Where oh where has Josh Hartnett been?

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He’s back on the small-screen in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, but Josh Hartnett has spent years in DTV hell.

Josh Hartnett. Swoon. Those deep brown eyes. That deep, husky voice. The deep, complex characters in cult classics such as 40 Days and 40 Nights. Maybe “deep” and “complex” is pushing it, but Hartnett made slouching sexy in O, the teenage reboot of Orthello. He made the attack on Pearl Harbour sexy in Michael Bay’s wannabe-Titanic of war films. He even made Asperger’s sexy in sweet rom-com Mozart and the Whale.

Hartnett claims that he’s worked on plenty “worthy” films that just happened to fade into Netflix and straight-to-DVD darkness

Then, as in every Hollywood heartthrob’s effort to Buck The Trend and prove that they are serious dramatic actors with serious clout, Hartnett took on dark, twisted films such as noir crime-drama The Black Dahlia, and try-hard mind-bender Lucky Number Slevin. Propelled by these films’ lacklustre reception, Hartnett descended deeper into indie flick obscurity with flops such as 2009’s I Come With The Rain. Described by the mecca of all film criticism, Wikipedia, as a “neo-noir atmospheric thriller written and directed by Vietnamese-born French director Tran Anh Hung”, it’s difficult to find much more dialogue surrounding this film.

As with Hartnett’s other indie endeavours, such as Girl Walks Into A Bar and Stuck Between Stations, Hartnett blames the marketing and release, or lack thereof, for his passion projects’ failures. In an interview with The Washington Post, Hartnett claims that he’s worked on plenty “worthy” films that have not been afforded proper release and have thus faded into Netflix and straight-to-DVD darkness. He recounts a horror story in which he learnt of the release of his film Singularity through a friend that had seen it on Netflix. Perhaps the actor’s just upset that his foray into martial arts, Bunraku, was a spectacular misfire, the film’s set and backdrops making Kanye and Kim’s latest offering, Bound 2, look like a CGI masterpiece.

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bunraku hartnett harrelson

Hartnett rails against the idea that he became a hermit or started a cult in his home town of Saint Paul, Minnesota, during his Hollywood absence. He told The Independent that he had “naively” turned his back on “certain types” of film (a euphemism for Hollywood fluff-fests, methinks) in order to focus on “interesting work” with “interesting people.” He’s more jaded now, realising that he was “young and…naive to the monetary elements of the game in Los Angeles and Hollywood – that you need to keep a box office profile in order to get good scripts coming your way.”

Already, Showtime’s Victorian-set horror series Penny Dreadful looks like a reassuring hug for Hartnett’s career

Hartnett has returned from his indie flick walkabout in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful (15 years after his television debut in the critically acclaimed Cracker: Mind over Murder). Set in Victorian London, Penny Dreadful also stars Eva Green as the enigmatic, Vanessa Ives and Timothy Dalton as wealthy explorer Sir Malcolm Murry. Together, with the help of Hartnett’s gun-slinging Ethan Chandler, the team are on the hunt for a gruesome killer. Penny Dreadful sees the characters battle London’s dark, ghoulish side, complete with run-ins with Dr Frankenstein and Dorian Grey, and promises spine-tickling twists and high production values. Already, Penny Dreadful looks like a reassuring hug for Hartnett’s career.

Created by Skyfall writer John Logan and produced by Skyfall director Sam Mendes, and also starring ex-Bond Timothy Dalton and ex-bond girl Eva Green, one couldn’t find a more Hollywood endorsed (and Bond-backed) team. A surefire box office hit. If Hartnett wanted an answer to his previous distribution woes, Showtime (and, over in the UK, Sky Atlantic) has happily complied, proudly proclaiming that Penny Dreadful is sure to be “your next TV obsession.” Hartnett seemingly agrees, as he believes Penny Dreadful’s creators to be “aiming very high with their artistic ambitions.” Premiering last night in the UK to critical acclaim, Penny Dreadful finally appears to meet Hartnett’s “worthy” expectations.

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Featured image: Showtime

Inset image: ARC Entertainment/XLrator Media

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