Comic-Con Interview: Emile Hirsch Discusses ‘The Darkest Hour’

By  · Published on July 31st, 2011

I wish I got this interview on video. Emile Hirsch was acting like he just came off a late night of drinking countless Red Bulls. The actor couldn’t have been more energetic and enthusiastic about everything he was saying. It threw me at times, for sure, but it was refreshing on some level. Here is a young actor that does not take himself seriously at all and that does not come off pretentious, at least that’s the impression I got.

Hirsch was at Comic-Con promoting the under-the-radar alien-invasion film, The Darkest Hour. The film had no Hall H presence, but a press event was held at the pain-in-the-ass Hard Rock Hotel. The concept art I saw presented the film as an atmospheric and small invasion film set in Mother Russia. The aliens decided not to stop by Los Angeles or New York for the thousandth time.

Here’s what Emile Hirsch had to say about the scope of the film, how it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and how Speed Racer was ahead of its time:

You’ve got some geek cred.

Why, ’cause Speed Racer?

There’s a good amount of people who love Speed Racer.

Honestly, I was so excited to come to Comic-Con because people said so much shit about Speed Racer just because it didn’t make like a billion dollars. The true nerds and the true fans know how awesome that movie is. It is genuinely just a little bit ahead of its time. It was just kinda too cool. I love that movie. And the Wachowski’s, to me, I just will light their cigarette. If I ever see a cigarette on their lips, a lighter is out, and my hand is holding it.

[Laughs] I think the tone is what split people.

For me, the people I see, people are crying at the end. It’s like an emotiona; film. It’s not just this visual Smörgåsbord. Anyways, I’m glad you are a fan of it.

For The Darkest Hour, I overheard you say it doesn’t take itself too serious.

It takes itself seriously in the sense that it has these rules, and it creates a world that’s real. The characters can fuck around every now and then and make jokes and not give a shit. My guy is a guy who has gone through kinda, you know, water off a duck’s back. So when the alien invasion finally hits, in a certain sense, he’s more equipped to survive because he doesn’t take everything so seriously. He’s like, “OK, yeah, let’s fucking do this thing.” The guy’s just dropped dead, but you know what?

So he won’t be shouting, “Game over, man!”?

He’s the guy who’s going to keep his cool. It was a lot of fun to do that. I don’t know, you always see all these protagonists in all these movies, and they’re just like, “Oh, my God! Wha…” And they’re not witty, they’re not funny, and they’re not smart.

Or they’re mopey.

Yeah! Or like these mopey models like pouting out their lips and shit. So it’s like, “OK, let’s for once have a cool, smart cast.” I want to see good people, and I want to see witty people with flaws.

What’s the style of the film like?

The style of The Darkest Hour, it’s really big, but at the same time you are following these characters. You are seeing these epic city shots of apocalyptic destruction. For the most part, you are only following these five people. You’re not like cutting around to different shots of the world. It’s not like Independence Day, where it’s like, “[doing an exaggerated radio personality voice] And now we see the Great Wall of China falling down! Now the pyramids are tumbling to dust!” It’s not like that. So you are in Moscow, you are in it to win it. You see some incredible sights. The cool thing about Moscow is, like, when was the last time you went to Moscow? It’s not the kind of place where 99.9999% of its audience is ever going to have been to. So you get an increase of the adventure there. It’s not just the aliens you’ve never seen before, but it’s the kind of gothic landscape.

Yeah, I was going to say that I would imagine it provides a great atmosphere for the film.

Yeah, you feel like you are on another planet without the aliens. We shot at Red Square. We shot all these different spots.

Are the action scenes pretty big or self-contained?

They’re contained. They’re badass, but they’re not like blowouts. It’s not like the third act of Transformers, which is a blowout. Like, they freaking go for the gold. And they freaking get close to getting it. This is intimate… it’s like by limiting the action they’re trying to maximize your excitement when they finally push, which I like. It’s like the first Matrix movie. They limited the action, but it’s amazing when you finally got to it. Whereas the second and third they go for more and they succeed in a different way, but it was a different approach than the first.

I know you’ve had a bit of a break for the past two years or so. Why did you take time off?

I think I had been working so much since I was a little kid, really. It was nice. After Speed Racer, you know, that was such a big film, and it was such a big release. I just wanted to take some time and live my life and just chill. And I’d made a little bit of money, so I didn’t have to work right away. It was nice because it was the first time in probably like 15, 16 years that I just hadn’t been constantly working and stuff. It was really good for me. In a weird way, I probably grew up a little bit in that period of time, because you’re not just running around.

How was it coming back and getting to work with guys like William Friedkin and Oliver Stone, these really intense filmmakers?

Yeah. Getting back in the game, there’s nothing like it. You gotta play the game to… if you want to play the game you gotta be in it. I fucked that up about 10 different ways just now.

The Darkest Hour opens in theaters on December 23rd.

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.