After being cast in Larry Clark's Bully, the true story of a group of high-school burnouts who conspire to murder the title jerk, Michael Pitt eagerly set about doing his homework. The actor was determined to make the grade by getting inside his character's head, no matter how frightening a place that would be to visit.

"The guy I play didn't even know the bully," he tells TV Guide Online. "He had no motive whatsoever [to participate in the homicide], yet he was the first person to stab [the victim]."

Complicating matters for the former Dawson's Creek heartthrob was the fact that the youth in question was not available to provide any answers. So instead Pitt was forced to rely on other people's notes.

"We talked to a lot of the detectives," he explains, "and the weird thing is, they liked him. He seemed like a nice enough kid. He didn't have any direction, but he didn't seem like a murderer, either.

"He was probably the kid that was hanging out at the arcade or in a parking lot drinking 40s [beer]," he continues. "Not someone you would aspire to be, but not someone you'd necessarily think was a killer."

In the end, despite the difficulties that Pitt faced in researching his role, he still wound up earning an "A" for the film (which hits video-store shelves this week). "When we were doing the actual killing, I kind of scared myself — and I think the crew, too," he admits. "They weren't, like, talking to me afterward."