“Are you going to go the Nicolas Cage/ Robert Downey Jr./Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp route, into higher-profile, bigger-budgeted action-adventure films now?”

“There’s always calculation in all the things I do,” he answered. “But mostly the intention comes from my instinct. When I read the script, something about this character felt like something I could evolve into and I loved because he was funny — he had wry moments. There are so many movies that are so serious. The bigger something gets, the more fun and the funnier it should be.”

“Can you compare it to other action films? Indiana Jones? The Mummy? Star Wars?”

“It’s a mix of a lot of those,” he said. “The movie is very much in the realm of those Indy flicks. Also, I watched Errol Flynn’s 1938 Robin Hood over and over again when I was making this movie. He was my age when he made that. The seriousness with which he took the absurdities and the humor he had is what I would compare it to, even more than the films with all the new stuff that technology brings.”

Though I wanted to continue, I had already gone over my allotted 20 minutes and there were other people in the room. So as I stood, I asked, “So, Jake, if you were in my position and had to write a 2,000-word profile based on a 20-minute conversation, how would you approach it?”

“I would accept the situation for what it was, and then I would hope that the opportunity — if I was interested in the person I was talking to — would come again in a more natural environment. I learned accepting what you have as what you have.”

“I’ve always had a problem with that,” I said.

“Of course,” Jake laughed. “All you get is 20 minutes!”

A FEW WEEKS LATER, Jake called me from Montreal, Canada, where he was on the set of his upcoming film, Source Code. He had a few minutes, he said, if I’d like to ask him some more questions. I thought of the questions I had run out of time for in our last meeting, but I started by asking what Source Code was about.

“It’s about a guy who’s on a train but doesn’t know where he is,” Jake said. “There’s a woman across from him who talks to him, but he has no idea who she is. Another train passes in the opposite direction and he sees his reflection in the window but it’s somebody else’s face. And so begins a very, very interesting and intense hour and 50 minutes. Hopefully.”

“So do you end up with the woman in the end?”

“Do you really think I’m going to tell you? I respect my audience, you know.”

“You and Tobey Maguire seemed to pull out all the stops in Brothers. What was that experience like?”

“It was pretty amazing. He and I professionally have crossed paths many times. When I was first starting out, I’d hear that he was playing a great role and I would wish that I could have auditioned for it. When it came time for us to do Brothers, there was already that kind of wonderful actor competition that is almost brotherly when you get into it. I had it with Peter Sarsgaard when we did Jarhead. Tobey and I pushed each other.”

“Who else among your peers would you really like to work with?” I wondered.

“Ryan Gosling,” he said. “He’s incredibly talented. He’s my age, and I really respect him.”

“Let me switch gears here,” I said. “If you could experience one exhilarating moment in any sport, what would it be?”

“Winning a mountain time trial in the Tour de France,” Jake said without hesitation. “I do love to climb. There’s something physical about it, there’s a consistency and an internal rhythm where you just put your head down and feel the pain.”

I asked him next about his work to help plant trees in Mozambique through a group called Future Forests.

“There were trees donated to the forest. I never went to Mozambique,” he said. “But raising awareness is a daily thing for me. Right now it’s transferred over to food. I work with Global Green and their green school initiatives. I’m also starting to work with an organization called Feed, which helps provide for meals in schools.”

“Aren’t you also involved with New Eyes for the Needy?” I asked.

“I have had really bad eyesight since I was a child. I always wore glasses. Whenever my eyes changed and I needed new glasses, my mother would say that I should donate my old glasses to this organization. So many people who can’t afford to go to an ophthalmologist have their eyesight undiagnosed. A $60 contribution can help a kid get glasses and then be able to go to college.” Then he said: “They’re calling me back to the set. I’ve got to go.”

“Let me get one more in,” I requested. “Your former girlfriend, Kirsten Dunst, apparently said that you were the love of her life.”

“Oh, really?” Jake said.

“That’s what I read. Would you consider getting back together?”

“I’m going to leave that for next time,” Jake said, and then thanked me sincerely for our conversation. I held the phone in my hand after he clicked off, wondering when that next time might be.