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Spending ’30 Days of Night’ With Josh Hartnett

[IMG:L]What a difference the day makes…

Absolute, bleak and relentless, the bitterly cold night descends without permission upon the town of Barrow, Alaska, ravaging all signs of hope in its path–much like the blood-sucking vampires who stop by, without invitation, for a frosty, month-long carnage feast. Only one thing can stop them: the light. But little does Sheriff Eben know that his gun is about as helpless as is his plan to outsmart the cunning eating machines.

Thoughtfully laconic, Josh Hartnett’s emboldened Sheriff Eben is a finely cast pluck. He’s who horror-thirsty audiences want to see in the role of a flustered, soft-on-the-eye good guy, with a few bad solutions for a problem much larger than he can surmount: the living dead! Harnett’s wholesome, toned-down hipster flavor strikes the right balance of vulnerability and strength to play a fragmented hero, such that you’re constantly wincing and cheering and cheering and wincing–just what you’re supposed to do while watching the blood get slurped out of desperado screaming citizens, wishing they had gone south for the season.

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[IMG:R]Hollywood.com caught up with Hartnett to talk about his romantic, paternal Sheriff Eben, who had to battle super-strength forces and viciously ghoulish encounters in order to save his town–and fellow, tough mamita, sheriff-wife (Melissa George)–from being an appetizing platter of vampire frozen food!

HW: Are you a fan of the genre?
Josh Hartnett:
Yeah, yeah! I grew up watching vampire movies and I don’t think there’s been a really interesting look at the vampire genre in a long time. The biggest reason I wanted to do the film was mostly because of David Slade’s vision. He came up to where I’m from, Minnesota, and laid out what he wanted the movie to be like and it seemed completely different from anything I’ve ever heard of before, kind of visceral and dark but also artistic.

HW: Rumor has it there was an issue with you wanting to have a beard for the whole shoot…
They wanted me clean-shaven at the beginning of the film and it would’ve been a lot easier if I could have grown as much as I can grow, and then add pieces as we went along…I mean, it is Alaska, it is cold there–and I thought the guy should have a beard. There were just people who didn’t believe it was a good idea for me to start the movie with a beard. [Wryly smiles] I actually sent [the producers] a letter including a list of very successful people who had beards; and I tried to explain how much I wanted it, by who had made how much and where I would fit in that progression. [Laughs] It didn’t work!

[IMG:L]HW: How is it to be on a production where you’re shooting nights, non-stop?
It depends how well organized it is, really. This film was really well-organized, so we shot for nights–for what a 100 weeks? And then days for the rest so we didn’t have a bunch of going back and forth. Yeah, of course, it messes with, you but it’s a movie about vampires, so you kinda get a sense of what it’d be like [to be one]. It’s method acting!

HW: This was based on a novel?
I read the novel before, but when I read the script David Slade also gave me the graphic novel as well. So, I re-read it and looked at the script and saw what I thought he wanted to do with it. I did one other graphic novel adaptation, Sin City, so I kind of understood that this was something that was supposed to be half-fantasy and half-reality.

HW: The bitter climate, the oppressive dark, reuniting with your wife–so many issues happening at once!
It’s fun to have multi-layers of turmoil. The idea of being trapped in this horrible situation–you kind of want to feel like everybody is alone. If everybody has someone to latch onto, there’s even conflict between young Jake and myself, and the conflict enriches the whole feeling of isolation and impending doom. I think it was a good choice, honestly.

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[IMG:R]HW: What was it like working with Melissa George, who plays your estranged wife?
I like Melissa a lot. We had a great time. [Matter-of-factly] We showed up, and we started rehearsing. We spent a couple of weeks before shooting getting to know each other. Melissa is a really sweet, really intelligent, ambitious, cool actress. I think she’ll go really far. And, she’s obviously incredibly beautiful!

HW: In real-life, what’s your biggest fear?
Sharks. That’s a fact. I’m not lying.

HW: Can you talk about your rehearsal process, and what you appreciated most about it?
Absolutely, what I really appreciated about David was that we did all this back story. We worked on all of these scenes that may not have made it into the film–that we knew, at the time, that they probably wouldn’t make it into the film. Because we had extra time to shoot the film, we wanted to make sure there was a real life there, and that these guys [Barrow’s terrified citizens] actually “lived” together. I think that it worked. I think there are relationships that aren’t really highlighted in the film that exist below the surface [in a] kind of way. The subtlety is the key to going back and watching a film again.

HW: What would you consider the pivotal turning point for your character, Sheriff Eben?
[*Spoiler alert!] I think the pinnacle point in the movie was when he had to cut off Carter’s head. Ah-ha. Hmm. Never thought I’d be saying that sentence. I think up until that point, he’s surviving and trying to find a solution to all this–and after that, it’s no holds barred. It’s not about finding a solution and it’s pure survival.

Ben Foster clearly dug his heels into this role. Can you talk about his vibe on the set?
Ben is a very capable and committed actor. He would do things to himself that nobody should do to themselves in order to feel pain, anguish and anger. He’s a very interesting actor.

HW: Was it difficult to film the scenes out of sequence order, given the physical range your character has to stretch to protect the town?
Yeah, it’s always difficult to make all the pieces match up but that’s the puzzle; that is being an actor in film!

HW: On thinking about Alaska, do you feel that climate impacts a community, having grown up in Minnesota’s coldness?
Absolutely. There’s an enormous amount of creative people who come out of my home town because we literally spend six months of the year sitting inside having nothing to do but imagine. A lot of really great musicians come out of Minnesota, too, because there’s just so much time to practice. We had a couple of true geniuses like Bob Dylan and Prince and then there’s a bunch of other people who are quite good as well. I come from an artistic family and I think the climate ultimately affects everything. If you have nothing but beaches around you you’re probably going to surf. You’re probably going to have a great tan. It’s going to effect the way you look and the way you act. Period.

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