A recent trend in Hollywood has shown the progression of teen heartthrobs dropping off the face of the planet. OK, that might be a little extreme — but for millennials who grew up watching their films, seeing our favorite actors of '90s and early '00s rom-coms dissipate from the big screen was heart-wrenching. Freddie Prince Jr., for example, was the leading man in all major teen blockbusters for a time. Then one day, without warning, he stopped landing these roles, settled down with fellow teen heartthrob Sarah Michelle Gellar and their kids, and began to have some semblance of a normal life out of the spotlight. And as we approach the 15th anniversary of The Virgin Suicides on Saturday, we have to wonder: What in the hell happened to Josh Hartnett?
1994's Suicides brought his breakout role as teenaged Trip Fontaine, a student who had eyes for a mysterious and very off-limits girl. The critical success and popularity of the film made Hartnett and overnight success, and he continued to take roles as the leading man in teenage roles for years to come. He had a role in Cracker: Mind Over Murder as Michael Fitzgerald on the short lived show. Then came Here on Earth, co-starring Chris Klein and LeeLee Sobieski. The film got mediocre reviews, and can be pooled into the Nicholas Sparks genre of sappy flicks, but was nonetheless a favorite of teen girls at the time. In 2001 he starred in the sexy Blow Dry, opposite Rachel Leigh Cook, another '90s star we're left wondering what the hell happened to. (It also co-starred Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey, and Love Actually's Alan Rickman — uh, whaaat?) That same year he starred in an ensemble cast in Town & Country, a movie you've probably never heard of, which is just fine because a few months later brought Pearl Harbor. And let's be honest, the war film was probably Hartnett's opus. Thanks in part to one billowing sex scene.
2002 brought 40 Days and 40 Nights, which showcased Hartnett's raunchier side. A film about a man who tries to go without sex and masturbation for 40 days, Hartnett played the can't-keep-his-hand-to-himself leading man who resisted getting off at every turn. It also made us believe it was possible to climax with the help of a few flower petals.
Around this time came a twist in genre for Hartnett. He went from romantic roles to a slightly scarier scene, portraying darker characters in 2004's Wicker Man, and 2005's Sin City. In 2006 he took the starring role in Lucky Number Slevin, and then his career went full on horror with The Black Dahlia and 30 Days of Night. After these roles, he starred in some lesser known films like Girl Walks into a Bar, and Stuck Between Stations. The only credit he had for 2013 was Singularity, a film that boasts neither an IMBD release date nor a photo, but claims to be "An epic, sweeping and riveting tale of an impossible love set across two time periods and continents." Ironically, we've never heard of it. This year, Hartnett will star in Penny Dreadful, a horror/mystery show on Showtime that the actor has been promoting at festivals like SXSW. It's a shock to see Hartnett in preparation for his new role, sporting browline glasses and long, straight hair. His modern image is far from the clean-cut, all American boy we remember from the early '00s.
Apparently, we can expect to see a lot more of Hartnett, as he'll be naked in the show. He told Elle magazine, “I’m comfortable naked – in my life. On film, if it doesn’t help the story, it’s not my favorite thing. I do show some stuff in the show, but I fight to make sure that it’s funny or character driven.”
Penny Dreadful premieres on Showtime on May 11.
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