Byline: ALISON ROBERTS
I MEET Josh Hartnett, the 30-year-old Hollywood star of the blockbuster Pearl Harbor who made his debut on the West End stage this week, in a stark, airless rehearsal room in south London. The lights flash on and off at random and Hartnett, at 6ft 3in, folds himself uncomfortably into a plastic chair. He wears jeans, T-shirt and a beanie hat, and still has the heart-throb looks that got him spotted by a talent scout as a teenager. Yet despite more than a decade in the limelight he is supremely uncomfortable being scrutinised.
He says he hates the "fame game"; that he's just a regular guy; that he despises the trappings of celebrity - yet he's so hemmed in by publicists and minders that he gives every impression of believing himself to be really very famous. The West End producer Nica Burns sits next to him and occasionally answers questions for him. And boy, does he hate being asked about Heath Ledger, who was a friend. "I'm not even going to go there," he replies, unhappy, when I ask whether he misses him. Subsequent British interviewers, it turns out, are told not to mention Ledger as a result.
Why so defensive? He says he's had bad experiences with the press, and most often he implies during his year-long relationship with Scarlett Johansson, with whom he lived in New York. His silence on the subject of former girlfriends is absolute, and perhaps fair enough: he says he's been stalked by the US paparazzi and that even stepping outside his front door became difficult at one stage. "People have written wild things …