Straight from the Hartnett

What finally convinced you to take Pearl Harbor?
A conversation I had with my dad. I told him that the film would change my life and maybe my whole family’s, too, and that I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do. He said, “It’s your decision. But fame is temporary. You can quit and it’ll go away or you can keep going and it’ll go away anyway. But regret can be permanent.” One of the last things I said to my dad before I got on the plane to go off and shoot Pearl Harbor was, “I’m going to go for the ride until it lets me off.”

Did you learn anything about fame from Affleck?
I don’t know if I could learn anything from Ben or anyone else until it happens, but I think Ben’s holding together very well. I’ve seen other people who aren’t. I do know that when you’re not famous, you’re trying to find exciting things to happen in your life, and when you’re famous there’s always something coming at you. There’s never a dull moment. So I figure when you’re very famous you look for dull moments.

Michael Bay is famous for being hard on his actors. How was he with you?
I got to know him before we started filming so I knew he wasn’t as big a bastard as people think he is. He’s really passionate and feels he hasn’t figured out a different way to get things done quickly other than getting really hard on people. The stuff that he pulled off while we were shooting was amazing, so I felt lucky to be around that kind of visual genius.

Because you’ve worked with so many attractive actresses, do you feel you have a pretty good grip on how they tick?
Women are a mystery. I’ve never been able to figure one out. But it’s a lot more fun to go to work with a beautiful, intelligent, exciting woman than it is to go to work with a bunch of middle-aged men. No offense to the middle-aged men of the world.

Have you ever had a relationship with one of your costars?
I screwed up on my girlfriend with somebody on a movie set and we broke up. A while later, after we became friends again, she said to me, “I know why, I understand completely what it’s all about, how hard it is to stay involved with someone far away when you’re making a movie.” You go through the entire stage of a community, only it’s compressed within three months. And there’s a prince and princess that pair off. The crew rarely does that, maybe because crews are usually from the location where filming takes place. Actors are imported and don’t know anybody except each other. You’re young. You’re ready, willing and able and [Laughs] you’re just there. What can I say?

Does it ever get awkward when you’re romancing your costar?
It’s weird when you’re doing a love scene with someone you just fought with. How do you push past that? You have to be a really good actor to brush off bad feelings and replace them with warm ones. A smart actor doesn’t get involved because the relationship affects his performance.

Did Ridley Scott tell you what he’d seen of you that made him want to cast you?
Michael Bay showed Ridley parts of Pearl Harbor. Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced Pearl Harbor, is also producing Black Hawk Down. Jerry has been nothing but good to me.

How are you like Huck [Finn] (the first character Josh ever played)?
I have wanderlust. A need to keep going. A hunger to move around, see things, learn. … theater has never defined me—what defines me is wanderlust, this extreme need to move, to see.

Tell me about a movie you’d most like your life to be like.
It’d probably be something like Kenneth Branagh’s film of Much Ado About Nothing, where you’re hanging around with a bunch of beautiful women in Tuscany, where everyone’s always got a quip and everything works out well in the end. But conflict is necessary. It keeps us going.

This article has been edited for The complete story appeared in Movieline Jul.2001.

July 1, 2001 | Interview | this post contains affiliate links