Picking Up a New Hitcher


20 years ago, The Hitcher scared audiences with the frightening and callous tale of a guy traveling across country who picks up a vicious and murderous hitchhiker. It is considered to be one of the creepiest horror films and now Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes, has remade the haunting thriller, this time tormenting a college couple on their spring break.

ComingSoon.net talked to The Hitcher stars Sean Bean, Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton, producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, and first time feature director Dave Meyers about the film.

CS: You did a great job of making everything realistic, but the Zack, 15 minutes moment?
Brad Fuller: You know we had to get Zack out of the room; we had to get him out because we debated how we were going to get Sean in the room. There was some fun to be had there and we had a great shower scene. (Laughs.) It was fun for Sophia, so I dunno; we just kind of went with it. I mean I wish I could give you a better answer. Anything you want to add to that?
Andrew Form: No, but it’s tricky, because how do you get Zack out of that room and get Sean in? Because we had this whole scene constructed where we did want Sean in bed with Sophia and we had to get Zack out of the hotel room.
Fuller: And you know Sean is going to be in the bed. You know he’s going to be there. And you’re waiting for it to happen.
Sean Bean: There was a scene where I was in bed with Sophia? (Laughs.) S**t.

CS: Sean, how difficult was this character to play for you because we don’t really know anything about him.
Bean: It was. There wasn’t a great deal of back history to the guy. Not a lot of information about where he came from which I thought was quite interesting really, because it allowed me the freedom to create what I wanted and to invent as a person. And I always thought that it was somewhat scarier that you don’t know anything about him or where he comes from. I always find that the less you know about people, the less you trust them. I usually like to have something to go on, but for this particular movie I would say he was like an angel of death.

CS: This is for the producers; the fact we don’t know much about the hitcher, does that mean will there be a prequel?
Fuller: No. I don’t see a prequel happening. As Sean said, give him a blank slate and let him do what he’ll do with it. There was no thinking about a prequel until you brought it up.

CS: Sophia what are the challenges of playing a girl like this and avoiding the clichés?
Sophia Bush: Right, I think that was a big thing for me and something we definitely looked into in a lot of moments in filming, because I don’t want to be that girl running around whining and irritating, but at the same time I don’t want to come out like Lara Croft with guns blazing, because that’s not quite right either. And I think that it’s something that made it great was or greater for me rather was a lot of what Zach and I got to do together. Because we spent weeks just working on the chemistry of our relationship and how Jim and Grace behaved and reacted and the ways we kind of messed with one another and the ways partners in a long standing relationship sort of do. So, what we had, I think this gave me some license to go on the emotional roller coaster instead of just being one kind of woman or another was when Grace wasn’t going to make it Jim pulled her up and when Jim wasn’t going to make it, Grace pulled him up. And it was a very symbiotic relationship, so it allowed me to show both sides. And it allowed me to flip the scales from her being kind of happy go lucky to her being stripped down and very animalistic. It let me do that slowly more in a see saw than in one quick flip and I think that’s a more accurate of how people change and how people sort of tap into their strengths.

CS: Dave, this is really a lean film. Was there more stuff that got cut? And how was your relationship with the MPAA?
Dave Meyers: I had a really great MPAA experience. I didn’t focus on violence in the film even though there is some. I tried to keep everything on thrills and suspense. We cut most of it out before we actually filmed it which is sort of how we kept the budget extremely low, and yet we still have huge car action and all that stuff. And so, part of the relationship I had with the producers was trying to cut that stuff before we filmed it. And really cutting the fat everywhere we could. I pulled from my commercials and video background and keeping things really succinct. It’s lean and there is only one scene that has only five different versions of it and that hopefully make it to the DVD.

CS: What scene is that?
Meyers: Am I allowed to say?
Form: Sure.
Meyers: The motel scene, we shot that so many times I think Sean might be mad at me. He was like, “Again?”

CS: Dave can you talk about the musical decisions for the film? I enjoyed the scene with “Closer” coming into the scene.
Meyers: I had a play list that I used to inspire me for the characters of the film. And it came through my exposure of music and what I love and I was distinctly told by the producers I’d never afford any of it. So, the film came out we put it together and we had all that music in there as my own personal thing. And then one day Brad called me and said, “Guess what. The studio likes it and they are going to pay for this song.” I called Dave Matthew’s people and got a deal on that song. And then I started going and Trent Reznor signed off on it, and then like three or four days ago the studio paid for it, so it was just hanging on it. “No, no, no, OK.” (Laughs.)

CS: This question is for Sean, how difficult was it stepping into Rutger Hauer’s shoes?
Bean: I saw the film when it first came out about 20 years ago. And it made a big impression on me. It was a very well constructed film and Rutger Hauer gives a very good performance and I remember being scared by it, and I thought it made an impact but I really didn’t want that running around my head and cluttering things up when we were making our version of it. So, I think working with Dave and obviously, Zach and Sophie I think we created quite an interesting new version. And I really didn’t have any reservations or concerns about being compared to another actor. I just wanted to stop and scratch and do it my way.

