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Josh Hartnett on playing a stranded snowboarder in mountain drama 6 Below

In 6 Below you play real-life snowboarder/hockey player Eric LeMarque, who was stranded for eight days in a massive winter storm. Did you ever think: ‘What have I let myself in for?’

The cold up in the Utah mountains was uncomfortable but you can dress in layers of things underneath what the character’s wearing that can deal with that. You’re not immune to the cold when you’re up in those elements. There’s always cold that will be beyond your breaking point — but there were ways of dealing with it. At one point, I had the beginnings of frostbite and we had to stop filming so I could warm up. Medics wanted me to stop for a couple of days while my feet thawed but it wasn’t possible so we had to put in more of those breakable heat pads in my boots and make sure I took breaks to warm up.

Survivor: Eric LeMarque

Any other hairy moments?

Well, because Eric lost weight on the mountain, I was on a diet that was minuscule. The amount of food I was eating was almost non-existent. So along with expending all this energy in high altitude, I wasn’t taking anything in, so I was losing my mind from the hallucinatory effects of weight loss.

Why did you want to do it?

Director Scott Waugh convinced me that it was going to be the most challenging thing I’d done. I’d been working on Penny Dreadful for three years and we were in a nice, warm, cosy studio in Dublin. We were there every day and I felt like it would be fantastic to take on the elements. It felt like a challenge I couldn’t pass up.

Are you a big winter sports person?

I grew up in Minnesota, which is a hockey-oriented state, but the last time I played hockey was when I was about 12! So I hadn’t been on skates in years. I’d gone skating on a recreational lake a couple of times but really nothing to speak of. So getting on the ice with a bunch of professional hockey players and semi-pros, and having them watch me find my legs like a duck trying to swim for the first time, it took me a while to get back into it! That was the most difficult part. Snowboarding I started just after high school and I’ve been snowboarding as much as I can.

Along with acting, you’re also involved in the art world, right?

I went to visual art school and I started acting kinda on a lark. Somebody asked me to audition for a couple of things, and I landed a TV show and a movie within two weeks and decided that was better than being broke, and I never went back to school. But I continued to be interested in the art world and have lots of friends who are doing quite well in the visual arts from New York, LA and London. I have friends who own galleries.

What else are you focusing on?

I’ve been writing a lot over the last couple of years. I have a script that we are shopping around right now in LA and I’m working on a second script to potentially direct. These are things that I will produce as well. I’ve wanted to branch out and try all sorts, and have found an actor’s life to be peripatetic. You need other things going on, otherwise you become restless. Or maybe the restlessness is what leads me to try new things. But I’m doing all sorts right now.

Do you want to put down roots now you’re a father of two?

That’s a huge push in that direction. I’m much more stable now than I’ve ever been. I’m spending less and less time on the road.

Has fatherhood changed you?

The biggest change is that you have very little time to think about yourself. Acting — God, I couldn’t think of a more narcissistic profession! You’re looking at your own emotional reactions and you use your life as your tool, so you spend a lot of time navel-gazing. So to then have these little creatures you need to keep alive, healthy and happy, and they require all your energy, it’s a welcome relief. I’m nearing 40 and it’s about time I started growing up!

Do you and your partner Tamsin Egerton want to work together on screen?

At some point. We’ve got more than enough on our plates taking care of the kids. We are very hands-on.

Partner: Actress Tamsin Egerton

Is it easy not to talk about the film business at home?

Yeah. Our normal life is about how we keep both kids happy. We have to work but don’t spend a lot of time discussing power moves in the business.

6 Below is in cinemas and on demand from today