Josh Duhamel first soared to prominence with his appearance in Michael Bay’s Transformers and its two sequels. He takes a step back for his latest project, the indie thriller Scenic Route in which he plays one of two friends who break down in the desert. In an exclusive interview with Mania.com, he talked about the project and what it took to bring it to the screen.
Question: What first drew you to this movie?
Josh Duhamel: Like a lot of projects, it was a fantastic script. I saw what this story could be onscreen, and I saw how we could bring it together. It had a twist that really brought it all together and it had a reality to it that I don’t think you see a lot of in movies today. It really became a passion project of mine, and I’m hoping it’s the start of more to come.
Q: This is basically a two-hander. How did you go about finding Dan Fogler and establishing your onscreen dynamic?
JD: Dan’s wonderful, and he really got into the spirit of the project. It’s a good thing too; he wasn’t getting paid a whole lot. [Laughs.] This movie involved a lot of rehearsals and Dan absolutely stepped up. He was committed to the project, and he loved it as much as we did. That makes it a lot easier to figure out the emotional history of these characters, where they were in the past, where they are now, and how they end up playing off of each other the way they do.
Q: I suppose the third important character is the setting itself.
JD: Yeah, that’s a great way of putting it.
Q: How much of a challenge was it to perform under those conditions?
JD: They call it Death Valley for a reason. The arid quality of it, the temperature extremes… you’re experiencing forty degree changes in temperatures over the course of a single day. You get these ridiculous windstorms, and you’re trying to do these long, dialogue-heavy scenes when the whole space is trying to crush you at the same time. It’s tough to shoot and tough to stay on task when you just want to crawl into the shade with a bottle of water. At the same time, that really feeds into the atmosphere we’re trying to create on film. If you can get past a certain state, get past the discomfort of it, then you can really find what this story is about and reflect that in you performance. It was a tough, tough experience, but I’m grateful for it. It wouldn’t be the same film if we’d shot it in some air conditioned set somewhere. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Q: What was it like working with a pair of brothers as directors?
JD: It was terrific. They had it all set up and were so organized and ready. They also weren’t out to prove anything. They didn’t want this to be some calling card for another project. Hey didn’t want to show off or show us how well they could shoot a scene. They went back to basics and just let the story tell itself. Maybe t’s because they’re brothers, and they don’t let themselves get away with anything. Whatever the reason, it made for a very gratifying shoot.
Q: It seems like movies like this are thriving in direct-to-video and through distributors like Netflix and DirecTV, but not on the big screen anymore. Where do you think films like this are going? Are multiplexes going to be just the realm of superhero movies like Transformers?
JD: That’s a really good question. Movies like this used to have a real shot on the big screen and that’s just not the case anymore. I’m grateful for the Transformers movies and look back on those experiences with a lot of satisfaction, but I got into acting to tell smaller stories like this one. Sadly, it seems like these kind of movies are getting crowded out in favor of blockbusters, and that big studios only make a priority for $200 million epics these days. It’s not an either/or equation, but there’s more to this medium than just superhero movies.
On the other hand, you are seeing a lot of alternate forums springing up that can support smaller films. We worked this one through DirecTV, and it’s getting out to a receptive audience that might not be there otherwise. Because of that, we could secure a theatrical release and get it into the movie theaters. As long as that happens – as long as people get a chance to see good movies, big or small and respond to them – then there will always be opportunities to tell whatever kind of story you want to tell.