EXCL: The Hitcher’s David Meyers

ON

The horror remake hits DVD today!

It’s often hard for a first-time film director to make his mark, especially when coming from the world of music videos, but David Meyers had an even more unenviable task when he was called upon by Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes to helm a remake of the 1986 horror classic The Hitcher.

The story was essentially the same as the original, with Sophia Bush and Zach Knighton playing a young couple on the road who fall foul of Sean Bean’s John Ryder, a stranger they pick up who proceeds to terrorize them and frame them for his own murders. The remake was mostly ignored when it was released theatrically in January, but whether you’ve seen the original movie or not, Meyers’ unique vision as a director makes it a very different experience from other recent horror remakes.

ShockTillYouDrop.com talked to the director about his involvement with the project and why he thinks his movie deserves to be seen.

ShockTillYouDrop.com: I missed the movie in theatres, but I liked it a lot, and I’m surprised it didn’t do better in theatres.

David Meyers: Cool, I’m glad to hear. I think there’s a prejudice against the remake genre now, because there’s been so many of them, and I’m actually hoping for people to have the exact reaction you do with the DVD release. People may have just assumed not to go see it because they’d been let down by previous films, and the expectations are low with these films now. I think there’ll be a discovery of it on home video that I’m looking forward to.

Shock: I’m surprised there might be such a bias against it since I don’t remember the original “Hitcher” having that devout a following in its day. It’s not quite on the par of being a horror classic like say “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “The Amityville Horror.”

Meyers: Yeah, and I honestly told the studio and the producer that I’d make a movie that is strong enough to not need that title. That was my motive when I signed on. I said that I think the title will hold it back. I think nobody has that love affair other than a very, very small group of fans. Although I tried to keep the movie respectful to those people and echo the original, and really not even to the fans, but to the filmmakers, who did a great job with it. If I’m remaking the film, I’d love to have them enjoy watching it as well and enjoy where I took it.

Shock: I really liked the twists you put on the original. Even though there were certain moments that were almost verbatim, there were other things that weren’t. How did you originally get involved with making the movie? Was Michael Bay familiar with your music video work?

Meyers: He would tell you where he first found my work, but basically, it was told to me that he was a fan of my work, and they explained what their whole operation was to me. I know Marcus Nispel really well, and it was good for him to have done this collaboration with them, so I just felt like this was the place to do my debut. Michael’s whole production etiquette was available to me, and his post/finishing is very similar to mine. I use the same people as Michael in videos and commercials, so Michael sort of guaranteed that I’d get to finish with those people. He called him “his people” but since those were also my people… So was that sense of protection from him, and also to have a director that’s been through all the battles, especially with mainstream ideas. I thought it would be great to have his expertise in the wings, which really came into play at the end of the film. He was doing “Transformers” through most of the production and pre-pro, but when I screened the film for him, he got personally invested, got me a reshoot to fix a couple of the scripts holes that I felt were in there. My name got me the Dave Matthews and Nine Inch Nails for the soundtrack, but those things come with a price tag and Michael got that money approved. Long story short, there were too many stars that aligned all into this one thing. I’d waited six years to do a movie from all these scripts they offered me, and this was small budget, it’s visual, it’s character-based, it’s got the right behind-the-scenes players, and it’s a safe place for me to test the waters of movies and get the stigma off of my back. There’s a huge first time filmmaker stigma you go through unless you write and direct something. Being that I didn’t write this, you get treated as if you’re only expertise is visuals and you might not know anything about story. Most of my battles were convincing all I know a lot about story, so now I’ve got Michael as a reference, and the studio wants to make another movie with me. I’ve got a bunch of people that for the next movie, I think will give me a tremendous amount of freedom. All said and done, I’m really happy about it, and I really hope the DVD release brings a new level of fans to it, and allows an audience to see it that may have been thrwarted by the familiarity of marketing these type of movies.

Shock: There’s also the stigma of being a music video director I’m sure, but were you able to bring stuff you learned by making so many of those videos into making this movie?

