AMC's gritty new Western, "Hell on Wheels," stars Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannon, a grizzled Civil War veteran who's determined to avenge his wife's murder. But don't let the beard fool you: Beneath that rough exterior lies a man who's shared the screen with a pop princess in an embarrassingly terrible film. Yes, as much as Mount would like to forget this, he co-starred along with Britney Spears in her 2002 big-screen vehicle, "Crossroads."
Mount played Ben, a handsome (and only slightly stubbly) stranger who joins Lucy (Spears) and her two friends, Kit and Mimi, on a life-changing cross-country road trip. Ben becomes Lucy's main love interest during the film, eventually (gasp!) taking her virginity. The two onscreen lovebirds even won a Teen Choice Award for Best Chemistry. (And they don't give out those surfboards to just anyone, you know.)
See that white-hot chemistry in action in this "Crossroads" clip:
But Mount shouldn't feel too ashamed: He's not the only big name hoping to bury "Crossroads" deep on his resumé. The film also stars a pre-"Avatar" Zoe Saldana as Lucy's pal Kit and Justin Long as Lucy's hometown boyfriend -- and it was written by "Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes! (Wow, maybe this movie is secretly amazing and we just never knew it... okay, probably not.)
Mount definitely had the right attitude about his brush with Britney: "At the time, I just saw it as a great work opportunity and a chance to make some money that I could use to go on vacation," he tells the Associated Press. "It was everybody else who put me in this sort of good-looking, next-big-leading-man category."
The actor went on to redeem himself by starring as deputy D.A. Jim Steele on Dick Wolf's 2006 NBC legal drama "Conviction" and landing guest spots on "Lost" and "Law & Order." And his transformation from Britney boy-toy to hard-edged AMC leading man in less than a decade is certainly admirable: If "Wheels" becomes a hit, Mount might even rocket to stardom like fellow AMC star Jon Hamm did.
But as long as the Internet exists, people like us will always be able to look back on (and laugh at) Mount's humble onscreen beginnings. Hey, look on the bright side: At least he never married Kevin Federline.
Get an exclusive sneak peek at Mount in "Hell on Wheels" right here:
"Hell on Wheels" premieres Sunday, 11/6, at 10pm on AMC.
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