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Jake Gyllenhaal’s New Children’s Book Nods to ‘Prince of Persia’ Flop: My Illustrator ‘Snuck That In Before Printing. I Didn’t Approve That’


Jake Gyllenhaal just released his first work as an author, the children’s book “The Secret Society of Aunts and Uncles,” and it includes an unexpected reference to one of his biggest movie failures: Disney’s 2010 video game adaptation “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” Gyllenhaal’s lead role in the film is often cited in conversations about Hollywood whitewashing.


“The Secret Society of Aunts and Uncles,” co-written by Gyllenhaal and his best friend Greta Caruso, follows a 10-year-old aspiring dancer who goes on an adventure with his uncle. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, book illustrator Dan Santat snuck in a “Prince of Persia” Easter egg during a moment where the boy struggles to dance in front of an audience. An audience member is seen holding a playbill for a show titled “The Persians,” a nod to Gyllenhaal’s “Prince of Persia” flop. Gyllenhaal described the moment in the book as the main character’s lowest.

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“That was Dan Santat. He snuck that in before printing, and I didn’t approve that,” Gyllenhaal told EW with a laugh. “I don’t know where that came from.”


“Dan likes to put in his bits of humor, even misspelling my name at the back and having to put a post-it, having two A’s at the end,” he continued. “But no, when I described that space, it was the space where there was no farther down to go than the depths of where Leo is in that moment in the book. So I guess that was Dan’s joke on me.”


“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” starred Gyllenhaal in the title role, which resulted in backlash against the film for casting a white American actor over a performer of Iranian descent. Gyllenhaal admitted to Yahoo Entertainment in 2019 that saying yes to “Prince of Persia” was a “slip up” and that the role was ultimately not right for him.


“I think I learned a lot from that movie in that I spend a lot of time trying to be very thoughtful about the roles that I pick and why I’m picking them,” Gyllenhaal said at the time. “And you’re bound to slip up and be like, ‘That wasn’t right for me,’ or ‘That didn’t fit perfectly.’ There have been a number of roles like that. And then a number of roles that do.”


Gyllenhaal’s book, “The Secret Society of Aunts and Uncles,” is now available to purchase.

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