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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…