Josh Hartnett can always be relied upon for his action, leading macho man chops, i.e. in pics like Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down, and even the period Showtime cult fave series Penny Dreadful as the dashing Ethan Chandler.

But in Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh Lucy! the actor walks out of his box to play an affable, but goofy, English-language instructor in Japan, who possesses questionable methods when it comes to teaching. He draws a quiet office lady under his spell to the point where she transforms herself into the wild Lucy. When Hartnett’s John goes missing in Los Angeles, Lucy and her sister pursue him to the most despicable corners of the city.

Hirayanagi here says she based the character of Lucy on a shy person she once knew, coupled with her experiences as a U.S. foreign exchange student: “When I was speaking English and using my hands and body language, you feel like you’re a different person. Speaking English transforms you into a different person,” says the filmmaker who based Oh Lucy! off a short that actually played here at the Cannes Film Festival three years ago, winning the second place Cinefoundation prize.

While Hirayanagi didn’t know someone as provocative as Hartnett’s John in her life, the actor did. Who might that be? Well, an acting coach or two that Hartnett and his thespian friends have had run-ins with.

“A lot of acting coaches aren’t acting coaches,” says Hartnett about his inspiration for his Oh Lucy! role. “The more elaborate and the more absurd that they are, the more you buy into the effect that it’s having on you.” Hartnett expounds further in our interview above. Oh Lucy! is playing in Cannes Critics’ Week. Elle Driver is handling foreign sales, with UTA repping domestic.