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Emile Hirsch, 22, went on a starvation diet to play a hitchhiker in the true-life adventure film Into the Wild, in theaters now.

“When I was that skinny, I didn’t have a whole lot of energy or anxiety,” he tells me during interviews for the film. “All that goes away. I’m taking my pulse a lot and my pulse was very slow. It was very mellow. I was working with a doctor, so I felt pretty confident in the way I had lost it through the healthy way of exercise, diet and then stricter diet. There was a feeling that I was disappearing. Looking in the mirror at times was creepy. I’d look in the mirror and I’d look sick.”

He says reading Primo Levi’s Holocaust book, If This Is a Man, gave him a physical reaction when he read it at the airport in the middle of his weight-loss.

“It’s not easy to read about people in pain but, in particular, the aspect of people being really hungry,” he tells me.

Did Sean Penn give him any advice?

“Sean says you’ve gotta work to be in the game. I believe that. If there’s nothing that inspires you at the time, you should take 10 years off if you don’t feel like doing it.”

Hopefully he enjoys that cinnamon bun in the hospitality suite as much as I do. ;)

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