If actor Garrett Hedlund seems a little perplexed, it shouldn't be surprising.
He just arrived from San Francisco after wrapping the Walter Sallesdirected movie version of Jack Kerouac's classic beatnik novel, On the Road.
The 26-year-old's been submerged in a 1950s hipster frame of mind since filming started in Montreal last fall. And now he finds himself at a fancy Beverly Hills hotel in the 21st century.
He's here to discuss his modern day country crooner role in the recently opened melodrama, Country Strong. But he can't help but get nostalgic for On the Road, set for release in theatres later this year.
"It was almost like a dream to be around their hangouts," says Hedlund of filming in San Francisco's North Beach area where the beat poets congregated.
On the Road co-stars Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Terrence Howard, but it is Hedlund who is the main attraction.
He plays the quasi-Kerouac protagonist who journeys across postwar America in search of adventure and an identity. The book was a precursor to the Beat Generation and the poetry and jazz that enveloped the anti-establishment movement of the 1950s and '60s.
Humbled by the experience, Hedlund says he enjoyed immersing himself in the Kerouac vibe and being part of Salles "guerrilla style" film making.
"I'll be back to myself soon," he says, smiling at his disassociation.
Indeed, his On the Road experience was in stark contrast to acting on a Vancouver sound stage for the tech-heavy TRON: Legacy, or filming in Nashville for Country Strong.
Mostly, he's grateful to have all three movies on his resume, no matter how different they might be. "Extreme is the best place to be from," Hedlund suggests.
Born in Roseau, Minn., he was raised on a turkey farm, but at 14 moved with his mother to Phoenix, Ariz. After graduating from high school in Phoenix, he moved to L.A. to seek his fame and fortune, but realistically would have taken anything remotely connected to acting.
Luck, timing and his good looks paid off quickly. He made his film debut in the 2004 swords-and-sandals epic Troy, playing Brad Pitt's younger brother, then he co-starred in the well-received football drama Friday Night Lights.
He followed up that impressive one-two punch with his ensemble portrayal in 2005's Four Brothers with Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson and Andre Benjamin.
It hasn't been all positive, however. He had a small role in the fantasy flick, Eragon, which didn't live up to expectations. He was also a part of the 2007 Lindsay Lohan bomb Georgia Rule.
No matter, he's back on track in a big way. Besides his lead role in On the Road, he's received decent notices playing the son of Jeff Bridges in the TRON sequel, and he picked up some positive reviews for his singer-songwriter fellow in Country Strong with Leighton Meester, Tim McGraw and headliner Gwyneth Paltrow.
Certainly, Paltrow's impressed with Hedlund. She insists that he brings a rare sense of self to the big screen.
"Garrett's so paradoxical," says the Shakespeare in Love Oscar winner, who had some love scenes with Hedlund. "He is so tall and he's like a real man, not like a puny, Hollywood actor. But he's so sensitive, and he's got so much heart, and you look in his eyes and there is so much in there."
For now, Hedlund is taking a break. He's been on movie sets for the last few years and feels he needs time out. For the most part, he plans to hide out at his L.A. apartment and continue to be anonymous. "What people think is so glamorous isn't," he says of the celebrity game. "It can get quite cold and cruel at times."
Rather than hanging out at clubs and restaurants, he'd rather read or research.
"You've got to put the work into the craft," Hedlund says. "You got to focus on the task at hand, and not cheat yourself."
If, by chance, he starts to get noticed on the street or tracked by the paparazzi, he promises to disappear. "When fame gets to be too much, I'll just dig a hole in the ground and hide."