CS: Zack and Sophia, you’re in the same outfits most of the movie. How many different versions were there? How gross did they get by the end?
Zachary Knighton: I’ll be back in 15 minutes. (Laughs.) It was the same outfit. I wore the same thing every day. It smelled really bad.
Bush: Yeah, there definitely got to a point where what did they have? Six? For continuity sake they had to keep a couple of pairs of all that clothes.
Knighton: Yeah, but there were different stages, because we shot out of sequence.
Bush: There were a couple of days when we would be in sequence and we’d be in the same clothes and he looked at me one day and was like, “We smell.” And I’m like, “I know.” (Laughs.) It was interesting, but then again we were covered in dirt, blood and filth so we probably would have smelled anyway. I don’t think anyone noticed, except for us.

CS: Sophie, Zack and Sean – how is the relationship between you guys and Sean since you had to be scared of him?
Bean: It’s quite good in a way – that they were scared of me.
Knighton: I’m still afraid. (Laughs.)
Bean: The first scene we did in Austin, Texas was a night shoot, was the scene in the car where they are picking up the garage and we shot the interior of the car which is quite a long scene and it was quite good that we didn’t really know each other by then at all, did we? Liked each other or not.
Knighton: You didn’t talk to us at all.
Bean: That’s not unusual.
Bush: It took us a couple of weeks to all get speaking.
Bean: But it actually worked because we weren’t supposed to know each other, so I’m glad we did that.
Bush: Our first conversation was about how hard you could push the knife into my face. And I was like, “HI. How are you? Feel free to hit me.” (Laughs.)

CS: Sophia, how challenging is it to find quality scripts?
Bush: I think it’s definitely hard to find films of quality that you want to make and particularly even when this script came it’s like; prior to reading it did I really know it was going to be anything other than a typical movie of a scary genre. And as I was going through it did I realize that there was something special here. Because, not only did that tomboy side of me get to completely freak out and like in my stunt junkie way and do all of these amazing things and watch cars get blown up and watch helicopters fly over our faces and ride around the desert with guns, but there was such a development for this character and a sort of slope for this girl to fall down. And I think that’s it of me is choosing something that gives me some work to do and things that I haven’t done before. It was something just really very exciting. And the relationships between our characters is phenomenal and real and something that gets overdone in our age range a lot. And to be working with Sean and it was like, “Yeah, I want to make a movie with Sean Bean. Totally scary!” (Laughs.) And it’s so great, because we had a moment in that first sequence, like he says, barelyknowing each other and we’re fighting and I’m like, “God, this guy is so strong and he has my face in his hand and this is great, this is great.” And I made some noise that worried him and you looked at me and was like, “Are you alright?” And I was like, “OK.” And you were like, “OK!” And I was like, “OK, we’re back in the scene. Beat me up some more.”

CS: Dave, how did you come to the project and was it something you always wanted to remake? And Zack, can you talk about the c**ksock?
Knighton: The c**ksock lives on buddy.
Meyers: Brad, Drew and Michael are big fans of the Hitcher and were sort of circling it and found rights to it. I was circling their operation of sort of being a home for video commercial guys, making that jump to movies. The president of the studio happened – to a year before do a movie with him. All of these stars sort of aligned. I studied the film and realized like Sophia said, there’s character arcs in there. There is something more special than the typical horror film. It just all sort of worked. And to see a guy with a cocksock.
Knighton: I always dreamed of wearing a c**ksock so it was the perfect marriage of director and actor.

CS: Sophia, what do you think the fascination with girls kicking ass is?
Bush: Sorry I’m still laughing. Okay, I’m good. I’m okay. I think what’s great about it is that we’ve seen so many great heroes in men and your icons with “Indiana Jones” and “Dirty Harry”. You’ve got that and we’re at a point where in our sociology we’ve evolved to realize that women can kick as much ass and want to see it. There’s something that’s a little less expected about seeing the girlfriend end up with [SPOILER]. It’s exciting and it really gives the guys something to root for, but it gives the girls in the audience something to root for too. You no longer have women being dragged to an action movie by their boyfriend. Couples are going together because they’re both really excited about the film and it’s something I enjoy.

CS: How close to the original script did you stay to and how long was the shoot?
Meyers: Shoot was 44 days. The original script of the remake?

CS: Your original script of this.
Meyers: The structure of it stayed pretty close. We pretty much improved the whole movie. There was a greenlit draft that had a structure that had certain scenes that are still in the movie. I think one of the biggest things of these movies is creating a believability. Everyday we’d show up and see a block of the scene and go, “oh, that’s not very real.” So we’d all go back to our corners and a lot of time it was the cast that would find the soul of it and we’d help guide it. That’s why there is an authenticity in the film.

