Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger as Bonnie and Clyde
Joseph Viles

From the big screen to the small one, EMILE HIRSCH is having a (long) moment in the spotlight.

Emile Hirsch’s upcoming roles have him wielding heavy artillery on both sides of the law, first as the titular outlaw in History’s gripping Bonnie & Clyde miniseries (airing Dec. 8 and 9 simultaneously on History, Lifetime and A&E), then as a doomed military man in Peter Berg’s big-screen Lone Survivor, opening next month. The 28-year-old tells American Way he is very much enjoying his in-demand status.

American Way: The Bonnie and Clyde story has become the stuff of American legend. What do you think is the legend’s particular appeal?
Emile Hirsch:
The thing that is special about this story is not that they robbed all these banks, which they did; it’s that they had this very human, deep love for each other. It’s kind of a contradiction. Hardened criminals and killing sprees aren’t often associated with true love but with unremitting darkness. I think Bonnie and Clyde really did love each other, and that’s the reason they’re a part of American folklore now.

AW: How did you prepare to play America’s most famous bank robber?
I went into it blind. I’d never seen the 1967 Warren Beatty movie [Bonnie and Clyde], so all of my research was book learning, figuring out who these people really were, Bonnie and Clyde, according to all of this historical research. I wasn’t burdened with any preconceived notions of “movie Clyde.” It was just me doing detective work, trying to find the closest thing to who Clyde really was. I didn’t want to “Hollywood” it up or anything.

AW: What did you find?
Oh, man, it’s dark. Dark. Disturbing. And our movie doesn’t shy away from any of that stuff. Clyde was in love with this woman, truly in love, but he was not a good man in any conventional sense.

AW: In your best roles, from Into the Wild and Alpha Dog on, there is this intense marriage of darkness and light in your performances. Where does that come from?
It just speaks to me. I don’t know why. There’s an intensity of character that I’m really drawn to. Bonnie and Clyde is more detailed, more expanded, grander. It was a chance to go deeper with the kind of character I most love to play.

AW: Tell me about Lone Survivor.
It’s a story about honor and keeping your brother by your side and the sacrifices that are made for freedom. I happen to think we live in the greatest country in the world, so I really believe stories like this are worth telling, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of something like this.

AW: What good advice have you received along the way?
I think persistence is the key. You know, in life and in Hollywood, you get knocked down over and over again. It’s inevitable. It’s nothing personal. The thing that separates the boys from the men is getting back up again. You have to be determined to keep going into the great unknown.