Josh Hartnett
Credit: Maury Phillips/WireImage

Josh Hartnett was one of the hottest young heartthrobs of the earliest aughts, starring in big studio films like Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down. Recently, he’s retreated from the spotlight and has focused on quieter indie projects, and his supporting role in Stuck Between Stations, which will be screening this weekend at Tribeca, is no exception. The film follows Casper (Sam Rosen), a young soldier at home in Minneapolis on bereavement leave, who reconnects with his childhood crush Rebecca (Zoe Lister-Jones) over one memorable night. Hartnett plays Paddy, a neck-tattooed druggie who introduces the pair to an underground circus.

Calling all the way from the set of Singularity in India, Hartnett spoke to EW about Stuck Between Stations, future projects, and his readiness to return to being a movie star. Check out the interview, and an exclusive clip from Stations, below:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you become involved with Stuck Between Stations?

JOSH HARTNETT: Two of my best friends, Sam Rosen and Nat Bennett, wrote it. I can’t even tell you how quickly they put it together, but it seems like one day they’d planned to write the script together, and literally in a month, they told me they’d written a part for me and asked me to do it. I said absolutely. My part is kind of inspired by a friend of ours, also named Paddy, who we know from back in Minnesota and Brooklyn. I came in and did the role in two days.

There’s a lot about childhood nostalgia in Stuck Between Stations. Are there moments from the film that are based on things that happened in your lives in Minnesota?

A lot of the stories from the film are ones that have been floating around for a bit, and some of them were just made up, of course. Sam is a pretty nostalgic guy, and I think that Nat is prone to that as well. I live in New York now and have since I was 17, but I go back to Minnesota quite a bit, so I don’t feel all that nostalgic about the Twin Cities.

So it seems in the past few years you’ve been appearing in some smaller, lower profile projects.

Honestly, I guess if you looked at my CV, I’ve been doing independent movies since I started. I think that I kind of took a few steps back from Hollywood as soon as it all started to come my way because I wasn’t quite ready for the attention. I didn’t want to watch every word that I say. I wanted to develop naturally, so I just decided that being a quote-unquote “movie star” wasn’t for me at that point in my life, so I didn’t do many films for quite a few years. Over the last 10 or 11 years since I finished Black Hawk Down, I’ve only done a handful of films, and a lot of them have been ones that I’ve been involved with behind the scenes. Lately, I’ve been spending more time talking to people out in L.A. and kind of looking at different types of projects. Now I feel more comfortable with where I’m at. I’m 32 now, I’m not a kid anymore, and I’m not afraid of what people think of me, which is one of the major problems of having a bit of success in this industry when you’re young. You’re still developing, and you see with a lot of people that they kind of go off the deep end. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen to me, so I took a bunch of steps back.

What are some projects you have coming up?

I have a project coming out called Bunraku. I’m always trying to find something unique or a project that I can do something unique in. When the director has a vision for a piece that I’ve never heard before, and they can back that up with visuals and they talk a good game, I get really interested in the world that they’re trying to create. So Bunraku is quite a bizarre film. It has Woody Harrelson in it, and Kevin McKidd, Ron Perlman, Demi Moore, and Gackt Camui, a Japanese musician-megastar-slash-actor. It’s kind of a mix between the old Kurasawa samurai films, a bit of Sergio Leone westerns, some French new wave, in the form of Jean-Pierre Melville. It’s also set in this world where there are no guns, and the sets look like they’re made of papier machet or something, like folded up paper in a pop-up book. I get to do a lot of mixed martial arts, which I’ve never done before.

And after that?

I’m working on Singularity right now, here in India. It’s an epic film taking place in two different time periods — the 1700’s, where I play a Scottish captain in Bombay, and the other is in 2010, where I play a guy who finds a ring that dates back to the 18th century — and the stories intertwine in a beautiful way. The locations and the way it looks is absolutely spectacular — I’ve never seen anything like it. After this, there are a couple of things I might do: A little movie in New York, which I like to do, and then there’s a big ol’ thing in Hollywood, which I can’t really talk about yet. I’ve just been getting reinvigorated creatively, lately, which is nice.