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Byline: ANNA DAY

With his pudding-bowl haircut and puffy cheeks, Josh Hartnett looks like the kid who was always getting bullied at school rather than a Hollywood star. He has the requisite piercing blue eyes and firm torso, but there's no denying that Josh seems a bit of a geek.

Yet, despite his appearance, he's become the darling of Tinseltown with a legion of directors imploring him to star in their movies. Last month, after fierce speculation, Josh finally turned down the lead role in the remake of Superman, even though the studio had begged him at least 10 times to take the part.

"I didn't want to sign up to anything that long term," says Josh, 25, whose new film Hollywood Homicide is out this week. "I had to sign to do all three films, which would have meant I'd still be making Superman films in 2013. That's mad. I can't think like that."

His latest part, alongside film legend Harrison Ford, wasn't a smooth ride either, with the youngster clashing with the veteran star.

"Over the course of the film we had our ups and downs," Josh admits. "Harrison has this dry sense of humour and he's very sarcastic. He's an intimidating guy. He tested me to the limit, so I hated him for a while.

"He gave me a lot of s**t about the choices that I made - 'That's not a cop haircut' - things like that. Other than Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own, I think I'm really only the second young guy he's worked with in his career.

"So when I kind of came into his territory, he started to throw out his elbows. But he might be the nicest guy in the entire world to everybody else."

In the film, which takes a satirical potshot at the LA police department, Hartnett and Ford play fellow cops KC Calden and Joe Gavilan.

Harrison explains, "These two characters are not buddies. They are guys who work together but who don't understand each other at all.

"I thought that was pretty much reflected in our relationship and I didn't try to disturb it."

Of course, now that the movie is over, the pair claim to have fixed their fractured relationship, and are, in Hollywood terms, best mates.

Josh says, "He doesn't suffer fools, so he wants to make sure that you're not one. Therefore, he pushes your buttons for a long time, then eventually you just have to say, 'Harrison, I'm going to kill you'. By the end of it, we ended up getting along really well."

The two men do have plenty in common - both shun the LA lifestyle and value their privacy. Josh's hideaway is a pounds 1.5m Victorian mansion on the Lake Of The Isles in his native Minneapolis. He shares his home with long-term girlfriend Ellen Fenster and the couple are rumoured to be thinking of starting a family.

"LA is so geared towards celebrities," says Josh, "to people who are full of themselves. It's not a place I would ever want to live or spend time. I'm a hermit at heart.

"I mean, if God Himself could walk down the street, people would be like, 'Yeah, He's so out there'. I have my feet firmly on the ground, thanks to my parents and my girlfriend. I don't follow the crowd and I'm not easily led. I don't believe all the hype."

And there has been plenty of that, despite Josh's reluctance to embrace Hollywood. He first came to the public's attention in the US version of Cracker in 1997, before moving into films. It was in Black Hawk Down (2001) that he really made his mark, alongside Ewan McGregor and Tom Sizemore.

But Josh is bright enough to realise that a few hit films do not make him a big movie star. "Yeah, this could all end tomorrow," he shrugs. "And really that would be OK. I'd probably go back to school for a while and find something else to do. I always wanted to be a painter so I might just hide myself away and try to do that.

"Ellen has nightmares that I'm surrounded by Amazonian women when I leave her side, but I prefer to have a quiet beer with the boys or stay at the hotel with a good book."

Josh Hartnett, movie star? We think not. Just a bad-haired actor who got lucky.

Hollywood Homicide is out today.


BEST OF ENEMIES: Josh and Harrison Ford in Hollywood Homicide; HOT ROLES: 40 Days And 40 Nights (top) and in the blockbuster Pearl Harbor; MISSION: Josh in Black Hawk Down
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 29, 2003
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