PHOTOS BIO Wes Bentley, the Hunger Games’ Seneca Crane

Wes Bentley

One of the latest Hunger Games announcements trickling out from Lionsgate confirmed that Wes Bentley will be playing the role of Seneca Crane, the evil genius responsible for designing the game in which Panem’s tributes find themselves trapped and televised.

Although folks seem to know 32-year-old Bentley best from American Beauty (1999), it isn’t because he took a 10-year break from Hollywood.  He has been working like crazy, especially for the last three or four years.  Right now, besides shooting The Hunger Games this summer (for a March 2012 release), Bentley can be found in the lead of Roland Joffe’s newest film, There Be Dragons, which opens next week.

Wes Bentley and AB cast

But that’s not all.  In between shooting There Be Dragons last year and heading to North Carolina later this month to become Seneca Crane in The Hunger Games, Wes worked on five other productions:  After School SpecialHirokinCreeperHidden Moon, and Gone.

Wes Bentley in There Be Dragons

When we see Wes as Manolo in There Be Dragons next week, something will be different, though.  After years of addiction and struggles to get sober, Bentley has found a new passion for life and work. And it all came together for him in an instant.

As he described it to Movieline:

I was preparing to do this scene where I ask forgiveness of my son, tell him what I’d done and ask for forgiveness. And I’m in this old age make-up and I’m looking in the mirror preparing and I realize, it just hits me like a ton of bricks: I don’t want to be dying on my deathbed before I recognize the terrible things that I’ve done. You know, they’re not the terrible things that he had done by any means, but in my life they were bad and I needed to ask for forgiveness, and I wanted my life back — and I wanted it now, in my 30s, before it gets too late. So that was a big moment. I also had people on the film who I looked up to that were already sober and it was very attractive to me. So all of these things culminated in me wanting to make my life better. I got sober and I started reconnecting with family and putting the pieces back together.

Wes grew up alongside his three brothers as the sons of two Methodist preachers.  His father, David, and his mother, Cherie, shared the pulpit at their church in Jonesboro,  Arkansas, and the family  lived in the building where their church was housed.  It seems like he had a pretty happy and balanced childhood, but he says he took it all for granted.  So, when success came with American Beauty in 1999, he really didn’t know how to handle it.

Wes Bentley, the tomb

2008 marked the bottom of the barrel, according to Bentley.  In fact, he will pin point it even more precisely, and say that The Tomb is the last film he made as an addict. So, Bentley has been sober for a few years, but only passionately reinvested in his life since that big moment a few months ago on the set of There Be Dragons.  When the role of Manolo came along, he was ready to take almost anything, but working with Joffe is something he says he would have sought out.  Joffe’s 1986 film, the Mission, had been important to Bentley and his family, and it was just the sort of film that he thought might help bring him clarity about his life.  Apparently, he was right.

We Bentley

Now, Bentley is cleaned up and ready to make his move.  The trailer for There Be Dragons looks promising, and platforms don’t get much larger than Lionsgate’s no-holds-barred approach to producing The Hunger Games. Seneca Crane is as interesting a character as he is creepy, and Bentley should find plenty of material to work with.

So, show us something, Wes!

(Top PHoto: Sean Thorton/WENN.COM)

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