California-born Josh Hartnett had developed a steady career
appearing in such Hollywood films as
Black Hawk Down,
Lucky Number Slevin
and Pearl Harbor.
In 2002, he starred in an adaptation of William Shakespeare's
O, set in an American
high school, as Hugo – the film's version of Iago.
He then starred in Brian DePalma's true-crime mystery,
The Black Dahlia
(based on James Ellroy's book), as a detective investigating the
real-life murder of actress Elizabeth Short. Next he tackled two
other genres – the classic boxing drama,
Resurrecting the Champ,
with Samuel L. Jackson, and the graphic novel-based horror thriller,
30 Days of Night,
in which he played a small-town sheriff battling vampires.
Hartnett’s turn-downs have been as notable as some of the films he
made; he passed on an opportunity to play Clark Kent/Superman in the
film that was going to be directed by Brett Ratner and was going to
play trumpeter Chet Baker in
The Prince of Cool, but didn't agree with the producer's
In 2007, he took time out from filming to support the green
lifestyle campaign of Global Cool.
Now, through Bunraku,
an archly-stylized swordplay fantasy, the 33-year-old actor returns
to the genre spotlight playing an enigmatic drifter appropriately
called “The Drifter.” This computer-enhanced tale revolves around
Hartnett’s character, a “Man with No Name,” and draws heavily on
Samurai and Western tropes in an alternate-world dystopia where guns
are banned and the sword is king (as it was in Japan until the end
of the 19th century).
The film’s title is based on bunraku,
the 400-year-old form of Japanese puppet theater; the puppets are
four-feet tall with highly detailed heads, operated by several
puppeteers who wear black robes and hoods so as to not distract the
In Guy Moshe's uncharacteristic follow-up to Holly (his
controversial film on child trafficking shot in Cambodia's
brothels), a classic retribution-and-redemption tale is re-imagined
in a skewed reality blended with arch characters and shadowy
A crime boss who rules with an iron fist and nine assassins, Nicola
the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman), is the most powerful man east of the
Atlantic. His associates include the murderous,
cold-hearted-yet-smooth-talking right-hand man, Killer #2 (Kevin
McKidd), and lover Alexandra (Demi Moore), a femme fatale with a
secret past. The citizens live in fear and hope for a hero who can
take them out.
In comes the drifter to the Headless Horseman Saloon who tells the
bartender (Woody Harrelson) that he wants two things – a shot of
whisky and to kill Nicola. A samurai enters, Yoshi (Gackt Camu), who
wants to avenge his father by recovering a talisman stolen from his
clan by Nicola. Guided by the bartender's wisdom, the two eventually
join forces to bring down his corrupt reign, chopping heads and
limbs along the way.
premiered as a selection of 2010 Toronto International Film Festival
Midnight Madness section. A theatrical and VOD release is slated for
As Hartnett regains a public presence – he has a quartet of films
Stuck Between Stations – he is again giving interviews
such as this exclusive Q&A.
had a string of exciting, interesting films and then slowed down a
bit. What went on between those films and this one?
I've been working, just not necessarily acting. I took some time off
from acting. I started a production company, directing a little bit
and writing a lot. Right before this, I did a movie,
I Come with the Rain,
which didn't really get a release because it was so dark. And then I
did this, and now I've got a movie called
[director] Roland Joffé that will come out soon, I believe.
It's supposed to be science-fiction?
Well, it's set in the late 1700s in India.
thought it had a time travel theme to it.
It's set in 2020 as well. There's no time travel, but it's about the
possibility of reincarnation.
When you do offbeat and off-kilter dark things, something like
it forces you to figure out how to give life to an unusual character
like in this film. What was it that you did to make him into a
character, into an archetype of some kind?
A film like this requires making up an entire back-story because
there is no back-story to speak of. You don't know anything about
him. I came up with a world that he might have existed in and then
gave him some pathos.
Enlighten me about that world that lies behind him which we don't
necessarily see outlined in the film?
Obviously, his father was killed, so he didn't really know his
father. His mother was gone, so he was raised by somebody else. I
thought it would be interesting because the world was kind of a
circus-oriented film. If he was part of something like that, he was
a drifter of some sort. He's called "the drifter." So who drifts? We
came up with traveling gypsies, and that was the way that he was
raised. He didn't know any home, really, and he didn't really know
who he was and he was never given a name. We spent some time
figuring out who he was and decided that it almost doesn't matter
what his back-story is. What's more interesting is why he's here and
why it's taken him so long to get back. My idea is that he wasn't
really told about this situation, like about his father being
killed, until he was old enough and he'd been living in this gypsy
world for a long time. And then he had to spend some time figuring
out how he was going to take revenge. No guns, so he had to learn to
fight. He's just a brawler, a natural brawler.
