Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, December 2013
On the run
Emile Hirsch taps into his felonious side for a new television miniseries.
By Sophia Goh
From his outstanding, riveting portrayal of Chris McCandless in Into the Wild, to the recent news that he’s expecting his first baby with an ex-girlfriend, Emile Hirsch is full of surprises. But he’s not here to talk about impending fatherhood. In fact, the media are asked to kindly refrain from asking about it. Only questions on his new television miniseries Bonnie & Clyde, please.
As America’s most famous outlaw couple, Bonnie and Clyde’s violent criminal exploits during the Depression era, and contrasting fierce devotion to each other have fascinated the public for decades. Clyde was rumoured to have had a sixth-sense; how else could the couple have eluded the authorities time and time again?
Taking on the role of Clyde Barrow, made famous by Warren Beatty in the 1967 movie of the same title, was an opportunity Hirsch jumped at. “I love that time period, I love all the movies about it, and I was really excited to have a chance to explore that era,” he explains. Never mind that he would be following in some seriously esteemed footsteps, Hirsch says he didn’t even watch Beatty’s Oscar-nominated version until after he’d finished filming.
Getting to work alongside the likes of Holliday Grainger, who plays Bonnie Parker opposite his Clyde, and award-winning stars Holly Hunter and William Hurt, was a plus. Hirsch, who counts Lords of Dogtown, Speed Racer and Milk among his movie notches, also says that one of the things he liked most was the fast pace of filming. “Sometimes when you shoot faster you get to do more scenes and you’re more stimulated. Films tend to go a bit slower and sometimes, you get a bit bored. I don’t think I ever got bored on this film. I was constantly enjoying myself and just really liking it.”
Preparation for the role meant lots of research. The actor cites one book in particular, Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn, as being invaluable, and says it was almost like reading a character breakdown. He ultimately settled on Clyde as being “a little bit of a sociopath: very impulsive, very skilled, a real badass and a charming guy.”
“I don’t know why he was motivated to do what he did,” he admits. “He could have been killed so many times, but he was addicted to the rush. He’s a very different type of person than me; I don’t think I have that intensity. Committing crimes, getting shot at, having to run for my life, robbing and killing people – that’s not the way I’m wired.”
One might think there’s a profound morality lesson to be learned from understanding and embodying such an iconic figure, but to Hirsch, it was a lot more straightforward and practical than that. “I learned that a life of robbing banks is definitely a hard and dangerous profession,” he says simply. Like we told you, he’s a surprising one.