Meyers: Yeah, that’s how I came in 2 million under budget. I used the video production etiquette where you move fast, you think quick, when lightning hits your set, you figure out how to… That’s how I was trained. Movies was just really a natural growth and a really fun growth because I can singularly focus a whole year of my time on just one thing. With videos, I did thirty videos a year, and that was 30 different mini-movies that I’m part of. It’s hard to keep the creative inspiration up. I did it, but a movie is much more rewarding cause you get to dive deeper into your time commitments.

Shock: Were you a fan of the original movie or horror in general when you got this?

Meyers: Huge fan of horror. I was ironically not familiar with the original movie. I watched the movie when they told me they wanted to remake it. I found a strong character there that I could do something with and just kind of went from there. I’m a huge Freddy Krueger fan, “Reanimator”, “Texas Chainsaw” even. I remember watching “2” and “3” ten or twenty years ago.

Shock: Were you able to work with the writers on adapting this and putting your own imprint?

Meyers: I had my fingers in every last bit of that script. I didn’t have as much influence on getting it greenlit, but once I had a greenlit script and I was off to Austin, me and Drew and Brad just every day came up with ways to try and solve all the logic problems that existed from the original and some that were just a part of this new equation of a boyfriend and girlfriend traveling across country. To the point where I almost completely did the trailer park scene. I just blocked it and kind of improved my way through that scene. That wasn’t in the script that got greenlit. There’s a lot of heavy influence that me and Brad and Drew and even Michael for that matter and the studio. It was kind of like a really beautiful collaboration of all voices trying to put the best foot forward and really uplift the film.

Shock: As far as Sophia and Zack, your two stars, did you have them go back and watch the original movie or avoid it?

Meyers: I didn’t ask Sean Bean to watch it, but Sophia and Zack had watched it prior to signing onto the movie, to be familiar with what they were being asked to remake. When I met them, I told them that I really wanted to not reference that movie. I was showing them scenes from “Se7en” and scenes from “Dual” and “Sugarland Express.” Trying to make their relationship real was what a great deal of what my time was spent on. It was even said to me, and that who said it shall remain nameless, that no one cares about that kind of stuff in a horror film, so the general approach to horror films in the business seems to be “Who’s the killer? That’s what everybody cares about.” They’re right to a pulpy extent, but I think when you actually have to sit there for two hours that an audience would at least subtly appreciate the fact that girls aren’t tripping over logs when the killer is running after them. No matter how interesting the killer, you still want your protagonists to be 3-dimensional and have some degree of emotional… because if you can actually emotionally connect people with your leads than it becomes a scarier film.

Shock: Even before I saw the movie, I thought the casting of Sean Bean as the bad guy was genius. Who came up with that idea and did it take a lot of convincing to get Sean to step into Rutger Hauer’s famous role?

Meyers: No, we had a very smart studio president, and then obviously Brad Fuller, between the two of them they’re very shrewd casters. I don’t know the exact how it came about but both of them were super-excited about Sean. I wasn’t actually that familiar with his work, cause I’m new to the whole acting thing, so I did all my research on Sean and fell in love with him, then Sean read the script and talked to me, and he fell in love with it. We were blessed that he said, “Yes.” He’s an incredibly subtle actor and he brought a lot of credibility. I thought the tone he brought to it was a different take, but it was parallel to what Rutger did. Rutger was eccentric and flamboyant, and Sean is real and thuggish. They took different interpretations, and I highlighted where Sean was going with it in hopes to give him his own identity–the comparison is unavoidable—but to give him a ground to stand on instead of trying to make him like Rutger.

Shock: After working with musicians for so many years, was it nice to work with real actors?

Meyers: Yeah, I loved it. Actors are wonderful, they’re just night and day from musicians. Actors rely on a director to create a role, and musicians are the star of their own… they are the product. They’re not playing a character. There’s a couple musicians like Andre 3000, who clearly have their sights set on actors and have the talent, so in their videos, they try to explore their voice, and that’s always fun. But for the most part, artists and artists. They’ve achieved their fame of their actual names being used in the public, where an actor will turn to you and be like, “Was that good? Was the tone right?” They have to be emotionally vulnerable in order to get their audience, so it’s a nice collaboration.

