Josh Hartnett is halfway up a mountain. He can barely see his hand in front of his face, so heavy is the snow battering him from all sides. He’s playing Eric LeMarque in his latest movie, the thrilling true story of survival against the odds that is 6 Below (in cinemas from October 13th) and whilst he knows he’s delivering a powerhouse performance he can’t help but think that maybe it’s about time he picked something a little easier next time. You see, however brilliant Hartnett is (and he always is), he doesn’t give himself the easiest of times on film sets, something this handy retrospective goes some way to proving…
Halloween H20 (1998)
Original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the genre that defined her early career in this blistering return to force for the original slasher franchise. Having faked her own death, Laurie Strode is now the headmistress of a secluded private school, hitting the bottle and driving her rebellious son (an early heartthrob role for Hartnett) to despair with her over-protective schtick and an obsession with her dead brother, Michael. But when that brother is Michael Myers and, oh yeah, he’s not dead at all, her paranoia just might be justified. Hartnett provides a square jaw and, fittingly given his lineage, a propensity towards surviving but sadly he didn’t crop up in any further sequels (although Jamie Lee is back, back, back for the forthcoming reboot so there are reasons to be cheerful).
The Faculty (1998)
Having burst onto the scene in Halloween H20, Hartnett took a gig working alongside Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror) on another modern horror classic in the form of The Faculty. As part of an ensemble cast that included Elijah Wood, Usher, Clea Duvall and Jordana Brewster, Hartnett starred as Zeke, one of a clutch if disparate high school students who notice that there’s something very wrong with their teachers (including genre stalwarts Piper Laurie (Carrie), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Famke Janssen (X-Men)). What they don’t initially realise, however, is that said teachers have been replaced by be-tentacled aliens hell-bent on taking over the rest of Smalltown, USA. Played for laughs as much as for thrills, The Faculty did a brisk business in multiplexes, establishing Hartnett as heartthrob du jour.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Just by looking at the guy, Josh Hartnett clearly has all the attributes to play the movie heartthrob. But what better role to display those qualities than in the fierce and provocative feature debut of Sofia Coppola, a director who would later become a powerhouse in independent cinema. Josh plays dreamy-eyed, six-pack flaunting Trip Fontain, who has a short-lived romance with Kirsten Dunst’s character, Lux, who the film follows during her school year as she attempts to get over the suicide of her younger sister whilst simultaneously trying to escape the clutches of her strict parents. Following this smart and intriguing breakout performance, there was no stopping Hartnett from becoming Hollywood’s next superstar!
Black Hawk Down (2001)
After breaking out onto the Hollywood scene, Hartnett was offered one of the most defining roles of his career so far, in Ridley Scott’s modern war epic Black Hawk Down. The film follows a team of soldiers dropped in to civil war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, in an effort to kidnap two of local crime lord Mohamed Farah Aidid’s top lieutenants. When two of the mission’s Black Hawk helicopters are shot down by enemy forces, the Americans — committed to recovering every man, dead or alive — stay in the area too long and are quickly surrounded. Hartnett plays one of the many soldiers in the film that has to battle his way out of the centre of Mogadishu under heavy, heavy fire. He also gives a very moving speech at the film’s climax about heroism, leaving many a war-movie fan in the cinema teary-eyed.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Michael Bay’s wartime epic and Box Office smash, Pearl Harbor, cemented what was a blistering year for Josh Hartnett. But perhaps more importantly, it provided a vehicle for the ultimate All American Male pairing of Hartnett and Ben Affleck, sending teenage girls across the globe running for the Blu-Tac to adorn their bedroom walls with posters of the pair. In the film, Hartnett plays Captain Danny Walker who, along with his childhood friend, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) serve in the US Eagle Squadron which becomes drawn into the battle of Pearl Harbor; the trigger for the US joining WWII. Ahead of the battle, Rafe meets Nurse Evelyn (played by Kate Beckinsale) and the pair begins a tentative relationship before Rafe is drawn away into combat. Cue complicated – and emotional – love triangle… Whilst not received too well by critics the film was a hit, taking $450 million at the Box Office and proving that Hartnett was fast-becoming one of Hollywood’s most commercially bankable actors.
Lucky Number Slevin (2001)
With Hartnett now established as Leading Man Material, he had his pick of the roles. In this Guy-Richie-esque gangster flick, he plays a man who gets embroiled in a dangerous series of events after being mistaken for the very man he is visiting in The Big Apple. With his wallet stolen and unable to prove his identity, Slevin is forced to step up his desperate search for his friend and reclaim his identity before he’s forced to pay a debt that could cost him his life. With Hartnett starring opposite some of the film scene’s biggest players (including Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman), he comfortably holds his own, proving he is a force to be reckoned with.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Another truly terrible day for Hartnett results in another great movie for his audience as he fends off a horde of really nasty vampires in the acclaimed, unremittingly bleak interpretation of the comic book of the same name. From the get-go, Hartnett’s good guy is up against it as the long northern night falls on the Alaskan town he protects as it’s sheriff. The snow might not be quite up to 6 Below proportions but the feral monsters he has to tackle more than make up for that, as does one of modern horror cinema’s most effective but downbeat endings…
Penny Dreadful (2014 – 2016)
A versatile man of many talents, Hartnett once again catches the eye in another unconventional piece, starring as Ethan Chandler, a troubled sharpshooter turned monster-hunter in TV series Penny Dreadful. Executive-produced by Sam Mendes (Spectre) and written by John Logan (Skyfall), Penny Dreadful is a dark and disturbing mash-up of many of Victorian literature’s most scary monsters, including Frankenstein’s Creature, Count Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It emerges that Ethan has a dark side as well; when there is a full moon, he metamorphoses into a werewolf. Making a formidable team alongside Eva Green in the role of temptress Vanessa Ives, Hartnett proves that he can play any role a casting director throws at him – man or beast!
6 Below (2017)
As you can see from the above examples, Josh Hartnett is no stranger to playing a man in great peril, and that is no different for this latest venture into getting himself into a bit of a pickle. In Scott Waugh’s 6 Below he plays real-life subject Eric LeMarque; a thrill-seeking ex-Olympic hockey player and keen snowboarder with the weight of personal demons on his back. When he gets lost in a massive winter storm in the backcountry of the High Sierra Mountains, LeMarque is pushed to the limit and forced to battle those demons head-on as he fights against the worst the elements can throw at him. With Hartnett well and truly made to suffer for taking the risk of going off-piste (quite literally and in the broader sense of his career), this epic survival thriller is sure to grip fans old and new when it opens in cinemas this Friday.
6 BELOW is in cinemas and on demand from October 13th, 2017