Before swooning for Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko, we obsessed over Wes Bentley in American Beauty: same good looks, same dark, but sweet, rebellious teen with a cause. Yet, Bentley—who gave life to Beauty‘s Ricky Fitts—left much to be desired post-fame. “I didn’t think [American Beauty] would give me the attention it did,” the actor told ELLE recently. “I wasn’t prepared for that at all, and that’s part of why I didn’t react so well.”
Bentley’s hinting at a decade’s worth of drug addiction, divorce, loss, and apathy toward his career that led to a run of low-profile roles making little to no splash. But Gone, the new film in which he stars with Amanda Seyfried, commences a trifecta of high-profile, hotly anticipated films in which he acts this year. After Gone, in which he plays a detective helping Seyfried find her sister, Bentley will be seen in Lovelace (also starring Seyfried) and The Hunger Games (as Seneca Crane). “That’s what attracted me to acting to begin with, not really being locked into one experience in life,” Bentley said of his diverse choices. “And it is kind of special, not just experiencing yourself switching characters and intentions and backgrounds, but also seeing someone else do the same thing, at the same time.”
The actor’s talking, of course, about Seyfried, who goes from distressed heroine in Gone to porn icon Linda Lovelace in the movie of the same name. “I didn’t recognize Amanda when she walked into the room as Linda,” Bentley added. “It took me a minute because I know her and I’d look at her and think ‘Who is this person?’ She loved that because she felt like she had made the transition physically.” Bentley plays the photographer who snaps the photograph of Lovelace for The Deep Throat poster. He continues, “It’s a really interesting moment for Linda, in the script. It’s a moment of reprieve from predators. The character I play, he’s not trying to prey on her sexually. He wants to get out of her something from the shoot that’s deeper, much more to do with how she feels.”
Bentley’s getting that same reprieve from the media that’s spent the last few years focusing on his addiction and friendship with Heath Ledger, but now tout his comeback. He explains his temporary allowance for such public introspection: “I’ve felt the need to talk a bit about all that stuff, because I wanted to help anyone who might have been in the same boat as far as the addiction and such. I used to see interviews like this or I saw interviews with other actors who had recovered and turned things around from addiction. It gave me hope, even just a little bit. It at least gave me something. So, I wanted to do that for anyone else who might be dug in deep. I just felt like I needed to turn the favor. To help someone else, if they needed it.”
That sensitivity—part of what made the teen Bentley so crushworthy—is clearly flourishing, especially in relation to his wife and their fifteen-month-old son. “I’m so proud of my family… I didn’t really see myself as a dad even just four or five years ago. Then all of a sudden, it just felt completely right. Having a child feels like the one certain thing we were built to do. There’s those other things that we were meant to do and we are skilled at doing and we enjoy doing, but there’s one thing that we were built to do and that’s, if we really tap into it, being a parent.” Perhaps, but it will be nice to be reminded of Bentley’s other great skill—acting—in the coming year.
Gone hits theaters Friday.