Josh Hartnett Takes the Wheel with "Slevin," "Dahlia"

by | April 7, 2006 | Comments

Josh Hartnett is still in his twenties, but he’s already taken a sabbatical from the Hollywood rat race; now he’s come back refocused, with the neo-noir comedy "Lucky Number Slevin," and a batch of promising projects on his slate. RT’s Jen Yamato speaks with Hartnett about "Slevin," "The Black Dahlia," his career, and more.

"Lucky Number Slevin," which opens today, reunites Josh Hartnett with his "Wicker Park" director Paul McGuigan. While that movie suffered at the hands of critics, Hartnett’s second collaboration with McGuigan on "Slevin" gave the pair another chance to better fulfill their artistic visions.

"Paul’s a really great director," begins Hartnett. "It was fun to work with him the first time, but we felt there were things that we wanted to do with "Wicker Park" that we weren’t allowed to do because there were a lot of people involved, so we decided to try it again on something we could really control. We got the most amazing group of actors to be in the film, and made it the way we thought it should be made."

That "amazing" group includes veteran actors Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley, who between them share eight Oscar nominations and two wins. The effect of uniting these powerhouse actors was not lost on "Slevin"’s star.

Hartnett shares the screen with Morgan Freeman in "Slevin"

"My favorite scene to be a part of was the scene with Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman together, just because I got to work with two legends," Hartnett said. "Once you work with people like [Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley], and they come back and want to work with you again, then you know that you’re not terrible."

"People tear you apart every day and you need people to pat you on the back occasionally," he continued. "Those guys were amazing to work with — you just grow when you work with great people."

Growing is something that the 27-year-old actor is intent on. Hartnett took a few years off following "Wicker Park" to regroup a career he feared would be pigeon-holed into the same type of bland, pretty boy roles he was being offered.

"I get really annoyed with the ‘system’ in Hollywood, because it’s so based on hype — and I guess I was lucky enough to be at the center of that hype, but I felt like people were trying to push me into a box that I didn’t think I belonged in," he explained.

Hartnett in "Slevin"

Hartnett spent his two year break back home in Minnesota, sifting through scripts, looking for characters that could hold his interest. His turn in "Slevin" resulted when old friend Paul McGuigin took the helm.

"I read the script six or seven years ago, so I knew [screenwriter Jason Smilovic] from then," Hartnett shared. "When he first started to get the movie going, with a different director, I wasn’t that interested. But when Paul called and said he really wanted to make it his next movie, I said ‘Sign me up.’"

The next role Hartnett chose to take on was one in Brian de Palma‘s upcoming noir-thriller, "The Black Dahlia." Set in 1940s Los Angeles, "Dahlia" is based on real events and follows two officers investigating the murder of an actress, from a novel by crime novelist James Ellroy ("L.A. Confidential").

"I’m definitely drawn to film noir, in that the characters are compromised — they’re complicated characters, not your average hero role," said Hartnett. "I believe everybody’s more complicated than they let on, and when you tell surface stories it’s kind of a disservice."

Hartnett said he believes "Dahlia" director De Palma is well suited to the project.

"De Palma’s great, he’s a very smart guy, and we get along; we’re kind of kindred spirits," he said. "He’s done so many really interesting films in the past, and this is right up his alley — this time period is perfect for him."

Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart and Scarlett Johansson in "The Black Dahlia"

Another well-known filmmaking figure that Hartnett has chosen to work with is Rod Lurie, who will direct him in the upcoming drama, "Resurrecting the Champ." In this adaptation of a series of articles by L.A. Times writer J.R. Moehringer, Hartnett will star as a sportswriter who believes he’s re-discovered a forgotten boxing champ, to be played by Samuel L. Jackson.

"["Resurrecting the Champ"] has a mysterious quality to it because it’s a true story, but this guy, this boxer, is kind of an unknown; he’s living on the streets of L.A. This all happened in 1991, and it’s a really interesting story," he promised.

His role in "Champ" is not only a marker of Hartnett’s more interesting career choices; it’s also another venture for the actor into the world of producing. As with "Lucky Number Slevin," Hartnett will act as executive producer on "Champ," giving him more artistic control over his performance. He also plans to produce an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson‘s "The Rum Diaries," a project that’s been rumored to star Hartnett and fellow Thompson pals Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, which he said might happen in the next few years.

"About six years ago I met Hunter [Thompson] and he liked me," said Hartnett, "and I’ve always thought he was an amazing writer."

"He allowed us to take the rights to make The Rum Diaries. We hung out over the course of a few years until he died last year, and kind of developed an idea of what it was going to be. It’s still being written, and we’ll make it sometime in the near future."

Until that project moves forward, Hartnett is keeping busy with even more starring roles: "The Prince of Cool," a biopic of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, and the already in-the-can indie autism romance "Mozart and the Whale" (which was recut against the wishes of many people involved, including Hartnett). Hartnett’s also considering returning to his theater roots, after a long absence.

Hartnett in Peter Naess‘ "Mozart and the Whale"

"I almost did [return] last fall. There were a couple of plays I was looking at, both in London, but I decided to take some time to hang out in New York and get ready for the next movie," he shared.

