Interview: Josh Hartnett

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(Hartnett in The Black Dahlia).

Joshua Daniel Hartnett was born in San Francisco, but raised in St. Paul, Minnesota where he starred on his high school football team till a knee injury prematurely ended his gridiron career. Turning his attention to acting, Josh first found a modicum of fame in 1997 on TV as Fitz on the short-lived series Cracker. The next year, he made his big screen debut with a breakthrough performance opposite Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween H20.

Since then, he’s enjoyed a meteoric rise, landing a string of lead roles in such hit flicks as Hollywood Homicide, Sin City, Black Hawk Down, 40 Days & 40 Nights, The Faculty, The Virgin Suicides, Pearl Harbor, Here on Earth and Lucky Number Slevin. With his services in demand, Hartnett has already committed to a number of upcoming films, including Resurrecting the Champ with Samuel L. Jackson, 30 Days of Night with Melissa George, and The Prince of Cool where he’s handle the title role as the legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker.

His new release is The Black Dahlia, a film noir based on the James Ellroy novel of the same name. The picture, directed by Brian de Palma, revisits the events surrounding the unsolved, 1947 murder of an aspiring Hollywood actress. Here, Josh talks about his role as Bucky Bleichert, one of the detectives assigned to crack the case.

BSN: Why do you think people care about a 60 year-old murder case?
JH: It’s unsolved still, so I think people are fascinated by that. And it was grisly. It was really a terrible murder. And generally, I just think, it was one of the first of its kind in the States. It was definitely the biggest murder in Los Angeles history to date at that point. I don’t know why it captured people’s attention as much as it did, because it became this giant phenomenon. Anybody who was around the California area at that time knew the whole saga. It was in the newspapers every day. It was a big deal.

BSN: What about your character, Bucky Bleichert? How did he get enmeshed in the case?
JH: As the story goes on, he gets sucked deeper and deeper into this sort of crazy world that, originally, he wanted nothing to do with. Even when the Dahlia was murdered, he doesn’t feel that it was his job to be a part of it.

BSN: Tell me a little about the film’s love triangle featuring you, your partner Lee (Aaron Eckhart), and his wife, Scarlett Johansson.
JH: Kay is pretty much the innocent of the piece. She was beaten up terribly by this character named Bobby DeWitt (Richard Brake) before he went to prison. She was kinda’ forced into prostitution and luckily found herself in Lee’s arms. At around the time of the trial, Lee kind of saves her, but he needs her as well. It’s a surrogate sister sort of thing. Their relationship is really interesting.

BSN: How so?
JH: I wouldn’t say that Bucky wanted to rock the boat, because he appreciated the three of them as a whole.

BSN: Why do you describe Kay as innocent?
JH: Because this girl has an open quality about her onscreen. Everything she feels comes right out through her face. There’s not a lot hidden. I think Kay is the most open of the bunch. She has a troubled past, but she wants kind of a good, solid life. Everybody else is sort of twisted. They want more or different things than that. Bucky would probably want a normal life, but he’s easily taken in by the dark side. But Kay wants nothing to do with that. So, what I think is great about Scarlett is that she has this real generous quality about her. She wants good things for herself and the other characters.

BSN: What was it like working with two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank in this movie?
JH: Hilary comes across as just a kind of an impeccable person in all of her films, as someone who just wants so badly for everything to turn out right. Then when you see her in this role, you really see a different side of her. I think that she pulls it off amazingly, like in the scene where everything goes to a first-person perspective. I kind of become the camera, and she’s looking at me. And she kinda’ checks out my clothes a little bit. Just a glance. There’s a slight register of disapproval, and then she moves on, and with a big ole smile says, “Come on in.� She’s so layered. Such a complex actress.

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