Interview: Joy Ride 2’s Nicki Aycox

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Rusty Nail meets his match

It’s 3 a.m. Outside, the rain is coming down hard. Temperatures continue to dip. There’s a dull rumble. Not thunder. No sir, it’s a semi truck’s engine we hear outside, followed later by the screams of some poor schmuck getting his jaw ripped off. Most of the Vancouver crew of Fox Home Entertainment’s Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (full set report) is out there filming a scene of horrific violence. Us? Inside, baby. Fighting off the chills with a cup of java on one of the sets – a bar – and playing the waiting game while our Fox rep retrieves starlet Nicki Aycox from her trailer.

The actress adds another notch to her petite genre belt with this sequel directed by Louis Morneau. She co-stars as Melissa, one in a quartet of road traveling friends who have a car hiccup en route to Vegas. In their travels to find assistance, they discover a seemingly abandoned home with one cherry of a muscle car sitting in the garage. They “borrow” this sweet ride, but in doing so piss off the merciless trucker known as Rusty Nail. A cat-and-mouse game ensues with Melissa playing both sides as she attempts to rescue her main squeeze.

Aycox’s first big horror film was 2003’s Jeepers Creepers II. She followed that creature feature with Dead Birds, a role in the first season of Supernatural and, most recently, a brief part in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. So yes, the genre is something she’s grown accustomed to. Still, this latest Joy Ride has been anything but.

“It has been a challenging shoot for me, to say the least,” she sniffles, pulling up a chair and joining Shock at a table littered with empty prop beer bottles and ash trays. “Extremely long hours, freezing cold rain all while we’re supposed to be in a desert. This is desert weather, isn’t it? They had me stripping down to my underwear for eight hours one night. My feet on the ice cold ground stripping down to my underwear. I sat in the bathtub for four or five hours after that. “

We tell her we felt the strengths of the first Joy Ride relied mostly on the rapport of Paul Walker and Steve Zahn – the plausibility of their sibling relationship – and press her for what she feels works in the sequel. She laughs, sighing, “I knew you of all people would ask the hard questions.” That’s right. Just because it’s early in the morning doesn’t mean you’re getting off easy. “Well, the characters are all very strong,” she says, finally succumbing to the question. “I think it all came together when [the actors] came in and formed this place that we had. Our characters took on this personalization we have with each other. The other actors are extremely strong and they’ve done a good job with the script in modernizing it. It takes on a form of being followed around, then tortured and being forced to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. It has become a more stylized film in that aspect. And the action is strong, very strong. A lot of suspense.”

“I saw in the script the spaces in the places where there was an opportunity to really have some nice work come out of it in terms of the suspense,” she continues. “The whole movie and the whole idea in the first film was a lot like Spielberg’s Duel, one of my favorite films of all time. It just seemed to be extremely fun and rewarding to be in this car, on the CB, trying to be in control with this man following you in a truck. When Duel came out, everybody was floored by it just because it was just this truck and that’s what this is in a sense. You have Rusty Nail, you’ve got the gore – because you have to modernize it. I just think it’s a nice contrast and this is sort of a modern version [of Duel] and that’s what made me want to do it.”

From what we’ve gleaned, the story has certainly turned the tables. Joy Ride 2 features two male co-stars (Nick Zano and Kyle Schmid) yet, unlike the first film, ol’ Rusty Nail is toying not with a pair of fresh-faced studs but a mousy, empowered female protagonist. Aycox says that change is indicative of the times. “In my experience in the last couple of years, the women have become stronger characters and that’s what they’ve done in this one as well,” she explains. “In the beginning you find out my character Melissa is a reformed woman. Someone who has lived on the dark side a little but has reformed herself and is trying to start a more calm and soothing life. Then she’s put into this situation where she has to save the man she’s very much in love with. She becomes this hard, strong character that can kick through windshields, ride motorcycles…” Ride motorcycles? You? “Why not?” she smiles.

She agrees that her co-star Zano certainly is the damsel in distress on the film. Off camera, it’s the other way around. The towering Mark Gibbon, aka Rusty Nail, on the other hand “is a big teddy bear. He’s very sweet, at first very intimidating. At first I had to take a step back because I was like, Who is this large man approaching me?

Not quite what we expected to hear about a trucker driver who, in the opening scene of the film, hangs a hooker out of his cab window and snaps her in two. Aycox assures us Gibbon and director Morneau imbue the character with plenty of menace. “Rusty has been kept very secretive and it’s always better when you don’t get to visualize the creature or person who’s causing the mayhem. Sometimes I think when you are able to see that, it takes me out of the suspense and ride. For me, Rusty Nail is one of the best [movie bogeymen] because they haven’t gone overboard with him and he’s a real person. He’s a truck driver, so he could be anyone by the side of the road or at a truck stop. In that sense it makes it more scary.”

Especially when Rusty is a voice on a CB radio taunting his prey. So what does Aycox have going through her head during scenes in which she’s interacting with the killer via the airwaves? “Because of time crunches, we’re having the lines fed to us over a walkie talkie in the car, so I’m envisioning just a walkie sitting next to me. It’s hard for me to visualize who’s on the other end. I just try to take my focus elsewhere. I don’t want to visualize him because I don’t know what he looks like.”

Just prior to joining Joy Ride 2, Aycox appeared in the unreleased (at the time of this writing) Animals, an adaptation of the John Skipp and Craig Spector novel starring Marc Blucas and Naveen Andrews. Yes, another horror picture. The actress is not tiring of the genre, but she is hoping to break outside of it in the next film that comes along. “I wasn’t a fan of the genre at first,” she admits. “But you do one then you do another until you end up liking them because they’re fun to shoot. It’s fun to be on set and they’re a lot of work because to conjure up in your head the physical things that are going on is a big challenge. It’s not every day people go to work and say Okay, how am I going to watch this person get their head chopped off? and make it seem real. That changed my mind about doing films in the genre and doing them more and more in the dramatic aspect. I would like to move in another direction because it’s time that I do, but it is fun.”

Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead premieres on DVD October 7th.

Source: Ryan Rotten