Emile Hirsch and Holliday Granger bring the lawless love story of Bonnie and Clyde to the small screen on Dec. 8 and 9.
Notorious bank-robbing couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow lived out one of the most iconic, blood-spattered love stories of our time. In 1967, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway starred in the first film adaptation of the real-life duo's crime spree love affair. Today, the epic tale hits the small screen as a brand new miniseries directed by Academy Award-winning Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) and starring Emile Hirsch as Clyde and Holliday Grainger as Bonnie. In advance of Bonnie & Clyde's simulcast debut on Dec. 8 and 9 (Lifetime, A&E, History), we spoke with Hirsch to find out how he got into character and what the role taught him about love.
What about this project first appealed to you?
EMILE HIRSCH: For me, it was a chance to work with Bruce Beresford, the director. He's made a lot of classic films, and to get to make a four-hour miniseries with someone like him . . . you know he's going to put something good out. The advantage of having a great director is that you have that trust. And then I read the scripts and really liked them on top of it . . . A lot of people don't actually know the intimate details of their lives. They know the names Bonnie and Clyde, but they don't really know the story behind it.
What about the story resonates today?
ES: Something about this love that they have for each other, which is corrupted by crime and murder and fighting and running for your life. This big love that they have for each other just survives all of that. I think people are just fascinated by it, the fact that it really happened. It's just such an abnormal way to go about being in love with someone.
Did you take any inspiration from the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde film directed by Arthur Penn?
ES: You know, I actually never saw the Arthur Penn version until after we wrapped the shoot of our version. And I know the director saw it once when it came out in the '60s and he never saw it ever again. So we were really kind of making our own version . . . And after we wrapped production and I watched the Arthur Penn version, I loved it, I thought it was great. It's a completely different movie, it's a completely different interpretation of Clyde Barrow, it's a little bit lighter. Beatty's Barrow is smiley, jokey, kind of a goofball, and in our version Clyde Barrow is a much more dark, stoic type of person.
How do you prepare for playing dark characters?
ES: In this case, it was just researching the real guy's life and trying to imagine what that would have been like. The guy was sent to prison, and he was sexually assaulted in prison—raped, beaten, just really awful things happened to the guy in jail, and these are things that really molded him when he got out of jail. He was determined to never go back. They were never going to take him alive. And he had a lot of resentment towards 'the man' and government and law enforcement, they're the people that created the facility that did these things to him, which filled in a lot of the gaps in terms of his motivation.
As you mentioned, it's a love story set in this urgent, unusual environment. Did your perception of love change at all as a result?
ES: To me, it's admirable that they were able to be as in love as they were given the circumstances. They came from a very economically downtrodden area in the Great Depression in the worst side of town, and they didn't have a lot of options . . . Their love transcended their circumstances, and they both had a sense of danger, adventure, and thrill-seeking-type behaviors. It's a bit of a cautionary tale, too. If you find someone you love, you shouldn't go killing people and robbing banks and stuff. That's a very literal interpretation, but if you fall in love, don't rob a bank with that person!