Actor Josh Hartnett discusses Bunraku and much more

Josh Hartnett discusses his role in Bunraku, working with this ensemble cast, future projects, and much more.

I have followed actor Josh Hartnett's career ever since the Halloween: H20 days for a couple of reasons. One is that we both hail from that frozen tundra of a state known as Minnesota, and two, he always makes intriguing choices as an actor from big-budget blockbusters like Pearl Harbor to indie's like Lucky Number Slevin and stylized genre fare like Sin City and 30 Days of Night. The actor's next project is the upcoming indie Bunraku, which will be available on VOD platforms September 1 before its theatrical release on September 30. Josh Hartnett stars as a mysterious unnamed drifter, who rolls into a town which has become terrorized by demons and other supernatural forces. I recently had the chance to speak with Josh Hartnett over the phone about this new movie. Here's what he had to say.

Can you talk about your initial reaction after reading such a unique script like this? Was anyone else attached to this when you were approached?

Josh Hartnett: Nobody else was involved except (director) Guy (Moshe), and I didn't read the script first, actually. I came up to New York and Guy showed me some drawings and artwork, some digital mock-ups, so I had a sense of what the visuals would be like before I read the script, which was helpful. I guess what sold me on the project, being the first guy involved, was that Guy was trying to pull off something I had never seen before. He had all the drive, the tenacity and the vision to pull it off. That being said, when we came to the first day of filming, I was still freaked out. It's such a bizarre world and you want to make sure it comes across well. There was so much to do, because we shot it in such a short period of time, that we couldn't really worry about anything for very long. We had to get in there and fight, literally.

It's based on this very old and obscure storytelling style, which the film is named after. Did you look into that at all as far as style goes?

Josh Hartnett: I don't think it literally resembles Bunraku puppetry, but it does have an artful style. The puppetry was developed to get people open to new space and reality so they can tell parables, melodramatic, comedic, parables. I think this film lets you off the hook in that way. It says, 'All right, this is not your typical world.' There are a lot of different rules. Yes, that's my opinion on how those two intertwine. I think as far as other films go, it was mainly influenced by films from the 60s, (Akira) Kurosawa's samurai films, (Sergio) Leone's westerns, Jean-Pierre Melville's New Wave films. I think a lot of that came into play when we were making this film.

You said you didn't have a lot of time to shoot this, but did you have a lot of time to go through fight training, or were you doing that on the set?

Josh Hartnett: No, we trained, because we didn't have time to screw up. We got to do a lot of preparation and choreography that had to be done quickly. We had to be as efficient as we could. A couple of months before we started filming, I started spending a lot of time with fight choreographer and a couple of the stunt guys. I was in great shape when Guy asked me to be in this film, so I had to work pretty hard to get there.

These fights are not your typical fight scenes you would see in an American or even a Hong Kong movie. There is a very unique style to them and they were a lot of fun to watch.

Josh Hartnett: Oh, yeah. I think a lot of time was spent trying to figure out how to make them deep and new.

This cast is interesting because you have Hollywood stars like yourself, Ron Perlman, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, and international stars like Gackt and Shun Sugata. Can you talk about what the vibe on the set was like, with this international cast?

Josh Hartnett: Yeah, the only person that I knew before we started filming was Demi. We had met through Bruce Willis who I did this movie called Lucky Number Slevin with. I had spent time hanging out with them and their brood. I was taken aback by how much fun everybody is. Woody is one of the easiest guys to get along with in the world. He's very well-respected and a very good actor, and he has great comedic timing. Ron, I have a lot of respect for. He's been in so many different kinds of films. He's just so underrated as an actor. I just want to see what he does. He was no disappointment. Kevin McKidd, I didn't know too much about. I had seen him in a few different films, but God, he just blew me away. He's just such a talented guy. Gackt, I had no sense of who he was or what he had accomplished. He's just tireless. We worked 18-hour days on this film, and he recorded an album at the same time. I don't know how he did it. Everybody who was surrounding us, the cast, were really on. They had to be, because, as I said before, we just didn't have a lot of time. We were shooting two sequences at a time, so yeah, we were very lucky with how this turned out.

Do you think those limitations actually helped the film though? Did it cause you to get more creative than you would have if you had a big studio behind you?

Josh Hartnett: Yeah, sometimes. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that, but I can't say that we wouldn't want a little bit more time on this film, in certain points. We knew, coming in, that we were going to be under the gun and we just had to perform, we just had to do it. There was no choice. Sometimes we were shooting two of the biggest action sequences at the same. We'd shoot for an hour in one place and then bring the camera to another section of the studio to shoot this other sequences. You had to have all these choreographed scenes in your mind and you didn't want to end up going in the wrong direction and getting punched in the face. It was definitely challenging, but it was a lot of fun. Like I said, they were great people to work with, so it was fun going to work every day.

You have a new project coming up called Singularity which sounds very intriguing. Is there anything you can say about your character or the story of that project?

Josh Hartnett:Singularity I just wrapped, and I don't know what I'm going to do next quite yet. Singularity is based on a book which was originally published in India. It's a real guy, a Scottish guy, who, in the late 1700s, was stationed in India, near Mumbai, who found himself in the middle of a revolution, of sorts, between two different Indian kingdoms, and the Indian Trading Company, who was threatening to take over the country. It's a really interesting story, lots of sweeping romance and fight sequences. It's beautiful. It also has this element, set in 2020, where I play a wreck diver who finds this ring which has a connection to this other story, and there is a possibility of reincarnation which is brought up. It's a beautifully-written film and hopefully it will turn out really well. We just finished that and it hopefully it will come out next year, and I'm figuring out what I'm going to do next, if I do anything. I've been writing and directing a little bit, so I may go back to that, but I have no idea. For now I'm just enjoying August, the rest of the summer.

Excellent. Well, that's my time, Josh. Thank you so much for talking to me. I'm also a Minnesota-born guy as well.

Josh Hartnett: Oh, excellent. Are you up here now? The weather has been crazy.

Oh, no. I moved out to Hollywood about four years ago.

Josh Hartnett: Oh, all right. The weather's a bit more stable out there.

That's true. Well, thanks again, Josh.

Josh Hartnett: Great. Take care, man.

You can watch Josh Hartnett in Bunraku, which will be released on VOD formats on September 1, and in theaters on September 30.