From Donnie Darko and The Zodiac to Prisoners and Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal is no stranger to portraying sinister and brutal realities on the big screen. The ability to dive into a deep and disturbing storyline is a talent which has no doubt aided his latest project, adapting tales of America's most captivating cult leaders for a nine-part TV anthology series.
Although the Oscar nominated actor has previously served as a producer on Nightcrawler and End of Watch, this new venture will mark his first foray into TV production, and what a juicy subject to start with!
The first series will explore the character of Jim Jones and his cult, The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ, whose beginnings as a communist, social group, resulted in the death of 909 people. The cult made headlines when they relocated to Guyana and founded the Jonestown commune, a site which in 1978 became home to a mass murder-suicide. Through apparent cyanide poisoning organized by Jones, the slaughter included elderly church goers, children and a U.S. Congressman, who was investigating the nature of the cult at the time.
The event has been marked 'the most deadly single non-natural disaster in U.S. history' bar 9/11.
Gyllenhaal's production company Nine Stories Prods. is behind the series and developing for A&E Network. Speaking to Variety, he dubs the exploration 'fascinating,' adding,
“Jim Jones is a complex character — one who has found his way into the collective unconscious. We want to focus on the undeniable magnatism of zealots and the danger of that kind of charisma. A notion not only pertinent to cult leaders but to the geo-political climate of today.”
Perhaps Gyllenhaal is alluding to L. Ron Hubbard, the charismatic founder of Church of Scientology here, though regardless the worldwide obsession with cults and conspiracies is undeniable, and makes for fantastic viewing fodder. I, for one, will be hooked.
For more background on The Peoples Temple and the Jonestown massacre, there are plenty of documentaries on YouTube, or you can check out the informative short below:
Updates to follow.