Did Emile Hirsch watch Warren Beatty in “Bonnie & Clyde” before he played the role?
—Eric Jenner, Las Vegas, Nevada
Actually, Emile Hirsch, 28, had never seen the 1967 movie about the lives of the infamous bank-robbing couple before agreeing to star as Clyde Barrow in the Lifetime mini-series. But he did sit down and watch it the day that he wrapped working on the 2013 version of “Bonnie & Clyde.”
“I was shocked at the different conclusions that our version had come to as compared to the 1967 version,” the Topanga, California-born actor says. “Historically, ours is more accurate in terms of the finer details. In other respects, probably not. But it was the tone of Clyde that was most striking to me. [Warren]Beatty played Clyde as a much different guy.”
Hirsch had made the decision to not watch the earlier film beforehand because he didn’t want Beatty’s performance to affect his choices. Rather, he researched the role as if the previous film didn’t exist. He read several biographies on the subject, including “Go Down Together” and “Public Enemies,” and watched the BBC documentary, “The Real Bonnie & Clyde.”
“It was really going back to the original historical material, photographs, excerpts, interviews and writings about them, trying to get an impression of what I think someone like that would be like,” he says.
So what was his impression of Clyde?
“I think the thing that made Clyde famous was Bonnie and the public fascination with the idea of an outlaw couple,” Hirsch says. “Clyde, I think, was a very controlling guy. He had charm, but there is a part of Clyde that was very ego-driven, almost like a Napoleon complex. He wasn’t a very big guy. He was only 5-feet 7-inches, and he weighed less than me.”
As for the rumors that Clyde was psychic — which was said to be how he managed to avoid being captured by the law following his release from prison in February 1932 when he began his crime spree in earnest, until his death in May 1934 — Hirsch feels it may have more to do with Clyde having been paranoid than being clairvoyant.
“He had this sixth sense about things and he was very cautious,” Hirsch says. “I don’t know if he was actually psychic, but if you think you’re psychic and you are paranoid enough, and you follow that paranoia, it might help you avoid capture.”