Josh Duhamel produces and stars in the gritty drama Scenic Route coming to theaters on August 23, 2013 (and currently available on Video On Demand). Scenic Route is the intense story of two friends – played by Duhamel and Dan Fogler – who’ve drifted apart and are on a road trip to try and reconnect. Their truck breaks down in the desert and pent-up feelings surface, escalating in a dramatic style and prompting a life-changing turn of events.
Audiences are used to seeing Duhamel play a good guy (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and the romantic lead (Safe Haven, Life as We Know It), but in Scenic Route we’re treated to a side of Duhamel we haven’t seen on screen before.
Josh Duhamel Scenic Route Interview:
You’ve never produced a film before. Why did you choose to do so with Scenic Route?
Josh Duhamel: “It’s a movie that’s been a passion project of mine since I read it. I was involved from the very beginning on this one. Anything else that I’ve been on I sort of came on late. It’s a great movie to sort of start off my producing career.I feel like it’s the kind of movie I’ve always wanted to do, the kind of movie that I got into this business for. This sort of sets the precedence to do something like this.”
Why do you think it took so long for you to find a script that you were that passionate about, so passionate you decided to be a producer? What was the hold up over the years?
Josh Duhamel: “Well I don’t think it was a hold up, I think it’s
a matter of when you first start out you have to take what you can get and it’s tough because people want to put you in a certain type of box early on. I come from a soap opera and I’ve got some romantic comedies, and it’s hard to convince people that you can do things other than that. That’s what I’ve always wanted and am still looking to do that. I’m always looking to change it up and prove people wrong, that I can do more than they think I can. I’ve read scripts that I’ve liked before but this was one was the first time something said, ‘You know what? We think you can pull it off.’ That’s all I needed, somebody to believe in me that I can be more than what they’ve seen.”
For an actor there seems to be nothing worse than being stuck in a box, but with this they all felt you were right from the very beginning?
Josh Duhamel: “Yeah, I sort of spearheaded it from early on, when I came on it. It was almost like you have to sort of take your career in your own hands. There came a point about two years ago I said, ‘I’m not going to let anybody dictate my career to me anymore. I’m going to dictate to the community what my career is going to be.’ I said no to so many different things because I don’t want to continue to do [the same thing]. Even though I’m proud of the stuff that I’ve done – and I like most of the movies that I’ve done – it’s up to me to determine what my career will be. It took me a while to figure that out.”After watching the film, I was wondering whether it was more physically demanding for you or mentally taxing?
Josh Duhamel: “It was both. I mean, this was both a physical and highly emotional movie. First of all, it was a lot of dialogue. It was extremely dense, it was nuanced, it was really, really, really well written so that helped. But just the mental sort of commitment that it took to prepare for this thing was a lot more than I’d ever taken on.
Then the physical side of it was you’re out there immersed in this … it wasn’t claustrophobic but you’re in the middle of this giant desert. There’s nowhere for you to go; you’re sort of trapped. It’s hot during the day and it’s very cold at night. You get windstorms, the wind kicks up and it’s freezing. That was another whole thing that goes on top of that, doing 22 pages of dialogue in one take. It took a lot of focus and a lot of commitment, and at the end of the day it turned out to be one of the most gratifying experiences that I’ve ever had in this business.”
Does it work to your benefit as an actor when there are long scenes that you know they’re not going to be cutting away from, and you know it’s on your shoulders to make sure everything is exactly right?
Josh Duhamel: “Well, I don’t think it can do anything but help you as an actor. We literally treated it like a play and we rehearsed it like a play. I think any time you have this much heavy- lifting, this many reps, this much rehearsal you can’t help but to be the stronger actor, a more confident actor – and that’s what it did for me. I think it terrified me in the beginning. You know, anytime you do something that you’re scared of I think you feel a little bit stronger, and that’s pretty much what this experience was.”
You mentioned doing a lot of rehearsals, but it’s interesting because you’re playing a character who is absolutely not prepared for what he’s getting into. Is it kind of strange to be preparing so much to play someone unprepared?