Shock: I really enjoyed all the outdoor shots of the desert. Was that all natural or did you enhance it with CG? The sky seemed so perfect.

Meyers: No, that was all really there; that was New Mexico skies. The only stuff we really altered, was in some of the car action stunts, there was a couple of cameras you could see and we got rid of them. We tried to be as invisible as possible with the post, because I didn’t want to lose the realism. I didn’t want to do overly stylish shots. I just wanted to capture the natural beauty of a road trip, which I think would be nostalgic for anyone who’s gone through that.

Shock: Those car stunts you mentioned were really impressive, almost on a par with what we’ve seen from Michael Bay himself. Did he give you any tips or did you use his stunt team?

Meyers: The car stunts, that was part of the initial interest with doing a Michael Bay movie is that I knew I would have his team. His A-team was on “Transformers” but he’d fly one of his stunt drivers down to do a stunt for me, so where normal low budget people might be cutting corners and using people less accomplished, I was getting the best of the best. I could direct them, and it would actually be delivered the way I asked for it to be delivered. He wasn’t involved as far as shooting of the action, but he was definitely involved in blessing me with his team. We would coordinate between the “Transformers” days, what days his people would be available and then I would get some of his people to come down for a day. It was really a beautiful choreography between getting some of the spill-off from his “Bayism.”

Shock: I was actually surprised there was so much action in what we might consider a horror movie, and I don’t remember being much of that in the original movie.

Meyers: That has a lot to do with my interests. I thought the original movie kind of put me to sleep a little bit, and I don’t think an audience can sit through a movie like that anymore. Not that it was bad, it was great, but it’s definitely dated. I really wanted to create the psychological thriller part. I wanted to make this alive and make it feel like it’s a growing tension from two happy-go-lucky teenagers at the start to this daunting evil force that enters into their life to ultimately… the alternate ending was my ending where she beats him to death. It’s on the DVD where she pistol whips him. I haven’t seen the DVD, nor was I involved with putting the DVD together, so I don’t know exactly what’s on there, but I saw that they were advertising an alternate ending, and the only other ending that I shot was the one that was in there until like two weeks before it came out. (chuckles) People got nervous internally that was too gross or too violent of an ending, but to me, it was the wonderful ending to a woman who’s been put through hell. That kind of animalistic energy that her character was forced to go through was more satisfying I guess to my sensibilities, but I support the ending that’s in the movie itself as well.

Shock: I was surprised how many deleted scenes there were on there considering how short the movie is.

Meyers: That has a lot to do with me, in the sense that I don’t like fat, and because of this first-timer thing I was not allowed to change certain script pages, so I had to shoot things. Even though some scenes unto themselves are interesting, they don’t propel the story forward, so as I achieved respect amongst all the collaborators, we had accumulated all these scenes that I never put in the edit and they never asked me to, because they agreed with me and they trusted me at that point. Initially, they described they wanted a movie to be a rollercoaster so I gave it to them.

Shock: Do you have any other movie projects lined-up or are you going to continue doing music videos until you do?

Meyers: I got a movie called “Witchhunter” set up with Arnold Coppelson and New Regency, and it’s kind of a story about witches. Kind of like pirates is for “Pirates of the Caribbean,” it’s a pretty big franchise idea that I had come up with. It isn’t based on anything, which is what I’m most attracted to. It’s 120 pages of every crazy visual idea that’s ever entered my head, and empowering a new take on witches and making them much cooler than they’ve become, old hags and weirdo unattractive… They just don’t have the allure that they should, and I think I have a take that brings that all back. I came up with the story and then it was given to a writer cause I was doing “The Hitcher” and then the writer worked with me for about a year while I was doing that. It’s a fair collaboration between me and the writer, but the initial impulse and take was all from a pitch that I did to the studio. I’m still in development on it. I got another draft to do, and hopefully, if all goes well, it’ll get made. If not, we’ll see what else I can gig onto.

The Hitcher is now available on DVD from Amazon and other retail outlets.


Source: Edward Douglas