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Josh Hartnett’s Career Evolution — From Teen Heartthrob to TV Horror Hunk

Ask any girl who grew up in the ‘90s to name a few of her former celebrity crushes, and chances are, Josh Hartnett will be on that list. After starring in 2001’s major box office success Pearl Harbor, Josh was the on the fastrack to superstardom as Hollywood’s next It boy. Then suddenly, he checked out of Hollywood, turning down every blockbuster role he was offered, and moved back to Minnesota.

Now with a handful of indie projects under his belt, the 35-year-old actor is making a comeback on Showtime’s creepy new series Penny Dreadful — and he’s never been better. (Seriously! You can watch the pilot episode and see for yourself.)

So in light of Josh’s big TV comeback, let's take a look back at how far his career has come — from teen heartthrob to television’s newest hunk.

The Virgin Suicides (1999)


Josh put his swoon-worthy good looks and irresistible charm to good use as dreamy ladies man Trip Fontaine in Sofia Coppola’s first feature film The Virgin Suicides.

Pearl Harbor (2001)


The film that catapulted him into the spotlight, Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor may not have won over critics, but it proved to studio execs that Josh had the chops to play a leading man. We’re still not over than soul-crushing love triangle.

O (2001)


O is pretty much a time capsule of everyone that was cool in 2001. Starring opposite Julia Stiles and Mekhi Phifer, Josh went back to high school — and to the dark side — in this modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's Othello. In it, Josh takes on the role of Hugo, a manipulative Iago-type who is so jealous of basketball star Odin hat he attempts to ruin Odin’s relationship with Desi.

Black Hawk Down (2001)


Josh scored a leading role in Ridley Scott’s critically acclaimed Black Hawk Down as Sgt. Eversmann, scoring him some much-needed critical buzz in the industry.

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)


Enter the rom-com phase of his career. In 40 Days and 40 Nights, Josh plays Matt, who after a brutal break-up, vows to stay celibate during the 40 days of Lent. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned when he meets the girl of his dreams. 40 Days and 40 Nights was a moderate box office success, despite the negative reviews.

Wicker Park (2004)


Wicker Park may have bombed at the box office, but Josh was praised for his performance as Matthew. applauded his performance for breaking through “the stiffness at all the right moments, giving an overall performance that matches the realism of the movie.” It’s also important to note Josh spends much of his screentime shirtless.

Sin City (2005)


Josh took on the role of The Man in 2005’s Sin City, which brought Frank Miller’s dark graphic novels to life on the big screen. His turn as a mysterious man for hire was a standout performance in this all-star ensemble cast.

The Black Dahlia (2006)


Josh played LAPD police officer Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert, one of two cops investigating the murder and dismemberment of Elizabeth Short in 1947 Los Angeles, in Brian De Palma’s neo noir crime film The Black Dahlia. The film failed to find an audience at the box office and was maligned by critics.

August (2008)


After years of big-budget films, Josh retreated to the indie scene, starring in 2008’s August. The indie flick centers on two brothers fighting to keep their start-up company afloat on Wall Street during August 2001, a month before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Josh starred opposite Adam Scott. The film premiered as an official selection of the Spectrum section at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Penny Dreadful (2014)

Credit: Showtime    

Wanting to try something new, Josh has now turned to TV, scoring the lead role in Showtime’s new supernatural period drama, Penny Dreadful. In it, Josh plays a charming, yet brash, man of action who is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray to investigate London’s dark underbelly and find his daughter. It's a perfect, albeit challenging, role for Hartnett, who has spent years shedding his teen heartthrob image.

Are you happy Josh Hartnett is making a comeback in Penny Dreadful? Will you watch? Sound off in the comments!

Crystal Bell is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident fangirl and pop culture enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!

05.1.2014 / 12:00 AM EDT by Crystal Bell
Related: TV, Celebrity, Features, Hot Guys, Penny Dreadful

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