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Emile Hirsch on 'Prince Avalanche'

Emile Hirsch talks about acting in a movie he wasn't even sure at first would become a movie.

2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party - Arrivals Emile Hirsch plays a distracted construction worker in "Prince Avalanche."
Credit: Getty Images

When Emile Hirsch got involved in “Prince Avalanche,” “Pineapple Express” director David Gordon Green’s return to the smaller movies he once made, like 2000's “George Washington,” it wasn’t even clear it was going to be a movie. “Even when Paul Rudd was attached, it was still only a 65 page script,” Hirsch recalls. “It was never like, ‘We’re definitely making a movie.”

The film, about two bickering construction workers (Hirsch and Rudd) spending a summer mostly together, was shot in remote Bastrop, Texas, along a wooded road being repaired after wildfires. Hirsch says they would shoot their scenes, often sticking to the thin script, but their director would wander off. “He was shooting stuff all the time,” he says. “He was trying to be very intuitive with the environment around him — the opposite of a paint-by-numbers approach. I felt very relaxed the whole time. That was key to getting into my character.”

For Hirsch, it was a nice change of pace from some of the bigger films he’s done, including the Wachowskis' OTT “Speed Racer.” “Sometimes when you work on movies it takes forever to do one page and you just keep getting really bored,” he says. “Here, we were always shooting dramatic scenes, and that acceleration just kept you interested and stimulated. It’s a lot easier to stay in your character when you don’t have time to get distracted.”

Hirsch had never worked with or even met Rudd before. “I think it helped,” he says. “It prevented us from knowing too much about each other — from bonding too much. I didn’t go out of my way to not be annoying around Paul when I first met him.”

The two characters are in many ways opposites: Rudd's is self-serious, while Hirsch's is an easily distracted horndog. Hirsch himself is not that way. “I have a lot of friends who are goofballs and kind of childish. I stole from them right and left — just ripped everybody off.”

Despite the free way in which “Prince Avalanche” was constructed, it was actually loosely based on “Either Way,” an Icelandic comedy. Hirsch purposefully avoided watching it before and during shooting. It turned out his incarnation of the character was a lot more pathetic and melancholic. “[The actor] played him a little bit more straight,” he says. “He’s a little cooler — a hip guy. He’s the cool one with all the friends. I’m glad I didn’t see it first.”

 
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