Joy Ride: End of the Road Set Visit


Shock hitches a ride with Rusty Nail

The image and methodology of the common highwayman changed drastically since the term was coined in the 16th century. These scoundrels on horseback were once known for robbing unsuspecting saps on traversed paths snaking beyond the city limits. In literature some were romanticized heroes (does that dude Robin Hood ring a bell?), in film, they were usually leering, unkempt figures brandishing weapons. The word “highwayman” has obviously lost much of its impact now yet the idea of villains riding the roadways never ran out of fuel. Instead of highwaymen, we now have hitchhikers and psychos raging along the asphalt urged onward by the horsepower of their choice – fodder for films like Richard Franklin’s Roadgames, Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (just you hush about that remake) and Highwaymen and 2001’s actually-pretty-damn-good Joy Ride, directed by John Dahl (The Last Seduction).

Relying on the arid, lonely landscapes acting as a surrogate for the urban jungle in Dahl’s film noir Red Rock West, Joy Ride was held afloat by a brisk script with instantly amiable leads played by Paul Walker, Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski. Clay Tarver and J.J. Abram’s screenplay connected this trio though an authentic dynamic which helped raise the stakes and empathy when their road trip goes awry thanks to a prank pulled on one pissed off trucker who bestows himself the CB handle Rusty Nail. “Ride” left Rusty’s whereabouts ambiguous so you damn well should’ve known someday, somehow the thunderous rumbling of his big rig and the familiar modulation of his voice that sounds vaguely like Ted “Buffalo Bill” Levine (’cause it is, but Levine received no face time) would return.

Which brings us to tonight where Shock welcomes a reprieve from the choked skies of Los Angeles, where raging wildfires have kicked up a sundry of new pollutants, and accepts an offer to head north to Vancouver where Fox and director Louis Morneau have been shooting Joy Ride: End of the Road. In this direct-to-DVD follow-up arriving in the fall of 2008, two couples steal a seemingly abandoned car when their own breaks down en route to Las Vegas. Unbeknownst to them, they’ve ripped off Rusty’s ride which gives him an open invitation to chase down the lil’ thieves – played by Nick Zano (TV’s “What I Like About You”), Nicki Aycox (Jeepers Creepers 2), Laura Jordan (Thr3e) and Kyle Schmid (The Covenant) – and carry out his murderous thrills.

Much to everyone’s chagrin, the rain has begun to fall. Utilizing Vancouver’s soggy exteriors in lieu of a genuine Arizona backdrop (upon which this sequel’s plot is set) is the greatest challenge for all – a sentiment that reverberates with frustration or optimism through the crew. Nevertheless, Morneau and company press on to get the coverage they need.

From our place by the side of a glistening rural road, we stand on the edge of a gravel (well, now mud) parking lot at the corner of 83rd Avenue and 208th Street – roughly a forty-minute drive outside of the city. The production is using a community hall; it has a school house charm to its architecture but for this evening’s purposes it’s the “Armadillo Bar.” It’s beckoning neon lights in the windows promise warmth and hooch inside, yet the action is currently by black semi parked nearby. The truck is Rusty’s (natch) and if you took a quick peek inside you’d find this psycho keeps a clean cab. Shotgun shells express the only real danger here. Polaroid snapshots are taped to the dashboard and visor – remembrances of the past or potential victims to stalk? Affixed to the ceiling, Rusty’s communication with the outside world – his CB radio, where Walker and Zahn’s troubles began in the first film.

By the driver’s side door, Morneau’s two-camera coverage is focusing on a bartender whose jaw will eventually be torn off by Rusty brandishing a jagged chain. FX artist Bill Terezakis (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) puts the final touches on the actor losing half of his face tonight. Terezakis is fighting time – an eternal dance that occurs between any crew member and the shooting schedule – and the rain is getting heavier.

Last looks are called and we steal away under the video village tent to Morneau’s side to watch the take on the monitor. When the director gives the go-ahead, brutalized bartender thrashes back and forth as the meaty hands of actor Mark Gibbon (as Rusty and standing behind him) pull at the faux chain stemming from the bartender’s grooved, gored cheeks. Terezakis stands off-camera pumping a crimson, viscous fluid through some tubing, it bubbles out of the bartender’s growing wounds. “That’s a lot of blood,” Morneau says with some elation. He waits a beat, savoring the kill before calling “cut.” The crew begins to laugh; everyone loves the carnage.

Later, Shock catches up to Tom Siegrist, VP of Production at Fox Home Entertainment – one of the few non-video interviews we conducted on set for your viewing pleasure later down the road. Siegrist is overseeing development on the production from top to bottom and has been involved in all facets of hiring. Joy Ride is an underappreciated gem,” he shares with us, explaining Fox’s decision to explore the potential of a “Ride” franchise. “Everybody liked the movie. You look at the home video interest and there’s still quite an appreciation for the movie out there – an appreciation of Rusty as a character. This is a real suspense thriller as opposed to what the Wrong Turn series offers which is a bit of a splat fest.”

“What we like to do is sit down and say, what’s the movie we want to see?” he continues. “The thing we liked about Joy Ride is Dahl did an incredible job, it’s beautifully shot and very suspenseful and we wanted to recreate that experience. We sat down with the writers [James Robert Johnston and Bennett Yellin] and gave them parameters to bring Rusty’s character out a bit more. He played the master manipulator in the first film and we wanted to know more about him. Get into his world a little bit.”

Probing the psyche of Rusty Nails isn’t a task solely owned by the writers; Gibbons, now resting by a stage inside the Armadillo Bar, carries a great responsibility on his shoulders: flesh out a character who was largely kept off-screen most of the first film and still lend an air of menace despite the sequel’s attempt to remove a little mystery from the character (a sweeping fad afflicting many big screen boogeymen these days, it seems). The actor, who has appeared in The Chronicles of Riddick, assures us, however, “You learn a little bit more about him here but he’s still an enigma. You understand he has issues with people messing with his property, his car. I would equate it to messing with his muscle cars, you may as well be sleeping with his woman,” Gibbons erupts with a deep laugh, we keep an eye on those soiled and bloodied hands of his, wary of any sudden movements. “It’s a little different this time, there are bigger stakes in this one. Instead of him chasing the kids, he’s leading them and playing with them. To use the analogy, it’s a cat playing with the mouse.”

But the claws eventually do come out, right? “The scene we’re shooting now is a favorite, I have some wonderful methods of dispatching my victims, but this is by far the best,” he says, then asks us how it looked on the monitor. Grisly, we tell him and query if there are any scenes of amped up vehicular action that audiences should look forward to. “Honestly, what can compete with an 18-wheeler in terms of intimidation?” he simply replies. He regrets not getting a Class 1 license to drive his truck but, “Should we be graced with a Joy Ride 3 , I will have my license ready.” At the time of this writing, it’s unknown if Levine will encore as the voice of Rusty. Gibbons is already handling much of the vocal work on set playing off-camera for his co-stars so they’re reactions are honest during scenes of CB banter. “No disrespect for some of our Southern friends, but I use a nice steady Southern drawl as an effect and my movement goes with it. I move pretty slowly and deliberately.”

Our coverage doesn’t end here. Buckle up for a chat with leading lady Nicki Aycox and plenty of on-camera interviews with director Louis Morneau and the cast!

Your humble reporter taking a load off at the Armadillo Bar.

Source: Ryan Rotten