Five Films: Josh Hartnett Reflects on Some His Most Memorable Roles


Five Films: Josh Hartnett Reflects on Some His Most Memorable Roles


The Faculty (1998): Drug-dealing high school senior Zeke Tyler and an unlikely group of misfits band together to battle their teachers, whose bodies have been overtaken by alien parasites.

Number of times Josh Hartnett was arrested during the film’s production: 1

Number of arrests he has left before facing the death penalty in Texas: 2

The Faculty was the first film I got cast in. I’d been doing a TV show [Cracker] in L.A. after six months of being in art school, so I was basically just out of the house. I hadn’t yet read the script when I went in for my first meeting—I’m sure it was available, but I was young and I didn’t give a shit, and I think [the film’s director] Robert Rodriguez loved that. He said to me after I was cast, “I was looking for the coolest kid in school, and you just didn’t seem to care at all.” We had so much fun, maybe too much fun. Actually, I got arrested down there, but it wasn’t really my fault. The cops who pulled me over typed in the vehicle identification number wrong, so they arrested me for stealing a car. Robert and Elizabeth [Avellan, the film’s producer and his wife at the time] came down to bail me out of the Austin county jail in the middle of the night so that I could work the next morning. Since I didn’t show up for trial, because it was so ridiculous, they put a strike on my record. If I get arrested twice more, or get convicted of anything twice more in Texas, I’m getting the electric chair, or whatever they do now—lethal injection?

The Virgin Suicides (1999): High school heartthrob Trip Fontaine seduces and then abandons Lux Lisbon (Kirsten Dunst), who, along with three of her sisters, kills herself.

Number of working actors named Trip, according to IMDb: 1, a stunt-double dog.

Amount of rights ownership attained for the film adaptation of The Virgin Suicides: 0

I haven’t seen the movie since it came out. The thing that really got me about The Virgin Suicides is that it’s a far-fetched idea in a simple setting, and every one of the characters’ predicaments is relatable. You change allegiances throughout the course of the script, and the film did the same thing. You get into the head of Lux when she starts to fall for Trip, and then you get a sense of who Trip is to her. I remember the scene with Trip and his two dads, and there’s a voiceover, where the narrator talks about Trip’s recent blossoming from his young, chubby self into this lean, sexually desired young man—and he was living it up. Because the characters are so relatable, it’s even more shattering when you end up disliking them, even hating them. I believe Sofia [Coppola, the film’s director] adapted it from Jeffrey Eugenides’ book without even having the rights to it. It was risky because she could have wasted a year of her life, but I think that’s what has to be done when you’re a young filmmaker and you want to make your mark.

O (2001): Steroid-addicted high school basketball player Hugo Goulding tears apart sweethearts Odin (Mekki Phifer) and Desi (Julia Stiles) in Tim Blake Nelson’s retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello.

Percentage of Julia Stiles films involving Shakespeare: 11.5

Number of Julia Stiles films called Sexting: 1

I’d read Othello before we made the movie, and when we started filming, I carried around a leather-bound edition that Tim Blake Nelson had given me—then I threw it away and just tried to play this kid who loves basketball and lives in South Carolina. We shot the film pre-Columbine—there had been a couple of school shootings but not on that level. I’d done a little research on those kids who felt disenfranchised and the ones who survived. After we shot it, Columbine happened and the film didn’t come out for another two-and-a-half years. It just wasn’t something people wanted to watch.

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002): San Francisco–based dot-com entrepreneur Matt Sullivan tries to abstain from sex for the duration of Lent only to be forced into intercourse by his ex-girlfriend at the 11th hour.

Number of sex comedies made about Lent since 2002: 0

Number of movies starring Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford as cops who moonlight as a yoga instructor and a real estate agent, respectively: 1

I grew up Catholic, so I thought the idea of basing the plot around Lent was funny. People were freaked out by the film’s frank, almost adolescent view of sex. I always said when they asked me to play the role, I don’t know if I’m the right guy for it. I thought the ideal casting for it would have been a young Harrison Ford, someone for whom the stakes are so high—monumentally, melodramatically high—and he’s roughly pushing his way through this crisis, which happens to be self-imposed. It would have been hilarious to treat it dramatically. There were a lot of hands in the pot on this one. People were hedging their bets, in a certain way, with the style—everything’s in Technicolor. Personally, if I had directed the film, I would have made it much bleaker.

Wicker Park (2004): Advertising executive Matthew Simon scours the city of Chicago in search of Lisa (Diane Kruger), a women with whom he’d once been in love.

Disorientation films of the ’90s: Trainspotting, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense.

Disorientation films of the ’00s: Wicker Park, Memento, He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not.

Wicker Park was based on a French murder mystery called L’appartement, both of which were played in this nonlinear format. When we made Wicker Park, there was a lot of talk about whether or not we should include the murders that were in the original. Ultimately, the decision was made to create something less sensational and more about missed opportunities and bad timing, which I liked because I thought it took more of a risk. Film is always a bit disorienting when you’re making it. There are only, like, two people on set who have any sense of how things are going to be put together. They say a film is made three times: once when it’s written, once when it’s filmed, and once when it’s edited. I think even the director sometimes has a misconstrued sense, or a different idea, of how a film will turn out. It’s a puzzle.

Styling by Trevor Stones. 

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