How much did this bring out your inner brawler? Did it take a lot of
work for you to put aside your pacifist elements and get the brawler
out of you?
There were some pretty physical things in this film to do, so I had
to work pretty hard to get my body in shape for this. But I've got a
little brawler in me.
Were there any famous brawls in your past that you engaged in or
defused that you can tell me about?
I haven't been in a physical fight since I was 14. I broke up a
fight in New York a few years ago, and then the people who were in
it tried to sue me saying I was in the fight. That's just some bad
behavior on some idiot's part. But no, no, I don't.
Obviously there's the Japanese cultural background to this film. Did
you read books about the puppet theater or look at samurai films? Do
you know about the wandering samurai, the ronin; did you look into
any of that stuff?
There were a lot of different references for this film, one of them
being something like a ronin, but having to do with [the late
director Akira] Kurosawa usually – and it was film references,
mostly. Kurosawa was used in creating this, there was [Sergio Leone]
of course, and then Jean-Pierre Melville – French New Wave stuff.
This is such a film-centric film, I had to do a lot of watching of
films to kind of figure out what [the] references [were].
Name three films that you saw that will stay with you for the rest
of your life now that you've viewed them in doing this movie.
I've watched a lot of French New Wave films, but they were mostly
the Truffauts and the Louis Malles, those kind of guys. And then
pretty much Guy, the director, introduced me to Jean-Pierre
Melville, and he's one of my favorite directors now.
Did you have any particular Kurosawa film or other samurai movies
you watched to prep for this?
I've seen everything of Kurosawa's over the years; I don't know what
I watched specifically for this. This is three and a half years ago
you know, that we started filming this.
When you were filming, did you know about the digital side of it?
How much did that help or hurt you in making the film, knowing that
it was going to be altered technologically?
It was no different for me. I saw the landscape drawings that were
sitting in the production office and I knew what he was going for as
far as the feel of the world. But we were on physical sets the whole
time. So for me it was like making any other film, except there were
a lot of physical requirements that I had never had to use before.
It doesn't matter to me what the sky is going to look like.
How was it seeing the finished product? That must have been exciting
to see things turned into other things than what you knew in the
making of it.
Sure, Guy really pulled it off. The reason I was drawn to this film
was because of Guy's vision. Before I even read the script, he came
in and spoke to me in New York about being in it. He didn't want me
to read the script, he wanted to explain it to me visually, he
wanted to have a discussion about his reference points as far as
other films go for the film. And then I went and read the film. I
was intrigued by Guy's thorough understanding of what he was trying
to create, even though most people wouldn't understand it just by
reading the film or looking at the title, of course. But he pulled
off what he was going for, and that's brave and takes a lot of guts
What did you think about the cast he selected for this movie? Were
they people you had worked with, or wanted to work with?
I love the guys that worked on this film. We spent a lot of time
hanging out. We were in Bucharest, Romania. There wasn't a lot else
to do except hang out with each other, so we got to know each other
very well. Obviously I've been a fan of a lot of their work for a
long time, so it was unsurprising that they were great fun to work
with on set.
Did you see his previous film
What did you think of it?
I hadn't seen Holly
when Guy came out to New York. He came out with a completely clean
slate. I knew he was a new director, but he knew exactly what he was
going for. He was very conscious of the fact that it was something
new for him as well. He's an incredibly intelligent guy. I believed
that he could make something unique, something interesting,
something different from the cookie cutter films that come out every
week. This is obviously not right down the middle, so I was really
pleased with the final product.
Did Guy's Israeli background enhance your appreciation of each other
and did it add to the dialogue between you two?
Guy comes from a world where there's a lot of fighting, obviously,
and so the theme of the film made sense to me knowing that he was
Israeli. But he's a remarkably easy guy to get along with. It
doesn't matter where he's from. I trusted his judgment on this film.
We had our share of talks about what I wanted to do with the
character, and we came to a conclusion and I'm proud of the outcome.
I always like to work with people who have a real sense of what
they're going for. If you're working with someone who's just
accommodating all the time, then you never know where you stand. Guy
definitely has opinions and he definitely knows what he wants, and
that's reassuring for me as an actor. So this was a good experience.
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