Josh Duhamel: “Yeah. I mean that’s the difficulty there, that’s why you have to know the physical sort of behavioral aspects of this character you have to take over. Because if you’re worrying what your lines are, you can’t possibly be behaviorally accurate and physically connected to it. Because we get so much rehearsal, it was easy to find moments where this guy didn’t know what he was doing. They weren’t prepared for this situation and it would have been messy and sort of all over the place had we not done as much rehearsal as we had.”
Can you talk about working with Dan Fogler? I love the pairing of you two onscreen. You work well off of each other.
Josh Duhamel: “That’s very nice of you. Dan, he was the perfect guy for this movie because we’ve been looking for a while to try to find the right person. It wasn’t just to find a good actor; it was to find somebody who had a level of commitment that was willing to do a lot of rehearsal time and a lot of work ahead of time for not very much money. Neither one of us really got paid to do the movie and so it took somebody who really loved it, and loved it as much as we all did. I’m forever grateful to Dan for stepping up like he did and taking it on and working as hard as he did.”
Given the same situation as your character gets into, do you believe you’d get as primal as your character gets?
Josh Duhamel: “I don’t think we’d have much choice. I think in this kind of situation you would do whatever it takes. You hear about people that get lost in the mountains on a hike or something and lost at sea, and the animalistic primal instincts kick in and you survive at whatever cost. Yeah, I think if I was put into a situation, I would get every bit as primal as this character – or just keel over and die, one of the two.”
And the directors are brothers who were making their feature film directorial debuts. What was that collaborative process like?
Josh Duhamel: “It was kind of awesome. I was really unsure going in. I was like, ‘Okay, this could be a disaster. Are they going to be fighting? Are they going to be on the same page? Is this going to be like you go to one for one thing and the other one will tell you something completely different?’ But they were so prepared and they were so on the same page before they go there that they almost … It didn’t matter which one of them you went to, they were both so organized and ready that they could help you. They understood every little aspect of this movie so that they thought of everything, even before we did.
It was actually a really great experience and I believe in these two. I think that they’re the real deal. It takes a lot of courage to shoot a movie like this, as simply as they did. They could have easily tried to show off, like, ‘Look at what great shooters we are. Look at all these awesome shoots that we were able to come up with.’ They just let the story play out, similar to what you’d see in the ’70s or something. And I liked the fact that they had the courage not to sort of over-direct it and just let the story play out.”
[SPOILER ALERT!!!! Although the following questions and answers do not specifically reveal the ending, they do give away enough information that it might be considered a spoiler. Read on at your own risk.]
Is the ending in the film the ending that was in the first script you read? Was that how it was always intended to end?
Josh Duhamel: “Yeah, for the most part. The only thing that changed a little bit was the phone. We thought, ‘How do we make it a little more clear?’ How do we make it so it’s not confusing but really make you feel like, ‘Holy shit, what just happened? Did they not make it out of there?’
The idea was always we would leave it an open ending and the viewer gets to decide what happens. How do they feel? Did they make it out? The optimist says, ‘Yes, of course they made it out. Everything worked out. It was a happy ending.’ Other people say that they were just imagining the whole thing and caught in some kind of crazy limbo. Other people think that Dan never woke up when I hit him in the face with a crutch. Out of guilt and shame and delusion and dehydration and everything else, I was sort of imagining or hallucinating that he woke back up and maybe the guilt and everything else caused me to believe that he actually ended up going on to becoming a successful writer. I sort of lost my mind a little bit. There’s a lot of different theories as to what actually happened in the end.”
Did your opinion of what happened change over the course of production?
Josh Duhamel: “You know, I always felt as if neither one of us made it out. I felt like we never came out of that grave. That when we went into that grave that night we never came out, everything that happened after that was just part of our imagination or our souls or our spirits some kind of crazy limbo. It was just part of a weird, hallucinogenic I don’t know what you’d call it. But then when somebody said that, ‘I think your character made it out and his didn’t,’ that makes probably the most sense to me. That I did make it out somehow and that I only imagined that he went on to finish writing his book and becoming happy and successful, and finally finding peace, because that was the only thing that allowed me or would keep me from losing my mind.”