ll work on it on the day, and you’ll go shoot your thing. It was one of the most inspiring creative experiences I’ve ever had … I loved it.”

And there was no shortage of love emanating throughout the Hot Ones studio, either. Gyllenhaal and Evans spent a large chunk of their half-hour interview heaping praise on one another.

“You have one hell of an upper body,” Gyllenhaal said to Evans, leaning into a bit of casual, bro-y homoeroticism. (A welcome addition to the program for those of us who don’t exactly gravitate toward the intrinsic machismo present in the act of gobbling down hot wings.) Throughout the duration of the episode, Evans and Gyllenhaal were bonding on a plane so singular and intense, that it was nearly imperceptible to the human eye. “I have the most electric head high that I’ve ever had doing this,” Evans said to his new bestie by the episode’s end.

Any Hot Ones connoisseur will tell you that the show is much more interesting when a celebrity comes on, and is largely in the dark about what they’re getting themselves into. Unfortunately, Gyllenhaal was a studied participant. He knew all of the inside jokes about the way Evans flails around when trying to process a new hot sauce, and even remembered that mumble-rapper Post Malone had been on two separate episodes.

Unfortunately, all the preparation in the world couldn’t stop Gyllenhaal from putting his foot in his mouth when spurned by the sauce.

Vowing to try to do the show right, he asked Evans about the arsenal of tools that the show’s production crew has on hand for guests. “You guys have toothpicks for people?” Gyllenhaal asked. “Is this like, for [after the show]?” Evans explained that they keep the extra tools—like Wet Ones-brand hand cloths—around in just in case.

“Who fuckin’ used Wet Ones, fuck that!” Gyllenhaal said. “What asshole used a toothpick?” Evans calmly replied to Gyllenhaal’s jesting anger to tell him that prior guest Elizabeth Olsen used a toothpick during her episode in 2021, causing Gyllenhaal to laugh. “Oh, sorry, Elizabeth,” he said, looking into the camera. “She’s like the least asshole I’ve ever met … I absolutely am walking that back!”

Though it was a total accident, Gyllenhaal’s inadvertent diss toward Olsen might’ve been his most candid Hot Ones moment. Unsurprisingly, the actor wasn’t asked about anything regarding his personal life. He certainly didn’t discuss his brief relationship with Taylor Swift in 2010, which has been a part of the cultural conversation for the better part of a decade, thanks to Swift’s beloved “All Too Well” weaponizing songwriting toward every heartbroken individual in the world.

Gyllenhaal did, however, reveal a few tidbits of compelling information about how he approaches his varied career. The actor has become notorious for refusing to be pigeonholed, hopping between Marvel epics and mid-budget arthouse indies without any hesitation.

“Early in a career, you think, ‘I have to make it all,’” Gyllenhaal said, when asked about how he contends with how outside pundits think he should choose his roles. “Slowly, you just start to go, ‘This is interesting, let me try that. What do I want to do, how do I want to express myself?’ Sometimes for me personally that’s been, like, ‘Let’s have fun. Fuck it.’ And sometimes, that’s been like, this moves me so deeply … I’ve made choices that I’m proud of, and others that I’m not. And all part of the game.”

“The best stuff is when we’re most vulnerable,” Gyllenhaal continued, later in the episode. “I’ve experienced that very rarely, where I trust somebody so much, where they can take me anywhere they want to go, and I’ll open up to them…It’s a mystery.”

Given how many times Gyllenhaal professed his love for Evans, for taking him to “a very special place,” it seems as though he cracked the code during his time on Hot Ones. All Jake Gyllenhaal needs to open up is 10 wings, a row of flaming-hot sauces, and his good bro to hold his hand along the way.

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