PARK CITY, Utah — Much like Brad Pitt and Robert Redford before him, Josh Hartnett is becoming increasingly intent on lending his leading-man looks to the edgy, artistic scripts that are his true passion. Now, following his efforts that helped get "Sin City" made, the 29-year-old star is involved in what could be cinema's next great leap forward.
"I'm going to Romania to shoot this film called 'Bunraku,' " Hartnett revealed to MTV News, invoking a title based on a 400-year-old form of Japanese puppet theater. "All the cast isn't set yet, but it's going to be a lot of really interesting actors, in this weird kind of papier-mâché world."
As Hartnett's fans remember, the heartthrob was approached in January 2003 by Robert Rodriguez, who was intent on showing "Sin City" creator Frank Miller that Hollywood could film his material without sacrificing its quality. After lending his time for nothing more than a test, Hartnett's scene got the film made and eventually was reused as the opening take of the revolutionary 2005 flick. Now, Hartnett is once again breaking new visual territory with "Bunraku" — a trippy film with a puppetry-meets-Origami look, which the actor compares to Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope," in that it will play out (or at least appear to play out) in one long, unedited take.
"I don't even know how to explain it," Hartnett grinned. "It's odd; it's out there. I've been trying to do as much artistic fare as I can and things that are compelling to watch as well."
He'll hope to accomplish exactly that in a few months, when he relocates to Southeastern Europe to film the 21st-century tale of an old-fashion man with no name. "It's a story of revenge," the "30 days of Night" star explained. "My character is called 'The Drifter,' and he comes into this world that doesn't look like anything like you've ever seen before. It's in the vein of 'Sin City' or something like that, where the world doesn't look like reality at all."
The flick will mix CGI and practical sets to create the world of "Bunraku," a style of Japanese storytelling that uses 4-foot-tall puppets with highly detailed heads, each operated by several puppeteers who blend into the background wearing black robes and hoods.
"Some of the scenes are gonna be more Michel Gondry-like I guess," he said, citing some degree of influence by the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" visionary. "But a lot of them will be green screen as well."
"[The script] has a lot of fight sequences in it, but it's more about these crazy characters," Hartnett explained. "Like my character, he's a gypsy and he's coming into town and he's got something to prove — and no one really knows what he's about."
During his attempts to describe the defiantly indescribable look of "Bunraku," Hartnett kept hearkening back to that groundbreaking Frank Miller film he lent himself to several years ago. "It's not fantasy. Well, I mean, it's fantasy in that it's not reality, but it's not 'Narnia,' " he said. "It's a film that, I don't know how to stick it into a genre, but I would say it's more a film like 'Sin City' than anything else."
At the Sundance Film Festival last week to promote his upcoming dot-com drama "August," Hartnett revealed that "Bunraku" has shuffled his upcoming film schedule considerably. In addition to "August," he'll soon continue his film-festival tour with a trip to Cannes to promote the Hong Kong private-eye flick "I Come With the Rain." He also revealed that his indie football drama "Endzone" won't begin filming until 2009 at the earliest.
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