In the early 2000s, young heartthrob Josh Hartnett was in a position that many young actors would envy. He had just starred in two big movies (“Pearl Harbor” and “Black Hawk Down”) from two very different auteurs, and for a while it seemed like he could be the next top tier star: a new Tom Cruise or Will Smith. But Hartnett avoided being locked down in any possible blockbuster franchise by turning down one superhero role after another, yet there’s one he regrets saying no to.
In a short interview with Playboy (via Variety), Hartnett was asked about the times he was asked to play Superman for Bryan Singer in “Superman Returns,” Spider-Man for Sam Raimi’s film of the same name and Batman for Christopher Nolan. What was his reasoning for turning down such potentially lucrative roles? “The intensity of my sudden fame was overwhelming for me, and in the middle of that, I felt I couldn’t trust any new person I met or their motives. I spent a lot of time back home in Minnesota with my friends and family. I did smaller movies, and I stopped working for a while.”
It’s understandable to be leery of the Hollywood system, and coupled with the very real danger of being typecast to the role —what was the last film you saw featuring Brandon Routh?— it’s no wonder that Hartnett made those choices. Yet the actor is not without regrets, further explaining how a “no” can haunt you.
“People don’t like being told no. I don’t like it. I learned my lesson when Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in ’‘The Prestige.’ They not only hired their Batman for it but also hired my girlfriend [Scarlett Johansson] at the time. That’s when I realized relationships were formed in the fire of that first Batman film and I should have been part of the relationship with this guy Nolan, who I felt was incredibly cool and very talented. I was so focused on not being pigeonholed and so scared of being considered only one thing as an actor. I should have thought ‘well then, work harder, man.’ Watching Christian Bale go on to do so many other things has been just awesome. I mean, he’s been able to overcome that. Why couldn’t I see that at the time?”
So Hartnett has changed his tune on superhero movies, saying “I know now that I wouldn’t turn something down just because it’s a superhero role.” You and about almost every other working actor, Hartnett. Start your fan casting below. Hartnett for Hawkman?