In the last few years, Emile Hirsch has become a go-to resource for directors of all sorts of films: After starring in Sean Penn's Into the Wild, Hirsch took on the reins of Speed Racer, a massive, effects-driven action film from The Matrix's Wachowski brothers, and then collaborated on screen with Penn again, in a supporting but essential role in Gus Van Sant's Milk. In his latest project, Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock, Hirsch tackles yet another period character, this time playing a young Vietnam veteran who regains a little bit of his humanity when the iconic music festival descends on his hometown.

Cinematical recently spoke to Hirsch in an exclusive telephone interview about his role in Taking Woodstock. In addition to discussing the challenges of bringing a character to life whose behavior, if not very identity, has become as familiar to audiences as the imagery of Woodstock itself, Hirsch revealed some of the sources of inspiration he took for his portrayal, and talked about the futility of coming up with a strategy for one's acting career.

Cinematical: The character you played in Into the Wild had his own tragic past, but the way that he dealt with it was with a greater degree of serenity. Did you see any parallels or similarities when you took on this role in Taking Woodstock?