As Hollywood glutted cineplexes with teen movies in the late Nineties, you could sense that the industry was desperate for a good-looking boy who’d still be putting asses in seats long after the Clearasil bubble had burst. Your winner, ladies and gentlemen, is Josh Hartnett.
Last year the twenty-two-year-old native of St. Paul, Minnesota, ditched commercial fluff — Halloween: H20 and The Faculty — for a pair of bell-bottoms in Sofia Coppola’s darkly comic Virgin Suicides. It was the first in a long line of roles that will push Hartnett toward leading-man status. In the pipe there’s Town and Country with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton; O, an Othello adaptation with Hartnett playing a character based on the villainous Iago; and the abstinence comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights.
“I’ll be political,” laughs Hartnett in his soft, slightly mumbly voice, when asked which of his upcoming films he’s proudest of. “I’m excited about all of them. These movies have been my life for the last two and a half years.”
But none of them will garner half the attention of his current project, next summer’s Pearl Harbor — slated to be the most expensive movie ever made, in which he and Ben Affleck co-star with a $200 million budget.
So I’m calling you at a hotel where you’re checked in under the name [of porn star] Ron Jeremy …
That was a joke that was played on me. I tried to check in at 1:30 in the morning on Sunday, and they couldn’t find my room.
You’ve done teensploitation flicks and indie work. So how does being in the biggest-budget movie of all time feel?
Jesus, I don’t know, it’s just another movie — it’s just bigger.
With a project this huge, do you feel like you’ve escaped being a teen actor?
God, I never really wanted to be that. That’s why I tried to do things like Virgin Suicides. I played a teen dream, but it was a joke, a spoof on that whole thing, hopefully.
And you’ve got more complicated roles where that came from?
Yeah — in Blow Dry, I play a Yorkshire hairdresser. I had to learn to cut hair.
What kind of hairdresser do you make?
Man, I don’t think you’d let me cut your hair.
Do you have an accent in the film?
Yeah. I got to go to all the Yorkshire bars and drink and hang out. There were people I met there who had lived in the same town for their whole lives. It’s amazing.
Is that alien to you, the desire to stay in one place all your life? Were you itching to get the hell out of St. Paul?
I didn’t have a reason to take off, but I wanted to.
Now you’re in Hollywood, which you’ve said before is like high school.
It’s the same system as far as popularity goes. Being on top, rising or falling, the rumor mill. It’s high school for the big boys … and girls.