Jake Gyllenhaal surprises the audience at ‘Nightcrawler’ screening

College kids who attended the preview screening of “Nightcrawler” at the AMC Loews Boston Common on Saturday afternoon were led to believe that the event would include an appearance by the film’s writer-director, Dan Gilroy. Sadly, Gilroy couldn’t make it to Boston in time for the movie. But the audience seemed just as happy with his replacement, “Nightcrawler” star and producer Jake Gyllenhaal, who shocked the crowd when he showed up to introduce the film. Gyllenhaal — who stars in the thriller as a guy who films gruesome crime and accident footage to sell to news stations — welcomed the group and proceeded to make everyone giddy by inviting them to take selfies with him. (They obliged.)

After the crowd settled and the film began, the actor went next door to the Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common where he chatted with us about his Boston ties. Gyllenhaal said he has frequented our city because he grew up going to the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard. He’s still a regular on the island. “My boys — my four closest childhood friends — are all from Boston,” he said. Gyllenhaal departed Boston right after the Ritz to fly to Philadelphia and Washington to introduce “Nightcrawler” in those cities. Worth mentioning: He ordered some Santarpio’s pizza to take with him on the trip.