Directed by Sergio Castellitto and based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Mazzantini, Twice Born is an epic portrait of love, loyalty and the unbreakable bonds of family. When Italian professor Gemma (Penelope Cruz) heads off on a summer vacation to the battle-scarred city of Sarajevo with her teenaged son Pietro, she intends to show him the country where she fell passionately in love with his father, Diego (Emile Hirsch), but also uncovers a long-hidden secret.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Emile Hirsch talked about what a fantastic experience he had making Twice Born, what it was that attracted him to this opportunity, collaborating with director Sergio Castellitto and author Margaret Mazzantini, and working with co-star Penelope Cruz. He also talked about the wide variety of projects he currently has coming out, why the Bonnie & Clyde remake (premiering on Lifetime, A&E and History on December 8th) appealed to him, and why Steve Conrad’s script for the John Belushi project stood out to him and made him want to sign on. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
EMILE HIRSCH: I had a fantastic experience, making Twice Born. Sergio Castellitto, the director, is such a great leader. He’s so energetic, and he’s got such a zest for life, as well as his wife, Margaret Mazzantini, who wrote the novel. Together, they really showed me the way with the character and the type of energy they wanted Diego to have. That vibrant way of living that Diego has is something that they were really keen on capturing. He was an impulsive, but celebratory little boy.
When you read this script, did you immediately jump at the opportunity to play this character, or did you have to think about it for a bit?
HIRSCH: Getting to make a love story with Penelope Cruz, and getting to work with Sergio, especially after seeing the other movie that he made with Penelope, called Don’t Move – it’s a Spanish movie that’s really good – I just thought it was a golden opportunity. I got to travel to Europe, and go to Italy and Bosnia. For me, that was a really big opportunity. We were shooting on this one island off of Croatia, called Korcula, and on my off time, I would just put an iPod in and go running around the island. It was a really small island. I would run on these old cobblestone streets for 90 minutes at a time, and I’d be listening to books on tape. It’s right on the water and the weather was beautiful. It felt like paradise. It was incredible. It was a really special time.
It’s not often that you’d ever get the opportunity to be directed by the husband of the author of the book the movie is adapted from. Did that really help you?
HIRSCH: Yeah. They’d be on set sometimes, just fighting with each other. It was great! You’d see these hot-headed, passionate Italians discussing their art in this really direct way. It was really fantastic! I remember one day, for one of my early wardrobe fittings, I made the mistake of not really getting enough sleep the night before. They had racks and racks and racks and racks of clothes, and I just turned to Margaret and said, “You created this character in this novel, and you’re Italian, so you automatically have genius fashion sense. Because you’re a really tasteful, genius woman, I want you to pick out Diego’s wardrobe.” And Margaret was like a shark with a laser beam attached to its head. She just laser-focused picked out all of the coolest clothes off the racks and assembled the perfect wardrobe. It was incredible. I was so happy that I didn’t even try to attempt to pick out the wardrobe. But, I did. I picked out my wardrobe by having Margaret pick it out. And as soon as she picked out those clothes, I was like, “Now, I see who Diego is, even more.” Her talent for writing extended to the visual, and she just created the character in front of me, by picking out a lot of the clothes.
What most struck you about working with Penelope Cruz, as both an actress and a human being?
HIRSCH: Well, she’s an incredible talent, as an actress. As a human being, she’s just a really sweet, caring, funny, quirky, wonderful person. And she’s got an amazing sense of human. She’s got the charm. I feel like a lot of our best memories on set were when we were just laughing. We were hanging out and talking, and trading jokes and little peculiar observations. It was just a lot of fun. She’s great!
You have a variety of really interesting and really different projects right now, with Twice Born, The Motel Life, Lone Survivor and Bonnie & Clyde, and you’ve recently signed on to play John Belushi. Is that the type of path you’d like your career to continue down, playing these very different characters, in such a variety of projects with really interesting talent, both in front of and behind the camera?
HIRSCH: Yeah, when you put it like that. That sounds great! The misleading thing about what’s going on right now is that I filmed all those movies over three and a half years. It’s just a coincidence that they’re all coming out right now. They were all equally different experiences to make, and were in different locations with different families of crew.
Because Bonnie and Clyde are such iconic figures, did you get nervous about people comparing to previous incarnations of the story?
HIRSCH: I’d never seen the original Warren Beatty version of Bonnie & Clyde until after I finished shooting. Certainly, if you’ve seen the original, I would think that would make you want to see the remake even more. I don’t know. That’s just how I am. If I see one movie and then they remake it, I have to see the remake. I don’t know why. I’m almost more excited to see the remake, for some reason. But, that’s just my own peculiar taste. Sometimes I like seeing remakes of the same movie multiple times. I love seeing all the Shakespeare adaptations, over and over and over again, to see all the different ways they do it. But, that’s just me. I’m sure there will be some people who are fine with watching the Warren Beatty version, and they won’t want to watch our remake, but I feel that that’s their loss. In this version, Bonnie and Clyde are much more serious, at times, and it’s more tragic. The Arthur Penn version is, at times, a little bit jokey and laughy, and they’re just having good times.
When you tackle something like John Belushi, before you decided to sign on, was it the script and the content in the script that you considered to be the most crucial aspect?
HIRSCH: I think so. The writer of the Belushi project is Steve Conrad, who’s written The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is just coming out this year. He’s a really talented writer, and he’s just written a great script. He’s a very, very talented man. He has the perfect sensibility to capture the elements of the story that he’s going for. He’s able to really articulate it.
Twice Born opens in theaters on December 6th, and is also available on VOD.