Remember Josh Hartnett as a young Hollywood stud? He does, too—and the Vanity Fair article that hastened his professional retreat. "Oh, that was an awful piece," he tells the Guardian of the 2001 article hyping his role in Pearl Harbor. "Was there even a quote from me in it, or was it just everyone talking about how hot I was? People got a chip on their shoulder about me after that. They genuinely thought I'd been thrust on them. It was a very weird time." Rather than ride his fame, Hartnett "burned my bridges at the studios" and let other young stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Will Smith own the spotlight. And Hollywood noticed: "They looked at me as someone who had bitten the hand that fed me," he says.
"It wasn't that. I wasn't doing it to be recalcitrant or a rebel," he adds. "People wanted to create a brand around me that was going to be accessible and well-liked, but I didn’t respond to the idea of playing the same character over and over, so I branched out." Indeed, he gravitated to more personal roles in movies like The Black Dahlia (2006) Tran Anh Hung's I Come With the Rain (2009). He also married British actress Tamsin Egerton, and they moved to England with their two children. "It's a little bit heartbreaking to see all that time has passed," he says, recalling the "group of friends" feel while making The Virgin Suicides (1999). "I think I'm still looking for that experience whenever I make a film." (Read more Hollywood stories.)