Suzanne Mejean
Darren Franich
May 09, 2012 AT 09:40 PM EDT

Wes Bentley impressed in The Hunger Games as the gamemaker Seneca Crane, a character whose villainy was matched only by his absurd facial hair. Bentley looks scruffier in the upcoming indie film 3 Nights in the Desert, where he plays a musician who’s gone off his rocker. We have to ask: Is kooky facial hair written into his contracts now? The actor says, “I’ve always been able to grow facial hair since I was 15. I’ve always thought, ‘I really gotta use my facial hair for characters.’ It’s starting to work.” If you got it, flaunt it.

3 Nights in the Desert is a departure from Hunger Games. Bentley’s Travis is a member of an old rock band disbanded years ago, and the film follows the three former friends getting together for one anxious weekend in the desert. (Bentley’s bandmates are played by Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire and Amber Tamblyn.) “They’re fulfilling a promise to each other that they’ll get together on their 30th birthday, which falls on the same weekend,” explains Bentley. “A lot of the film is about the different paths we take. Travis wanted to make an original sound at the sacrifice of being commercially successful. Barry, who Vincent plays, always wanted that commercial success. When they split, you could see how that affects their lives. Barry gets more buttoned-down, and Travis moves out to the desert and tries to cope with losing the music.”

Bentley notes that Travis is “a bit unhinged. He’s been out in the desert for too long. He’s always been a bit out of his mind, but it starts to show.” Although the character wasn’t based on any musician, Bentley says that he took his cues from one real-life musician. “The style — musically and personality-wise — would be Jack White. I feel like they had a similar thing going.” Bentley himself plays the guitar, and has musical roots date back to childhood. “I grew up in a real musical family. I played trombone as a kid in high school band. I wasn’t very good though. I drifted around the third chair. I stuck with it till 10th grade.” And does he ever regret leaving behind his career as a trombonist? “I do not,” the actor happily explains. “And I don’t think anyone who ever heard me regretted it either.”

Check out a larger version of EW’s exclusive photo from 3 Nights in the Desert here.

Read more:

How ‘Hunger Games’ Wes Bentley brought himself back from the brink

‘Hunger Games’ Central

‘Hunger Games’ red carpet photos

You May Like