Emile Hirsch interview

Rising star Emile Hirsch on his new movie Into the Wild

One of America’s hottest rising stars, Emile Hirsch, 22, delivers a career-best performance in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, playing real-life figure Christopher McCandless, a free spirit who ventures into deepest Alaska to live off the grid.

How did you find Sean Penn as a director?

He was awesome. To get me to do the white-water rafting on the rapids on the Grand Canyon, Sean did it before me. Just to make me feel comfortable. He got in a kayak, with no experience. And he got his ass handed to him by the rapids ? but he made it out!

You lost over 30lbs for the role, partly while filming. Did you feel increasingly delirious as you went on?

Yeah. One time I woke up and I thought that I was still on the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. I thought they’d abandoned me! I was just in bed, and literally for thirty seconds, I crawled forward and thought I was on the riverbank. And then I realised I was at the very edge of my bed, and all the lights were off in the motel room!

You’ve just finished Speed Racer, next summer’s huge family blockbuster from The Matrix directors, the Wachowskis. Are you a fast driver?

Before I got the part, I was known in my circle of friends as the slowest driver ? like ‘Do you guys have your seat belts on?’ But once I got the part I started driving a little bit faster, so by the time this comes out I should be Formula 1.

Are you ready to be a big star now?

I’m not ready. But it’s about the decisions you make and it’s a by-product of making the films I’ve wanted to make. If so, let it be. I mean, I’m not a ball in a pinball machine. I know what I want.

Into the Wild opens on 9 November

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