Interview with Josh Duhamel on Lost in the Sun
Actor Josh Duhamel is probably better known for his striking good looks that have gotten him cast in many studio romances, both comedies and dramas, but in recent years, he’s been doing smaller independent films like Scenic Route with Dan Fogler.
That’s also the case with Lost in the Sun, the first theatrical feature by Trey Nelson, who cast Duhamel in the role of John, a small-time crook and grifter who owes a lot of money to men who protected him while in jail. When he encounters an orphaned teenager named Louis (Josh Wiggins from Max), who just happens to be carrying a lot of cash, John pairs with the boy on a trip across the country to go live with his grandmother, roping him into his petty thefts at the same time.
ComingSoon.net got on the phone with Duhamel last week to talk about the movie.
ComingSoon.net: This movie was kind of a surprise because it didn’t play festivals and I’d really never heard of it before, so it kind of came out of nowhere. It’s fun to see a movie that you’ve never heard of just being really enjoyable and pleasant.
Josh Duhamel: Well, I appreciate that, so that’s what we’re trying to do is get people aware of it, because these small movies, they’re passion projects. They take effort from every single person on the crew, from the cast and even afterwards, you have to try to get the word out because we don’t have the means that some of these bigger movies do, so you just hope that you can make a good movie that people can engage in.
CS: Did you just get Trey Nelson’s script through normal ways? How did they approach you about it?
Josh Duhamel: Trey took a letter to my agent attached with the script and just told me who he was, what the story was about and the way he wanted to tell it. There was something really honest about the letter that he wrote me. The script had the same sort of feel. There was something really honest about it. There’s a simplicity to it, but also, an intensity and this impending sort of danger. These guys, they go a little bit more deep, they get it. I think they both realized at a certain point that there’s no turning back. I never intended to go this deep. I just sort of spiraled. I also really loved this character. He was complicated and desperate and was regretful, knows that he’s made a lot of mistakes and has this sort of, I don’t know, there’s something in him. There’s a few things that he wants to sort of redeem his life. I think this kid is one of him. His way of going about redemption with the kid is a little bit atypical, but that’s all John knows. He’s not known for making great decisions. That’s kind of the reason why he’s living in the back of his car.
CS: Were you really curious about who Trey was going to get for the kid? It’s really the two of you for almost the entire movie. Had he already started looking for a kid?
Josh Duhamel: Well, he’d been doing some sort of casting a wide net in the Austin area. I came in for a few days and just read with a bunch of these young guys who were auditioning for it. There was something about (Josh) Wiggins that really stood out. There was a subtle strength to him and an intensity that he needed to have. There’s a vulnerability and there was also like an anger that was sort of down there. So there was just something about him we thought would be really interesting and he was great and is a great kid and I hope that he has a huge future.
CS: Had he done the dog movie “Max” already or was this before?
Josh Duhamel: I have not seen it. How was he?
CS: Oh he was really good in it, which is why I asked which one he did first.
Josh Duhamel: Well, he did our movie first, and then I remember him talking about whether or not he was going to go do this movie “Max.”
CS: That’s even more amazing that this is pretty much his first role, I guess, right?
Josh Duhamel: Well, he did another one, I forget what they call it. It was a movie at Sundance with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). (He’s referring to Hellions, which this writer never saw.)
CS: I’ll check it out. I feel like you’ve been going in this direction where you’re working with first time directors on smaller movies like that movie “Scenic Route” you did with Dan Fogler. It’s a departure because we’re used to seeing you in these studio movies and big blockbusters and stuff like that. What got you more interested in doing smaller films like this?
Josh Duhamel: I just made a conscious decision a couple of years ago that I didn’t want to do anything that I wasn’t completely inspired by. That meant turning down a lot of things that would’ve paid a lot of money or whatever, maybe had a lot more exposure. I got into this business to make movies that I love and things that inspire me, things that I’m going to be proud of years down the road. Not to say that, of course, I want to stay in the studio game and do movies like that, but I also want to stretch myself and prove that I can do things that people maybe didn’t think I could, and just to tell stories that I think interest me in some way.
CS: Once you were on set with Josh and Trey, what was that experience like? Doing road movies are interesting because you’re sitting in a car a lot, even though you might not be moving. You did that with “Scenic Route,” too, oddly enough.
