SAN DIEGO — Eleven months ago, Milo Ventimiglia was a struggling actor filling supporting roles on shows like "Gilmore Girls" and starring in blink-and-you-miss-'em duds like "Dirty Deeds." Then he became a hero.
And now that he's the flying, regenerating, often-invisible superman Peter Petrelli on NBC's hit show "Heroes," Ventimiglia is ready for a triumphant return to the big screen via "Pathology," a doctoral drama that hits theaters November 30. It will mark the actor's first starring role since "Heroes" began.
"You've got a group of friends who are pathologists, who get a bit of a God complex and start killing people," said the star, who recently turned 30. "They're all going for that perfect murder."
After the "Heroes" phenomenon took television by storm in the fall, Ventimiglia — who also had a small role in last year's "Rocky Balboa" (see " 'Heroes' Star Sheds 'Dirty' Past To Become Rocky Balboa's Son") — found himself being approached by Hollywood filmmakers for the first time, rather than the other way around. With several scripts in play, he found himself gravitating toward this dark thriller from the stylistic writing/producing team behind the 2006 Jason Statham action flick "Crank."
"These are people who are at the top of their field, the top of their game, and now they're trying to explore something different, something that excites them," he explained. "Because I gotta tell you, man, when you're around the deceased 12 hours a day, there's not much that keeps you going. You find yourself in a dark, transitory world of sex, drugs and murder."
Taking the "perfect-crime" concept behind classics like Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope" into the new century, "Pathology" has Ventimiglia heading up a cast that includes Alyssa Milano, Lauren Lee Smith ("The L Word") and Michael Weston ("Garden State").
"I play Dr. Jake Gallen," Weston explained. "He's the leader of this group of very smart students who ... have pushed the limits as far as their world is concerned. They're looking for the next fix. I've corralled the rest of the students into my psychosis, and they're playing that out for me. I've also gotten bored of that, and there's no real challenge there."
Enter Ventimiglia, who plays an anti-hero this time around. "When Milo's character, Ted, comes in, we immediately face off — I've found my true adversary," Weston grinned. "And from that moment, as soon as he walks in, we're head-to-head for the rest of the movie. That's where the game really starts to accelerate."
Soon enough, Ventimiglia's young pathology intern has to decide whether he'll play along or risk becoming the next victim of the game. "He starts the film looking like he's got this great life ahead of him — beautiful fiancee, a career [heading to the] top of his field," the star explained. "When he gets to this hospital and university where he's in his residency as a pathologist, [he's] kind of bored. He's tired of everything he's been doing."
As his concerned bride-to-be (Milano) watches in horror, Ventimiglia starts going down some dark roads that are even more dangerous than a meeting with "Heroes" villain Mr. Linderman. "He falls victim to the seduction of this world he doesn't know about," Ventimiglia said, "through Dr. Juliette Bath [Smith] and Dr. Jake Gallen, and it becomes competitive not only in the pathology room ..."
"... But also in our love life," Weston finished, referring to a dangerous triangle between the three characters.
Asked to name their favorite scene from the flick, the actors offered some intriguing choices. "Well, there's 'fat bastard' or the 'three hookers,' " Ventimiglia laughed, rattling off the scenes' nicknames. "Both scenes are pretty intense. 'Fat bastard' is definitely sex and murder," he added. "And 'three hookers'... "
"... is also sex and murder!" Weston added.
"Oh, and drugs!" Ventimiglia amended. "Drugs, sex and murder."
"We've got sex, drugs and murder," Weston teased — and those who remember the controversial "Crank" would expect nothing less. "But there's so many scenes in this movie that I really like. I think that the movie is so sleek and so well shot that it's not like a horror movie. It's a [classy] thriller."
As for Ventimiglia, he fully understands that all those "Heroes" fans might be a bit jarred when they head into the theater in three months and find loveable Peter Petrelli caught up in a world of sex, drugs and murder. But at this point in his rapidly resurrected career, "Pathology" seems like the perfect opportunity for the actor to show that there's a future beyond his TV character's ongoing battle with Sylar.
"You know it all, [and some aren't] just content with knowing it all and being cool with that," Ventimiglia said of the hook behind the "Dead Ringers"-like tale of cursed brilliance. "So what's gonna turn you on?"
Check out everything we've got on "Pathology."
Visit Movies on MTV.com for more from Hollywood, including news, reviews, interviews and more.
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.
Want trailers? Visit the Trailer Park for the newest, scariest and funniest coming attractions anywhere.