CS: Any favorite villains of movies past?
Bean: Other villains? I used to like the old style ones. James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. People like that. It’s quite hard to spring to mind. I suppose so. Quite rough and ready, no-nonsense gangsters. I tried to play this guy without being too aggressive in a sense. John Malkovich is someone I always admire as a villain. I like him in general, but I think he has an assertive quality about him.

CS: What’s next for all of you?
Bean: I’m not really doing anything at the moment. I just finished this film in the artic called “True North” with Michelle Yeoh, but about three characters, but slightly different from this combination. So I’ve been over there for awhile and I’ve been flying around a bit. I’m sick of it so I’m off and looking and just looking at a few things now. Nothing definite.
Bush: I’m finishing the fourth season of “One Tree Hill.” We start on hiatus half way through April and so it’s sort of in the next few weeks that we pull things that have started coming together and all the things that will be put together and figure out what pool we feel like diving in for the summer.

CS: How long do you think “One Tree Hill” will go for?
Bush: Depends how long the kids keep watching. How long we keep the teenagers entertained. We’ll see.
Knighton: I’m going to start a job as Sean Bean’s new personal assistant. I am currently in the mix for some things and hoping that something works out and basically hanging out on the west side and surfing.
Meyers: I’m just waiting for the movie to come out. A lot of with a first time film, people wait to see the film before they decide what want to offer you. A lot of what I have been offered is sort of clones of “The Hitcher” and I don’t really want to do that. I’m developing a movie called “Witch Hunter” with New Regency. That will be the A plan if that actually gets greenlit. It’s extremely expensive and I don’t know where it stands, but it’s being read and if that happens then that will be the immediate one. Otherwise, I’ll wait.

CS: Can you talk about casting? I understand Zach went through a rigorous audition process.
Meyers: I’ll hand that one to Brad.
Fuller: Zack specifically? With Sophia it was very simple. She was an actress we had heard about and for Drew and myself we get a lot more from sitting down with an actor and actresses then actually auditioning them. That’s how we found Jessica Biel from “Chainsaw.” That’s how we found Jordana Brewster for the other “Chainsaw”. We had heard wonderful things about Sophia and she came in and we just kind of fell in love with her. We just kind of said we’re working on this thing “The Hitcher” and it was early on. When this script was being developed she was the person we had in mind and we kept her up to speed with what is happening with it. It was always Sophia’s movie. By design she fits the bill for us. We thought she was likeable and at the same time can carry that gun and blow his head off. That worked out. As far as Zack, Zack had a much more torturous process to getting this role. Zach was a guy who we really wanted to be in the “Chainsaw” that we had just finished. For whatever reason it came down to Zach and this other guy and the other guy got the role. We loved him and you gotta choose an actor, Sophia is really hot and you’ve got to choose a guy who you believe is such a cool guy because she can get any guy she wants. You’ve got to get a guy that’s a real guy’s guy. When you’re casting actors, that was always a real hard thing for us to find, a guy who you believe is going to drive an Oldsmobile 442 and land Sophia and be in those situations. Zach kept coming back. We didn’t want to cut him and we kept on seeing other actors for lack of a better term, bigger names and people who are more well know. Zach, to his credit, doesn’t have many credits. He did one show and that was pretty much it. But, he just kept coming back and every time he came back, he was better and better. At the end of it you can’t think of the role any other way. He was the only guy who nailed it six times. I think you actually did come back six times. How do you not give the guy the role? He kept coming back. No one else had that longevity.
Knighton: I also happened to be in the habit of drinking beers at the time and I had to drop a few pounds. I actually lost, I think I lost 13 pounds in five days

CS: Did you stop drinking beer?
Knighton: Yeah. I pretty much stopped everything. I realized that I’m not the pretty boy type that you see in this film and I thought that I’d try to improve myself physically and mentally for the thing.
Fuller: For Sean too. It was very simple. For “The Hitcher” we were looking for a Sean Bean type, we didn’t think we’d actually get Sean. [We needed] this great elegant actor who could play this role. We’d checked on Sean and his dates weren’t working and it wasn’t good. Sean had just worked with our partner Michael Bay on “The Island” and Drew and I went to Michael and said “come on let’s get Sean. Let’s try to figure it out.” We moved some dates around and then his dates opened up and we just got lucky.

CS: Sean, any plans to go back to the “Sharpe” series?
Bean: I don’t know. We did one in India last year called “Sharpe’s Challenge,” which was a lot of fun. It would be good to maybe resurrect it one day so long as there is something to talk about. As long as we’re not just going on for the sake of it because it was popular and it was successful. But I would like to think there is life in it as long as it’s meaningful and we are just not repeating what we did already. It’s particularly, obviously a favorite of mine.

The Hitcher opens in theaters on January 19.