The actor plays an ex-convict who revisits his past troubles as he embarks on a road trip with two strangers.
Hurt wanted to ensure he played the character convincingly - by experiencing what it's like to spend time in jail.
He tells Parade magazine, "I did spend a night in a maximum security prison in Angola, Louisiana, with a convict who was serving a life sentence. I also went back for ten days to talk to inmates. And I wanted to get rid of my New York actor body, so I went to a trainer who helped me beef up.
"There's a difference between telling a story and living a story. I want you to feel that my character's living through a situation that you would believe. But you have to be careful. You can't really capture life without killing it. You can't open up a frog and see how his heart pumps without killing the frog. I don't want to kill the frog.
"I want to be part of expressing how wonderful and vital that privilege of life is. I ask myself on every page of a script and every word I say in a scene, 'Is this true or is this just a made up character?'"