“THE EMPEROR'S CLUB” interview with Emile Hirsch

by Ken James, Staff Writer

Emile (prounced Em-eel) recently starred in the 2002 Jodie Foster production “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”. He also appeared in Showtime’s “Wild Iris” as the teenage son of an alcoholic mother. On the horizon for this 17-year-old from Westwood, CA is “The Mudge Boy”. Hirsch has also guest-starred in “ER” and “NYPD Blue.”

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How did you first hear about this project?

My manager sent me the script and it wasn’t being made for a couple more months so I just kinda read it and liked it and was like “alright, when do I audition?” They’re like “no, they’re not casting.” So I’m like “alright”, and put it down. And then it came about. I ended up coming here and meeting with Kevin Kline and reading some scenes for the audition.

What was it like going toe to toe with the Oscar-Award winning Kevin Kline?

Emile Hirsch and Kevin Kline in The Emperor’s ClubIt was pretty nerve wracking when I first met him. I was very nervous. Not just on top of the fact that it’s already Kevin Kline, but I’m auditioning as well!

So it’s like “ahh”. But he was really nice, and it was fun to work off of him. I kinda got into it.

How did you work on composing your character?

Emile Hirsch as Sedgewick Bell in The Emperor’s ClubI tried to think of a kind, well meaning, charismatic person and just take away the kind, well meaning part. That was it!

I definitely watched some politicians on CNN and CSPAN. Definitely kinda watched that charismatic way they try to win people over. Then I… I don’t know, I just kinda tried to think of a rebel. If I was a disruptive student in class, what would I be?

Was there anyone in specific you tried to pattern your character after?

I did a composite of a few different people. I will never admit who they are. But no one in [my] high school. They’re more public figures.

Did you study the 1970s as you did research for your film role?

No, not really. My hair was pretty long. I didn’t really do much. Don’t got no time machine.

What’s the film about for you?

I think it’s kinda about the—going back to the quote—“conquest without contribution is insignificant.” I think it’s about that. If you just cut corners for the end product, it just kinda questions does that justify it? Does that mean anything to anyone in the end?

I think there is a lot to be said for the work that’s put in to something. Not just getting to the end solution.

It seems like your character goes through so much trouble just to cheat, he may as well put that much effort into study. Why does Sedgewick do that?

Because with him he has to win. There’s so much pressure on him. He wants to win the love of his dad. When he loses his dad storms off. But cheating to him is like a guarantee. Whereas studying there’s always the chance he could forget and could be wrong.

Do you think kids your age would go see this? What are some of the main themes students will be interested in?

Emile Hirsch as Sedgewick Bell, a charismatic student who breaks the rules by rowing across the lake to the girls’ private schoolSome people my age… I would probably see this movie anyway just because it has people my age in it.

It’s pretty entertaining. There’s a lot of fun in it. But also it kinda touches upon the questions of ethics in school, which I think is pretty relevant to a lot of kids.

Have you ever had a teacher like Mr. Hundert? If so, what was it you liked most about them?

Yeah, I think my tenth and eleventh grade English teachers, Dr. Victor and Mr. Schenk, were kinda like Mr. Hundert to me. They kinda inspired me to work in English. Like literary analysis and getting into the reading.

They’re really funny… definitely crack a lot of jokes. But at the same time they are really good at what they do.

What do you think makes a good teacher a good teacher?

A certain nobility, like what Mr. Hundert have. Willing to put in the time and work. It’s more important to take the road to the destination then the destination itself.

Do you personally see the value in reading the dead Greeks and Romans, the “Classics” that Mr. Hundert so passionately teaches?

Yeah, I did it in 10th grade. So I was kinda primed and ready… I gotta resurrect Mr. Hundert’s speech that he gives to Senator Bell. “Because it is the foundation of our society today…” It’s true! Not just some line. The way the world kinda evolved.

Can you relate to the kind of education these boys at St. Benedict’s experience? What is your education like?

I go to a public high school with like a couple thousand people.

During the downtimes in filming, what did all you teenage guys do for fun?

We roamed the streets of Manhattan after shooting and just kinda bummed around.

What are some of your personal favorite films?

“Roger Doger” is up there right now. Some of the old classics like “On the Waterfront”, “Streetcar Named Desire”, “Usual Suspects”, [and] “Mosquito Coast”.

Are you enjoying the “Hollywood shtick”?

Well, I’m not too much into the Hollywood shtick I would have to say. I live in Westwood. I’m not 18, so I’m not clubbing or anything. I’m enjoying the acting a lot though. Working on films and stuff.

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