"I want to go back to theater. Actually, I’m a little afraid of going back on stage; I haven’t done theater in years. But I think that’s what will make me want to go do it soon. I’m a big fan of facing your fears, because even if you fall flat you still had the courage to do it."

Tag Cloud

Fantasy Rocketman Spring TV Reality Infographic name the review Writers Guild of America Musicals Photos TNT romance Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt asian-american free movies Fox News diversity cinemax AMC toy story DC streaming service APB teaser Binge Guide Winter TV Western Pet Sematary strong female leads screen actors guild TIFF Paramount Network psychological thriller Calendar Ghostbusters Marvel Studios DC Comics Turner Classic Movies Black Mirror VOD TCA Winter 2020 Rocky Disney E3 reboot Cartoon Network Anna Paquin Pixar indie nature comiccon Ellie Kemper breaking bad YouTube Red green book YouTube werewolf cancelled television canceled elevated horror A&E indiana jones Vudu X-Men Baby Yoda Cosplay Amazon Studios Masterpiece ratings Walt Disney Pictures ESPN video on demand ABC Family facebook 45 Paramount Holidays Spectrum Originals 2018 ITV cops A24 Valentine's Day Song of Ice and Fire See It Skip It Star Wars Amazon Prime Epix Trophy Talk Shondaland Heroines true crime Trailer Fall TV best foreign kids justice league BBC One politics Brie Larson Comics on TV New York Comic Con Emmys thriller space Esquire DC Universe documentaries mutant unscripted Polls and Games Television Critics Association talk show Peacock Amazon Prime Video witnail Pride Month GoT Sundance TV Certified Fresh E! Premiere Dates Women's History Month PBS Marvel Warner Bros. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Mary poppins Showtime DGA The Walking Dead blaxploitation Lifetime Dark Horse Comics 007 comics Academy Awards Star Trek Britbox Box Office Comedy Central OneApp Oscars Video Games Apple TV Plus GLAAD Universal Election spain Country Schedule sequel theme song batman FOX Avengers The Purge 21st Century Fox TLC SDCC tv talk Disney streaming service sag awards dragons Character Guide parents Biopics children's TV vampires Discovery Channel Sundance Now universal monsters films chucky natural history Tarantino FXX based on movie Black History Month History miniseries quibi Interview Extras Thanksgiving video richard e. Grant Hulu composers hist Awards Tour latino NBC concert Disney Channel FX news CMT Martial Arts period drama zero dark thirty TCM Set visit Nat Geo Toys crossover TCA ABC BBC America Reality Competition spanish language boxoffice TV historical drama Film dark romantic comedy social media Kids & Family psycho 2015 Marathons Marvel Television cooking cartoon Netflix Christmas movies OWN singing competition cancelled TV series PlayStation all-time crime thriller HBO Nickelodeon Film Festival Teen Rock spider-man Sci-Fi dceu LGBTQ Music 2020 USA Family 4/20 technology Endgame critics Crunchyroll Podcast HBO Go President MTV disaster crime Superheroes casting transformers Watching Series Lucasfilm Captain marvel Nominations dc Turner BET sitcom Awards GIFs National Geographic Quiz USA Network versus WGN dogs ghosts Animation RT21 Mudbound Superheroe CBS All Access Comic Book book movie Sundance canceled TV shows TCA 2017 twilight American Society of Cinematographers supernatural comic LGBT Food Network 2017 franchise Adult Swim FX on Hulu Acorn TV NYCC MSNBC Red Carpet Super Bowl HBO Max BBC BAFTA Tumblr series Best and Worst Christmas SXSW Mary Poppins Returns Shudder screenings jamie lee curtis First Reviews documentary Disney+ Disney Plus Columbia Pictures Opinion Logo adventure TV renewals criterion travel robots aliens Classic Film Trivia Hallmark IFC Films joker Creative Arts Emmys anime comedies Horror die hard Television Academy Year in Review Emmy Nominations Sneak Peek medical drama satire Comedy Winners Musical IFC The Witch Holiday mockumentary slashers Apple TV+ Lionsgate spinoff The Arrangement Chernobyl game of thrones Freeform war MCU science fiction Pop TV movies adaptation TV Land independent CW Seed stoner Drama DirecTV Hallmark Christmas movies child's play San Diego Comic-Con Arrowverse renewed TV shows Starz anthology animated SundanceTV Stephen King VH1 TBS sports golden globes doctor who biography finale First Look Syfy crime drama 24 frames Bravo directors Crackle cars Spike political drama Elton John Grammys zombie 2019 dramedy revenge YA TCA Awards Cannes rotten movies we love Rom-Com Tubi Disney Plus CBS streaming Pirates hispanic halloween discovery CNN cancelled TV shows YouTube Premium RT History BET Awards Funimation Mindy Kaling mission: impossible 20th Century Fox Pop cats Apple WarnerMedia game show Action festivals docudrama TruTV VICE blockbuster PaleyFest reviews El Rey Hear Us Out cancelled television Mystery south america 2016 Amazon Tomatazos Lifetime Christmas movies The CW Summer cults Mary Tyler Moore scary movies what to watch police drama a nightmare on elm street Netflix Sony Pictures Countdown award winner spy thriller Travel Channel serial killer 71st Emmy Awards harry potter christmas movies binge zombies stand-up comedy Ovation