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When Sean Penn was writing 'Into the Wild' - the haunting true story of Christopher McCandless, the young man who abandoned his middle-class life and disappeared into a two-year adventure that ended in the Alaskan wilderness - he had one actor in mind: Emile Hirsch.
Penn wanted Emile for his talent, but also for his heart - something that stood out to him when he saw him in 'Lords of Dogtown', a film about the rise of the original '70s skate-punk scene; and even though Emile was just 20 when that movie came out, he'd already been acting for a decade - on TV in shows like 'E.R.' and '3rd Rock From The Sun' - and in movies like 'The Girl Next Door'. Emile starred in 'Speed Racer', a big-budget spectacle that fizzled at the box-office... but it was 'Into the Wild' that really made people take notice.
To play McCandless, who died of apparent starvation, Emile dropped more than 40 pounds. And inspired by McCandless, Emile's volunteered with Oxfam - travelling to Zimbabwe and the DRC. He's kept it real on-screen too: playing gay-rights activist Cleve Jones, opposite Penn in 'Milk' in Gus Van Sant's award-winning bio about the pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk. Now Emile's teamed up with another great director: 'The Exorcist's William Friedkin, in a controversial new thriller called 'Killer Joe'.