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Ben Foster: From 'X-Men' to 'The Messenger'

The journeyman actor talks about his new Iraq-themed drama

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While his younger brother, Jon, is busy trading punchlines with Jenna Elfman on the CBS sitcom Accidentally on Purpose, Ben Foster is taking on the most challenging dramatic role of his career. In The Messenger, the 29-year-old actor plays a soldier just back from Iraq whose new duty is to inform military families their loved ones have died. ”For every notification scene, Woody Harrelson and I didn’t meet the other actors before we were rolling film,” says the veteran of television (Six Feet Under, My Name Is Earl) and film (X-Men: The Last Stand, 3:10 to Yuma), noting that director Oren Moverman was aiming for spontaneous reactions from the cast. ”There was always an embrace afterwards.” Foster, who’s currently in New Orleans playing an apprentice to a hitman (Jason Statham) in the action drama The Mechanic, seems unfazed by the awards talk that his intense turn in The Messenger has attracted. ”If you make chairs for a living, and somebody comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, this is one of the best chairs of the year,’ it feels great,” he says. ”But it doesn’t change the f—ing chair.”