A little over two decades later, fans are still trying to figure out the meaning of Donnie Darko. And fans of the cult classic have been wondering what the cast has been up to since the film’s release in 2001.
A psychological thriller that became a cult classic, Donnie Darko follows the story of Donnie (interpreted by Jake Gyllenhaal) that survives an accident. However, the teenager was left with visions of a haunting rabbit that tells him the world will end in 28 days.
To the surprise of his character, the world didn’t actually end in 28 days. Following the success of the film, the talented cast appeared in larger projects and won lifetime awards.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko
The main character is Donnie Darko. Jake Gyllenhaal was only 20 years old when he interpreted the role of the troubled teen.
Since then, the actor has skyrocketed his fame. He’s starred in the likes of Bubble Boy and The Good Girl, and the 41-year-old also appeared in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Nightcrawler, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Brokeback Mountain, earning him his first Academy Award.
Most notably, the actor has also appeared in music videos for well-known singers. Jake has also been known for having relationships with A-list celebrities such as Kristen Dunst, Reese Witherspoon, and Taylor Swift. He has been in a relationship with model Jeanne Cadieu since 2018.
So far, Jake’s most recent projects include Ambulance and Strange World. The actor also has other projects lined up, including a currently untitled Guy Ritchie movie and Road House.
Jena Malone as Gretchen Ross
The popular Gretchen Ross was also Donnie Darko’s girlfriend. Fast forward two decades, the actress looks unrecognizable and even ditched her brunette hair.
Now 37, the actress has gained recognition through her appearances on Saved!, Pride & Prejudice, Into the Wild, and The Neon Demon. However, other fans might recognize her for her role as Johanna Mason in the worldwide phenomenon trilogy, The Hunger Games.
Since the actress began acting in 1996, Jena had annual releases until she broke her 23-year streak in 2018. She then returned to the big screens in 2020 with three projects and another the following year.
Jena is currently filming two upcoming movies, Rebel Moon and Horizon. She is also a series regular on the Amazon Prime Video show Goliath.
Drew Barrymore as Karen Pomeroy
Drew Barrymore is one of the biggest names in the cast. Not only did she interpret Donnie’s teacher Karen Pomeroy, but she was also a producer on the film.
She’s also known for her roles in Riding in Cars with the Boys, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Fever Pitch, and Big Miracle amongst other films. The actress also starred in three movies with her longtime friend Adam Sandler: The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and Blended.
Through her role in Grey Gardens, the actress won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. She also was nominated for five Emmies and a BAFTA.
In 2015, Drew took a five-year hiatus from the big screens and went on to appear more often on television. She became the main star for the Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet.
In 2020, the 47-year-old became the host of her talk show program, The Drew Barrymore Show.
Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham
You might know him as the heartthrob from Dirty Dancing, but the famous dancer was also great at delivering motivational talks in another life. Interpreting Jim Cuningham, the actor appeared in a few projects until he ultimately passed away in 2009.
After his role in Donnie Darko, Patrick starred in films such as One Last Dance, 11:14, Dirty Dancing: Hava Nights, Jump! and Powder Blue, which became his final role.
In 2009, Swayze passed away at age 57 after suffering from pancreatic cancer. He was married to Lisa Niemi for more than three decades before his passing.
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth Darko
Did anyone say siblings on screens? Jake’s older sister Maggie also played Donnie’s sister in the movie. Makes sense.
Elizabeth, an overprotective sister had her eyes fixed on her little brother. After the film, the actress went on to star in Secretary, Mona Lisa Smile, Sherrybaby, and World Trade Center.
The 44-year-old actress and filmmaker got wider recognition when she became Rachel Dawes in the well-acclaimed superhero film, The Dark Knight.
Most recently, The Lost Daughter which was her directorial debut earned her several nominations for prestigious awards.
Maggie was nominated for two Academy Awards, a BAFTA, five Golden Globes (winning one for her 2014’s role in The Honourable Woman), and a SAG.
Jolene Purdy as Cherita Chen
The shy and innocent Cherita Chen had a major glow-up, and actress Jolene Purdy is thriving. Making her debut and only film so far through Donnie Darko, the child star has a promising career ahead.
Since then, the 38-year-old actress appeared on episodes from well-known television series such as 10 Things I Hate About You, Breaking Bad, and the popular musical series Glee.
In 2010, Jolene landed a main role on the MTV series Gigantic as Piper Katins. Years later, she got the role of Dodee Weaver in Under the Dome, and then the recurring role of Stephanie Hapakuka in Orange Is The New Black.
Her most recent works on television are for the 2021 series WandaVision, The White Lotus, and soon Empire Waist.
Ashley Tisdale as Kim
Even though she appeared for a hot minute in the film, fans can’t deny that Ashley’s first roles on the big screens were memorable.
Ashley found further success through her participation in the popular Disney series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody as well as its spin-off shows.
Most notably, the actress became a global star after becoming Sharpay Evans in the High School Musical trilogy and the spin-off Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure.
Even though she has taken a break from the big screens, the 37-year-old has appeared on television as well as used her voice to interpret other characters. Did you know she was Candace Flynn in Phineas and Ferb?
Also, a producer and singer, Ashley’s latest works include The Masked Singer as a panelist. She was also in the fifth installment of Scary Movie back in 2013.
If you have been affected by this story, there are helplines and support organizations. In the US, contact Cancer Care at 800‑813‑HOPE (4673) or visit this link, [email protected]. You can also call the American Cancer Society on 1-800-227-234 or visit their website. In the UK, you can call 0808 800 6000 or visit Cancer Research UK, or Macmillan Cancer Support.
There are many eating disorder helplines in the UK here to help. Beat can be contacted at 0808 801 0677 while Mind’s contact number is 0300 123 3393. If you are based in the USA, you can call NEDA on (800) 931-2237.