TORONTO -- Apparently, losing some 30 pounds to play a deranged paparazzo in the upcoming film "Nightcrawler" didn't do much for Jake Gyllenhaal's mood.

At the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, co-star Riz Ahmed said Gyllenhaal basically subsisted on chewing gum and tea, which made him grumpy during the shoot.

But Ahmed says he came to realize the extreme measures were a brilliant way for Gyllenhaal to get into the mindset of his desperate character, who stalks Los Angeles at night shooting crime scene footage.

"Nightcrawler" also stars Rene Russo as a tough-talking TV producer.

It's written and directed by her husband, Dan Gilroy, and is set to hit theatres Oct. 17.

Ahmed, who plays an assistant hired by Gyllenhaal's character, says filming at night for weeks on end put the entire cast into a weird mindset.

"It was intense man, it was really intense," said the British actor, whose screen credits also include "Four Lions." "I mean it was like claustrophobic, filming in a car, night shoots the whole time. After six weeks of not seeing daylight you feel quite strange."

He said Gyllenhaal had some interesting weight-loss strategies.

"He'd have a bowl of luxury chewing (gum) and they were, like, really elaborately flavoured, to trick his brain into thinking he was having a meal. So he was on his exercise bike having chewing gum and, like, almond tea with one calorie," said Ahmed.

"When he started to do it I was a bit baffled ... but now having seen the film and going through the process I realize that's quite an ingenious way into the character, to manifest the hunger and desperation in that character physically."

He also said Gyllenhaal was apologetic about his sour demeanour: "He was aware of it so he was like: 'Sorry I'm grumpy, I haven't eaten."'

The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sept. 14.