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Why Did Emile Hirsch Go to Prison?

Emile Hirsch is an accomplished actor best known for major roles in films like Into the Wild, Milk, and Lone Survivor. However, in 2015, Hirsch was arrested and convicted on charges of assault for choking a female film executive while intoxicated. This article will provide background on Emile Hirsch, explain the assault incident that resulted in jail time, and analyze how the experience impacted his career and life going forward.

Background on Emile Hirsch

Emile Hirsch was born in California in 1985. He developed a passion for acting at a young age and landed his first major TV role playing a troubled teen on the show Malcolm in the Middle in 2001.

His breakthrough came starring as adventurer Christopher McCandless in the 2007 film Into the Wild directed by Sean Penn. Hirsch earned critical praise for his intense and committed performance. He went on to land prominent roles in Milk, The Girl Next Door, Lords of Dogtown, and other movies over the next several years.

By his late 20s, Hirsch had established himself as a serious dramatic actor willing to undergo major physical transformations for roles. His career seemed poised to continue rising.

The Assault Incident at Sundance

In January 2015, Emile Hirsch was at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where he was promoting a film. According to police reports, on January 25th Hirsch consumed alcohol to the point of blacking out.

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He encountered Paramount executive Dani Bernfeld at a nightclub and later assaulted her at a private residence. Hirsch put Bernfeld in a chokehold from behind until she nearly lost consciousness.

He was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault and intoxication. Bernfeld described thinking she was going to die as Hirsch choked her.

Hirsch’s Conviction and 90 Day Sentence

In May 2015, Hirsch pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail along with penalties of $4,750 in fees and 15 days community service.

Hirsch issued a statement saying he had no recollection of the incident due to his level of intoxication but was filled with “shame and regret” after learning what he had done. He acknowledged needing to make major lifestyle changes.

Impact on Hirsch’s Career and Reputation

Being convicted of assault and serving jail time had significant consequences for Emile Hirsch professionally, financially, and personally:

  • His reputation in Hollywood was badly damaged, making it harder to get roles
  • He was unable to work for months while incarcerated, leading to lost income
  • Some filmmakers were reluctant to work with him after the incident
  • He lost his agent and management team, costing career support
  • Legal fees and restitution costs imposed a financial burden
  • The controversy derailed the momentum of his once rising stardom

However, Hirsch has gradually recovered some of his career in the years following the assault.

Hirsch’s Life and Work After Prison

After being released from jail in 2015, it took time for Emile Hirsch to reestablish himself in Hollywood. His first role after the conviction was a minor part in the little-seen Western The Autopsy of Jane Doe in 2016.

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However, he soon scored more significant supporting roles in films like The Outsider, All Nighter, and The Motel Life. Hirsch also portrayed iconic actor Jay Sebring in the highly anticipated Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019, which signaled more major directors were willing to work with him again.

Outside of acting, Hirsch has laid low and avoided controversy since his conviction. Sources suggest he maintains a quiet lifestyle focused on spending time with his young son.

While the assault conviction stalled Hirsch’s soaring career trajectory, his talent and work ethic have enabled him to slowly rebuild credibility in the years since.

Key Factors Behind Hirsch’s Crime

Analyzing the details of Emile Hirsch’s 2015 assault illuminates some factors that led to it occurring and his subsequent incarceration:

  • Intoxication – Excessive drinking caused Hirsch to lose control and black out, leading to extremely reckless behavior.
  • Surrounded by Enablers – Friends at the festival didn’t limit how much Hirsch drank or intervene to stop the attack.
  • Aggressive Tendencies When Drunk – Accounts suggest Hirsch becomes verbally and physically aggressive when very intoxicated.
  • No Security – The private residence had no security to defuse the situation or restrain Hirsch once he became violent.
  • Upbringing – Hirsch has alluded to a troubled childhood as influencing his anger issues.
  • Psychology of Fame – The ego boost of fame may have fed entitled tendencies and arrogance.

While Hirsch remains ashamed of the assault, examining the circumstances provides some context as to how it could occur in an otherwise successful life.

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Conclusion

Emile Hirsch saw his rapidly rising acting career derailed in 2015 when he choked a film executive while intoxicated at Sundance and was convicted of assault. He served 90 days in jail along with probation and fines. The incident significantly damaged his reputation in Hollywood for several years.

However, Hirsch has rebounded by expressing remorse and slowly rebuilding his career with supporting roles in big projects. He seems to have learned from the painful experience. While he can’t undo the past, Hirsch is still young enough to potentially regain his former stature as a leading man if he remains committed to sobriety and controlling aggressive tendencies.

The assault conviction was undoubtedly a very difficult chapter for Emile Hirsch both personally and professionally. But just as he achieved stardom against long odds earlier in his career, Hirsch has the dedication and skill to potentially overcome this major setback as well, even if it understandably continues to haunt his reputation to some degree. Only time will tell if he makes the most of his second chance in Hollywood.

Imran Khan

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