Emile Hirsch Talks 'Twice Born', Working With Penélope Cruz, & Celeb Death Matches

Emile Hirsch Talks 'Twice Born', Working With Penélope Cruz, & Celeb Death Matches
Emile Hirsch in Twice Born. (Entertainment One)
In Twice Born, Emile Hirsch plays a young photographer who seduces an older woman, played by Penélope Cruz. Their affair is at the center of a film set against the Bosnian War, a turbulent pairing in turbulent times. It's a new kind of role for Hirsch, who's become one of Hollywood's most low-key leading men. He does show off the unbridled enthusiasm that's marked his past films, but the actor also embraces the chance to tap into a more serious side, not to mention passionate, as he has several pretty hot scenes with Cruz.

We talked with the 28-year-old star about his connection with one of the most famous actresses in the world and ended up wondering who would win a Celebrity Death Match between Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West, go figure.

Emile Hirsch Talks 'Twice Born', Working With Penélope Cruz, & Celeb Death MatchesZimbio: How daunting was it to get on the set with what's kind of a film family with (director) Sergio Castellitto, his wife (writer) Margaret Mazzantini, and Penélope Cruz. They did another movie together, Don't Move. Was that intimidating for you?

Emile Hirsch: I felt like that was a big benefit for me because they were all so tight-knit and they weren't tight-knit to my exclusion, they just tried to knit me into their own tightness. We were all instantly a new family, you know, it was a new addition to the family. We were all having a great time and were real focused on doing the best job we could. Seeing Margaret and Sergio work together was really impressive. They're really different personalities and they're both big outgoing personalities. They would constantly be discussing scenes and character motivations, and story. And just seeing a married couple work in that way—I had never seen that before. They were not only super in love and have four kids, they're really tight artistic collaborators so I'd never seen that before and it was really impressive.

There aren't too many writer/director husband and wife teams.
Yeah are there any? I've never seen that before. There's got to be some right?

The only ones I can think of are Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris who did Little Miss Sunshine.
Yeah that's who was I thinking of too, those are the only other ones. And, well, to be honest, probably half of the directors out there, it's probably like that. Their wife is probably in the editing room telling them what to do anyway. They're just not getting any credit for it, you know what I mean?

(Laughs) I hear that. So Penélope Cruz, did you know her at all before the movie?
I'd met her a few times and really liked her. She's a really sweet, kind of funny person. Getting to work with her was just a blast, she's hilarious. She's not only very smart and talented, she has a ridiculously absurdist and sophisticated sense of humor. We were constantly laughing and enjoying ourselves on set. Which, when you're working on really heavy material, like Twice Born is, it's really refreshing to step back and have a good laugh with someone who's really sweet and nice.

Emile Hirsch Talks 'Twice Born', Working With Penélope Cruz, & Celeb Death MatchesI'm sure the sex scenes were a lure to make this film, but it's kind of like sacred ground, not only doing a sex scene with Penélope Cruz, but creating a world of passion, not to sound douchy. Did you think about that before you made the movie?
I felt like those sex scenes were definitely a part of the film and they helped to show the intense bond Diego and Gemma have with each other, the carnal need that they have. On paper they shouldn't really get along as people but then we see how they connect physically. It almost overrides their reason at times. She's a much more sophisticated person than Diego. Diego's not very mature and very naive. He's a simple guy in many ways and not an intellectual. He's a young kid essentially who's just really passionate. His passion though is enough for Gemma. It's something that she needs.

The age difference reminds me of these other enthusiastic characters you've played. Which of your characters is most like you in real life, if any?
(Pauses) I don't think any of them really. Not quite, maybe a combination of... I don't know. I'd say one and then I'm like, "No, I'm not like that character." (Laughs). I'm the most like Clyde Barrow... no.

Can you imagine? (sarcastically) "I'm like Clyde Barrow. I'm a bank robber from the twenties."
Just talkin' that old-timey talk.
That old Texas talk... I based my Texan accent in the movie (Bonnie and Clyde) off Marcus Luttrell, the real "lone survivor" on the movie (Lone Survivor) I'd worked on right before. I worked with a dialect coach and I played a bunch of speeches Marcus gave on YouTube and I was like, "Can you make me sound like this guy? He sounds so awesome." So we worked a lot and by the end of Bonnie and Clyde I had a Marcus Luttrell accent to the best of my abilities.  

Emile Hirsch Talks 'Twice Born', Working With Penélope Cruz, & Celeb Death MatchesAre there any roles that frighten you? Is there a role you've seen in a movie that you were just like, "Hell no. I would not play that role."
I mean, sometimes. I just saw Out of the Furnace the other day and my hat's off to Woody Harrelson for playing that villain role. That's such a dark character. It's really scary. Try explaining that one to your grandma. 

So William Friedkin and Oliver Stone, who would win in a fight?

Friedkin I think would win because he's just such a beast. Oliver's, in a weird way, he's a brilliant guy but such a nice guy. Friedkin is just Hurricane Billy... like Celebrity Death Match. I think that show needs to come back. 

Absolutely, in real life though... No claymation.
Can you imagine? It should be Celebrity Grudge Match where they have padding and boxing and stuff in a boxing ring or something. 

That would be tight.
There'd be some good matches out there. Put Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West in the ring together. Ding ding.

Who would win that fight? That would be pretty even I think.
Yeah, we'd have to see. Maybe it would be a simultaneous knock out like that one YouTube video. 

(Images and trailer courtesy of Entertainment One)

Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.