You may have noticed photos of Emile Hirsch seemingly everywhere recently.
He plays Clyde Barrow in the upcoming two-night television event “Bonnie & Clyde” that is scheduled to air simultaneously on History, A&E and Lifetime beginning Dec. 8. The networks have been heavily promoting it with ads and billboards; so it's hard to miss Hirsch's face.
“The Motel Life,” an indie movie he stars in, opened Friday, and in early December you will be able to see him in “Twice Born” with Penelope Cruz. At the end of the year, in time for Oscar consideration, he plays one of the members of a Navy SEAL team on a doomed mission in Afghanistan in Peter Berg's “Lone Survivor.”
It's a busy time for the 28-year-old actor. The “Into the Wild” star made news recently when he signed on to play John Belushi in a biopic about the late “Saturday Night Live” and “Blues Brothers” star. Hirsch also became a father for the first time in October.
In “The Motel Life,” which is also available on video on demand, Hirsch and Stephen Dorff play brothers living on the fringes of Reno, Nev. The two had been orphaned and left on their own early on, and they use their imaginations to escape their fringe lives.
Hirsch, whose character, Frank, is a storyteller, says he was attracted to the role because of the intimate nature of the story.
“The brothers really don't have any material wealth, but have a great love for each other and a sensitivity about taking care of each other,” says the actor, who grew up mostly in Southern California and has an older sister.
“The Motel Life,” which won the audience award at last year's Rome Film Festival, was directed by real-life brothers Alan and Gabe Polsky; it uses animation to illustrate the stories that Frank tells.
“Stephen is a couple of years older than me and a very affectionate guy by nature. I think he naturally fit the character of the older brother like a glove, and I felt, based on his lead, we just had this special dynamic,” says Hirsch. “We probably got up to a little no good in the bars and casinos, but it was all part of the Reno experience.”
Before filming “Bonnie & Clyde,” Hirsch had not seen the landmark 1967 Arthur Penn film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, but has watched it since.
“Our version is much more straightforward,” he says. “Clyde and Bonnie are presented as a little bit darker, a little bit more dangerous.”
The new TV film is directed by Bruce Beresford (“Tender Mercies,” “Driving Miss Daisy”).
“He shot it like a movie with great attention to detail,” notes Hirsch, who began his career on television at 11.
One of the reasons Hirsch didn't want to see Penn's version was that he didn't want to be influenced by Beatty's performance as Clyde.
“Actors — we can be parrots sometimes,” Hirsch says. “Then when I saw him ... he was so much different than the way I had approached it. It was like a completely polar opposite take on the character. Completely interesting, because he probably pored over the same historical accounts I did and came to a completely different conclusion.”
Hirsch describes “Lone Survivor” as a story of “soldiers' bravery in battle, fighting for each other.”
It is based on a true account of four Navy SEALs sent on a covert mission in 2005 to take out an al-Qaida operative, but they are ambushed. Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster play the other members of the team.
When it was announced that Hirsch would play Belushi, one had to wonder how he would approach the role. The young actor has never looked anything but trim through his career. Would he do a Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull” and gain weight? He says he's not sure what he will do.
“I'll look at all the different options and pick my way through it. I'm very excited, though.”
News of Hirsch becoming a father hit the entertainment wires last week. According to E!, Hirsch welcomed a son named Valor on Oct. 27. So far the actor isn't talking about it. The baby's mother is said to be an unnamed Florida woman whom he is no longer dating, but a picture of him and the baby is circulating.
Hirsch's first feature film was “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys” (2002) with Jodie Foster, who started her own career at 7. Having acted professionally since he was 11, did he ever think about being anything else, like a surgeon?
“I definitely couldn't have been a surgeon,” he says. “But I've always had a very clear vision of acting. Even when I was 6, I was a pretty motivated youngster. I think it's hard to be successful at it if you really don't want to do it. Acting is one of the things that it's really easy to shut off. You can't really give inspiring performances if you don't really enjoy it.”