Josh Lucas in "Hide Away"
Josh Lucas in "Hide Away"

In the indie drama "Hide Away" (opening in Los Angeles and New York this Friday), Josh Lucas plays a businessman haunted by his past and unable to make peace with his demons. The character couldn't be further from the actor I meet for a 20-minute chat in a cavernous SoHo office to discuss his role in the film, directed by Chris Eyre ("Smoke Signals"). Amiable, direct and remarkably candid throughout our conversation, Lucas proves to be the type who's fearless to confront past experiences (both good and bad) and move on from them.

And really, can you blame him? Since first making a big impression in Frank Marshall's survival drama "Alive," Lucas came close to becoming a big-screen heartthrob to rival Matthew McConaughey thanks to a swoon-inducing turn opposite Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama." He then went on to appear in a number of underperforming blockbusters ("Poseidon," "Hulk" and "Stealth"), despite turning in stellar supporting work in films as varied as Ron Howard's Academy Award-winner "A Beautiful Mind" and Mary Harron's controversial "American Psycho."

But for some reason, leading-man status in Hollywood has evaded the actor. He recently tried his hand at being one on television in NBC's legal series "The Firm" (based on John Grisham's book that was made into a film of the same name starring Tom Cruise), but the show was canceled after its first season after failing to deliver ratings. He referred to his time spent on the show as a "heartbreaking experience."

In my talk with Lucas, the actor reveals his passion for independent film, talks about the working conditions of "Poseidon," explains his move to New York from Los Angeles, and really lets loose about his time spent working for NBC.

Full disclosure, I'm a huge fan of Ang Lee's "Hulk."

I know a lot of people didn't respond to that movie because it's not "The Avengers," it's the opposite. It's a $125 million poem.

Josh Lucas in "Sweet Home Alabama"
Josh Lucas in "Sweet Home Alabama"
In preparing for my chat with you I was baffled that the production notes for "Hide Away" list this as your first lead dramatic performance.

It's funny, I saw that too and I was like, OK, maybe of 2011. I don't know how that happened. I think that was from a weird article written in SXSW by a journalist who didn't know my work at all. I think he/she thought I had only done "Sweet Home Alabama" [laughs].

When your name comes to mind, I immediately think, strong lead male. But looking over your resume, I was struck by the amount of supporting performances you've turned in over the years. How would you characterize your career up to now?

It's a little bit feast or famine. There are times where you go, wow, I'm getting offered these great lead parts. And there are often times I find where some of the better work is in supporting roles, not just the roles but the movies themselves. For example "J. Edgar," Leonardo was obviously already attached, but that was a personal moment for me because my grandmother was one of the first female pilots in the United States and she's always been fascinated by Charles Lindbergh. So I was kind of connecting those dots.

Each time it's whether it's a journey I can relate to. It's not so much of whether it's a lead or a supporting role.

Do you agree with the term character actor?

I find it, in a way, an honor. Yes, there are great leading men, but one of the problems with that is that it's easy to get pigeonholed once you're a leading man. It's hard to break out because you're recognized in certain way -- like with TV actors. What 'character actor' often means is that you really can bounce around amongst characters, and that people aren't recognizing you as something, so they don't dismiss you if you try to do something outside of those boundaries.

Not only do I not have a problem with that, I think it's in a way a great thing. My favorite actors are usually 'character actors.' Chris Cooper's one of them.

"'The Firm' was a total extraordinary mistake from day one, honestly."
That begs the question: Why would you then take on lead duties in NBC's "The Firm"?

"The Firm" was a total extraordinary mistake from day one, honestly. The original conversations I had had with the people creating it was that the show was like "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men," this really extraordinary television that is happening right now. Television is obviously having not just a renaissance, but it is one of the best things happening, particularly in terms of drama. It's hard to finance a dramas these days in film. So the very best writing in happening in television these days.

That was the road we were going on, and we veered completely sideways without me having really any input whatsoever. I ran up against what is reality, which is that television is a corporate medium. There are risky, powerful people out there -- the people making "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" -- people who are capable or making the show they want and making them successful too. HBO's doing it brilliantly; so is Showtime. In this case, it was always very safe, very beige, very middle-of-the-road corporate mentality that drove it. No matter what Juliette Lewis myself, or any of the actors, creatively did, it did not matter. In fact, our influence was thoroughly and completely dismissed. So it was a very heartbreaking experience because you're locked into something you disagree with on a daily basis.

I didn't really think of it as a leading-man vehicle by any means. I felt like the journey could have been something like "Breaking Bad," something really interesting. That was the original pitch and then, boom, it got shifted. We couldn't change the course.