Josh Duhamel: Well, growing up in North Dakota, you’ve pretty much got to drive 10 hours to get to any kind of a city, so maybe that has something to do with it. There’s a lot of big open roads in North Dakota and there’s something, I guess, nostalgic for that. I’ve never thought about that until just now, because you’re right. I do have an affinity for these road movies. But more than that, I think it’s about, I really have an affinity to tell these stories that are just a little bit left of center in some way, or not necessarily mainstream, but just getting an opportunity to do something that I haven’t had a chance to do. I think maybe coincidentally, they turned out to be road movies. There’s another one that I guess could sort of be called that that’s coming out called “Spaceman,” but it’s not a regular road movie, it’s more about a Major League Baseball pitcher that got blackballed and ended up sort of trying to figure out who the hell he was in the prime of his career.
CS: I’m really impressed by Trey and I’m really curious to see what he does next after this one, too.
Josh Duhamel: Yeah, he’s a talented guy. He’s a very thoughtful writer and director and it’s nice because it’s nice to work with guys that are collaborative. Maybe that’s what also drew me to it, is working with these first timers so that we could have a really collaborative sort of experience and really experiment with things and figure out what really is going on. You know, oftentimes, in these smaller movies, you’re not bound by any big studios that sort of dictate how it’s going to go, and you can take more risks. I think that’s what attracts me to these smaller ones. Plus, it’s an all hands on deck mentality. Everybody, with the crew, everybody there is there for one purpose and that’s just to make a really cool movie, so I don’t know.
CS: Was it actually shot in Texas or did you find another area with that same general look?
Josh Duhamel: Yeah, we were in Austin and shot the whole thing in and around Austin.
CS: I’ve been to Austin a bunch of times, but I feel like I’ve always stayed in the center of the city. I’ve never really gotten out there and seen the other parts of it, because I don’t drive.
Josh Duhamel: Yeah, it’s supposed to feel sort of like a West Texas weathered and run down part of the country that feels sort of lonely. Between Texas and New Mexico, I think it’s a pretty lonely stretch, and that’s kind of what this movie needed to feel like.
CS: When you have a character like this, who obviously there’s a lot of history, how much of that is in the script and how much of it is really stuff you kind of try to figure out, portray with back story? Obviously, we hear a lot about what John went through before, but I was curious about that.
Josh Duhamel: You know, we talked a lot. I knew this story really well before we ever even started because we both tried to get it made for a couple of years, and so, I knew and thought a lot about it. But even then, you really start dissecting who these guys are and why they’re doing what they’re doing. It really informs how you can play it. I really didn’t want to make this guy sort of your black and white sort of crook. He is not a bad guy. He just makes bad decisions and he makes those decisions out of desperation. As a result, he gets tagged as a criminal, an outlaw or whatever you want to call him, but I don’t think that was his intention. I think his real overall intention is just to find some peace and to maybe make amends with some of his mistakes that have been piling up inside of him.
CS: Do you generally have a lot of movies like this where they’re in development or waiting for financing?
Josh Duhamel: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of things in development that are in various stages. Some are bigger. Some are studio movies and some are little indies, and it’s just a matter of getting the scripts in a place where you can realistically make them. And it’s hard because in this day and age, you’ve got so many other outlets and platforms to view these things, and it’s not your typical sort of, everybody goes to the theater and watches it. I knew going in that this is a small movie and it was going to be hard to get theatrical distribution, but I didn’t really care, because if it’s a good story and people find it, then we did our job.
CS: I personally would’ve loved to have seen this on a big screen rather than on a computer or television.
Josh Duhamel: Well, you can if you’re in New York or LA. I wish it went a little wider.
CS: Yeah, that’s true, but I feel like the VOD thing can really help a movie like this, since it gives more people the chance to see something rather than a little release in a couple cities which requires more travelling.
Josh Duhamel: Yeah.
CS: Obviously the “Transformers” movies have helped your status to do movies like this one. Have you thought about doing more of those movies now after doing a few of these smaller movies?
Josh Duhamel: Oh of course. I mean, “Transformers,” that was a huge opportunity for me, and I did the first three, and so, and I had a good experience. It’s a completely different experience than making something like this, but I feel fortunate to be working in whatever capacity, as long as it’s something I’m really excited about.
Lost in the Sun opens in select cities, On Demand and is available on iTunes starting Friday, November 6.