He has been a Hollywood heartthrob for all of his adult life, yet Josh Hartnett insists he is happy to ignore his enduring celebrity status.

Josh Hartnett in Sky drama 'The Fear Index.'
Josh Hartnett in Sky drama 'The Fear Index.'

Hartnett shot to worldwide stardom as he took on starring roles in the big-screen smash hits Pearl Harbour and 40 Days and 40 Nights at the start of his career.

Yet as he spoke to Female First about his latest role in the compelling Sky drama The Fear Index, it was clear that this instantly recognisable star prefers to take a back seat away from the bright lights of fame.

"It always felt unnatural for me to be 'famous'," began 43-year-old father of three. "It's difficult to get a handle on what that means for anyone when you are put in that position.

"In my eyes, I have always been a terrible celebrity because I don't do all the things celebrities are supposed to do.

"I really enjoy making films and TV shows, but the industry itself was overwhelming when I was younger. 

"There was paparazzi around every corner and you couldn't really go anywhere without being sort of harassed and I wanted to be outside of that.

"What I want to do is continue to work on interesting projects and that's why I don't have any social media platforms.

"I prefer the old-fashioned way where we get to talk to real people and don't need to do it through social media channels. That works better for me."

Hartnett's long-term relationship with actress Tamsin Egerton offers him the simple stability he craves in his life with their three children and home in Sussex, England a long way from the bright lights of Hollywood.

He has turned down roles that could have turned his celebrity status into something even more extravagant after revealing he was offered the chance to play Superman and other comic book heroes, yet Hartnett is content with the path he has chosen to follow.

His latest role sees him deliver a commanding performance as Dr Alex Hoffman, a computer scientist and genius who is ready to make a killing, while nearly losing his mind in the storm that envelopes him.

'The Fear Index' is adapted from the best-selling novel by Robert Harris.
'The Fear Index' is adapted from the best-selling novel by Robert Harris.

This financial thriller adapted from the best-selling novel by Robert Harris, The Fear Index is directed by Irish-born David Caffrey, who lists Love/Hate and Line Of Duty among his credits.

"People say I took a break in my career, but that wasn't really the case," he insisted. "I just wanted to spend less time away from my kids and that meant doing smaller productions.

"What I do is pick projects that work for me and that's why I did The Fear Index. This show has really interesting characters, great storylines and that's why I had to do this one.

"I loved Robert Harris's book that this show is based on and he is so good at this genre. Also, the producers, Left Bank, are responsible for The Crown, which I'm a huge fan of.

"He is very prescient. His novel of The Fear Index was written a decade ago, but the concept is still very current. It’s still something we’re all very much talking about. It doesn’t feel dated at all.

"Robert has a very keen grasp of the human condition, and he also knows how to create a really intriguing story. He possesses the perfect balance – he writes gripping blockbusters, but he also has a very deep understanding of people. That combination is getting rarer and rarer. He really hits the sweet spot.

"So when I was approached by them, I thought it would be great to be part of this, and I wasn't disappointed. I'm delighted to have been involved in this terrific production.

"But I have to admit I can't give you a full review of what The Fear Index looks like in the final edit because my ability to separate myself from the mistakes I make when I see myself on screen is non-existent.

"If I watch something that I am in, it can affect me for three months because I never like what I see. 

"My Dad is a musician and he said it took him ten years to listen back to his music without judging it badly and I think it is the same with acting.

"You forget everything that you don't like about a performance years later, but it is hard to watch yourself back on TV right after you have made something."

Josh plays the character of Dr Alex Hoffman.
Josh plays the character of Dr Alex Hoffman.

All episodes of The Fear Index are on Sky Atlantic and NOW

Word by Kevin Palmer for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter at @RealKevinPalmer.