DID YOU READ

Josh Hartnett on “August”

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07152008_joshhartnett1.jpgIn the mere decade he’s been filling movie screens, 30-year-old actor Josh Hartnett has already worked in both mega-budget studio flicks (“Pearl Harbor,” “Hollywood Homicide”) and with auteurs like Sofia Coppola (“The Virgin Suicides”), Robert Rodriguez (“The Faculty,” “Sin City”) and Brian De Palma (“The Black Dahlia”). Maintaining his stance with one foot in Hollywood, the other currently leaning more heavily in Indiewood, Hartnett’s latest — which he also co-produced — is a time warp back to New York during the summer of 2001. Only marginally a pre-9/11 film, director Austin Chick’s “August” is an implosive study in hubris set against the backdrop of the dot-com economic meltdown. Hartnett plays Tom Sterling, a narcissistic millionaire CEO who is far more concerned with his materialistic rock star image than he is for Landshark, the sinking ship of a company that he began with his brother Joshua (Adam Scott). Hartnett chatted with me about the film, why he considers himself a gambler, and being intimidated by co-star David Bowie.

As a well-recognized actor, have you ever thrown your celebrity weight around to get your way, as Tom does?

No, I’ve never considered such things. [laughs] Of course, yeah. There are times, especially in New York, where the nightlife is run by the loudest voice in the room. There are so many celebrities here in their own right who are just local celebrities, and it’s hard to keep that status alive. But I don’t play that game. I’ve seen a lot of people who are like that, and that’s where the character Tom came from, as far as my understanding of him. There aren’t that many situations where I have to throw a tantrum. I’m not all that demanding, I don’t think. My family might think otherwise.

What Landshark actually does or produces is kept largely ambiguous in the film. Were there any challenges or concerns approaching a character who had so many blanks to be filled in?

It just makes my job a little bit more creative. I get to decide more myself what his job really is, what the company is, and how he thinks his own life will play out. For this script, the character was so well written that I had faith that I wasn’t going to look moronic up there. Leaving it ambiguous was the right choice, and I think it turned out well. In a way, it’s not all that important to let the audience know what the company does. The more ambiguous Tom’s pitch is, the more people seem to buy it.

07152008_joshhartnett2.jpgAre you a tech geek in any way?

My abilities on the computer are limited pretty much to iTunes and YouTube. I check my email as much as anybody, but I’m more old-fashioned, in a certain sense. My interests are guitars, cars, and vacation. I’ve been playing guitar all my life. My dad was a professional guitarist, but I’m terrible, which lets me off the hook, so I just play for myself.

Speaking of musicians, David Bowie makes a wonderful cameo role in the film. Do you have any on-set anecdotes involving him, or for that matter, your co-star Rip Torn?

Rip’s a character — he said he’s worked on more films than any other American actor. I don’t know if that’s true, but he’s been around for a long time. We had a good relationship, and he was only on set for a few days, and David Bowie was only there for one day, so I didn’t really get to know either of them that well. But with Bowie, I was just awestruck when he was around. Right before Bowie came to set, I saw all his old videos, and that made me doubly intimidated by him when he got there.

Between Bowie, iTunes and your family of musicians, it’s probably fair to ask what you’re listening to these days.

Wolf Parade just came out with a new album, and I’ve got a huge musical infatuation with [vocalist-keyboardist-guitarist] Spencer Krug; I think he’s a genius. He has that band Sunset Rubdown, too, and Swan Lake. I’ve been really excited to hear the new album, so I’ve been listening to that a lot. My musical tastes go from Zeppelin to Bob Dylan to Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne. Anything modern and progressive.

What’s the biggest gamble you’ve ever taken?

Relying on the movie business to feed me was a pretty large gamble. I got lucky there. I’m kind of a gambler at heart. I take a lot of risks with my career and my life. I move around a lot, and I love my family and friends, but I do kind of keep moving and don’t spend a lot of time in one place. I traveled to China a little bit last year — that was exciting, but I won’t [be traveling again until] the beginning of next year, because I’m doing this play in London, which is also a gamble.

07152008_joshhartnett3.jpgYou mean the Tom Cruise role in a “Rain Man” stage adaptation? I had no idea that project existed until this week.

It was just written into a play last year. They sent it to me, and I was thinking at first, why would I reprise a role that was done so well before? Why would I take on a theater piece based on a movie? But I read the script, and I couldn’t deny it was one of the richest characters I’ve ever read. I’ve been looking for a piece of theater to do, in London specifically. One of the producers who I’ve met with out there sent it to me and said, “I think this would be terrific for you.” I read it, loved it, we went out and found a director, another actor, and here we are.

What preconceived notions do you think people have about actors, acting, or even you as an actor?

The perception of me has hopefully changed over the years. At the beginning of my career, it was odd to me that people saw me so much as the heroic type. “Pearl Harbor” was one of those heroic characters, and that was the biggest movie I was in, but I try to experiment with different types of characters. My first film was Robert Rodriguez’s “The Faculty,” and I played the reluctant cool guy. In “The Virgin Suicides,” I played something that I thought was completely different, and worked my way up like any other actor in the industry. Then suddenly, there was this invitation put out to journalists to categorize me when I did “Pearl Harbor,” and that was obviously a huge publicity machine. I found myself at the center of it, and I’ve been labeled ever since.

I hope the work I’m doing is showing people that I’m a real actor and that I want to try different things. In general, I think actors are labeled as pampered and [not having] a lot of scruples. I know a lot of actors who are incredibly intelligent and care very much about all areas in life. They’re not just preening in the mirror all day long… but some are like that, too.

“August” is currently playing in New York and will be released in Los Angeles on July 18th.

[Photos: Josh Hartnett in “August,” First Look International, 2008]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.