From the Editor: Scenic Route is an intimate film about two old friends who have drifted apart, but are forced to face the people they have become when circumstances strand them in the middle of the desert with no food or water. Scenic Route stars Josh Duhamel as Mitchell, and Dan Fogler as Carter, and was co-directed by brothers Michael and Kevin Goetz. Working Author was invited to speak with all four men about their experiences working on the film and with each other.
Working Author: Can you talk about the joys of working in Death Valley?
Josh Duhamel: We got lucky. It wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. It was 75 to 85-90 degrees. There were moments where it was very scary with dust storms and the barometric pressure dropped to 36 degrees before lunch. We couldn’t go back to lunch because it was too—
Dan Fogler: Zero visibility.
JD: But, it actually worked in a lot of places for the movie, I thought.
DF: Yeah, it was its own character. It was like the third character out there with us. It made it really easy to act like we were scared for our lives out there.
Michael Goetz: They are such troopers and we’ll be sitting out there, like Josh was saying, there’d be thirty to forty mile winds at night, 30 degrees…and all of us are standing around and the whole crew and we have ski masks and hats. We’re bundled-up like we’re in Alaska. It was cold. When [Josh is] shivering, he’s really shivering.
WA: Mitchell has a scene regarding how he feels about being a husband and father. How was that for you as an expectant father?
JD: Yeah, it was difficult for me and I actually asked these guys, “Do we have to keep this in the movie?” I feel gross even saying it. But, you know, it was one of those moments where this character was really sort of stuck in life and was at a point where he didn’t know if he’d made the right decisions. He’d kinda gotten it in his head and he’s actually true. This guy doesn’t know if he’s made the right decisions. Does he really love his wife? Does he love his life? And he says some things that are pretty unredeemable in a lot of ways and that was my worry. It’s like, do we keep this? It might be too far. But, that’s what this movie is. You know? And this is the reason I did it because it is a brutal, honest look at two guys trying to figure out whether or not they are ever going to achieve the things they set out to when they were younger. And if they don’t, is that OK?
WA: How was the filmmaking experience different given that most scenes take place with only the two characters?
DF: What attracted me to the script is that it felt like a play. It was like “Waiting for Godot” or something. We actually had these long, long scenes – long takes. Like, 20-minute takes; that’s unheard of. You’re usually just working on little minutae throughout. Cutting and stopping and trying to work yourself up again. That’s even more difficult than actually being able to play through an entire scene and just be able to walk the tightrope and if something goes wrong – screw it. We just keep the ball up in the air. A lot of the magic comes out of that…a lot of the physical, little gems would come up that we would just go with. That was really freeing and I love that aspect of the film. But we had so much rehearsal and I felt like we were – the chemistry was there and we felt like old friends. I wish I had a rehearsal for a lot of the movies—
JD: This one you needed it. I mean, it was so imperative to make this movie work…. I first met the Goetz brothers, we knew that the only way to make this movie work was if we found somebody who understood the kind of work it would take to pull it off because there’s a lot of dialogue in the beginning, as you know. So, it took a guy like Dan to understand that and jump in and do that kind of work that it took. And for me, when I first read it, I had to do this movie. I’ve never had the chance to do something like this. I’d been looking for something like this. And it was scary because it was pretty much on our shoulders the whole time. And we had to try to bring this movie about two guys stuck on the side of the road to life. And that was the challenge. And working with these two who I think are incredibly talented, the Goetz brothers. I met them early on and they had the same ideas and more than I did. And I think that they were brave enough not to try to overshoot it. You know? Because what I loved about…what they did is it reminded me of a 70s movie…. You know, they didn’t need to do that much crazy camera stuff. They just kinda let it play out. And a lot of times, directors want to try and show off how creative they can be with the camera. And, these two were confident enough in their own abilities they didn’t need to show that.
MG: I was just going to say that we were also confident in these two. We were looking for a project that was going to live and die by the performances and it was a big deal for us in casting, trying to find the right two and we did. And I remember our first take in Death Valley, the first day of the first take was seventeen minutes long and we just sat there. And the crew never reads the script, they’re just standing around, and we just watched this bit of theater play out in the desert for seventeen minutes and it was just transforming. I think the whole crew knew from that moment, this was going to be something special.
WA: What can you say about the Mohawk hairstyle?
JD: This was another big reason I wanted to do this movie. I got a chance to get a Mohawk. How many chances am I going to get to do that in my life? So, yeah. It looked pretty gnarly but—
DF: You pulled it off, man.
JD: It’s like a man walking around with a handlebar mustache. He gets a lot more respect. My buddy just did this for the Buddy Game Weekend last weekend. He came with this full-on handlebar mustache that he died black. He goes, “You wouldn’t believe how much more people respect me at the airport. They didn’t give me any shit with my I.D. They looked at it and said, ‘Here you go. Thank you, sir.'” Same thing with the Mohawk. It automatically commands respect…. Because anybody with a Mohawk is a little bit out of their mind. And so therefore, people are maybe a little bit lenient.
WA: How would you describe working with two directors?
DF: I thought it was great. When I first read it I was like, “This has got to be like a dark, existential comedy, like, done by the Coen brothers or something.” You know, you’ve got everything in one movie. And I sat down with them and they were like, “Yes, that’s what we want to achieve, as well.” And I was like, “OK, we’re all on the same page.” And then on-set it was – I mean, we had a blast. You know, they had a lot of confidence in us. And right away I was like, “OK. These guys know what they’re doing.” There’s a lot of trust.
JD: Actually, I was worried about it, at first, because I didn’t know. I mean, OK, one of them has got to obviously be more dominant. There’s got to be some in-fighting between the two. There’s going to be some kind of drama. But, I don’t know if it’s because they’re both so prepared or both really make sure that they’re on the same page beforehand or whatever it was. They’ve worked together forever. They grew up together and I think they truly share the same brain.
KG: We have the same sensibility. I think that is the key. Like, we have the same taste, you know? And then it’s the prep. We have to be on the same page…for you guys and for everybody else. So, we prep harder than a single director might have to because we have to be on the same page. Which gives us a kind of bigger vocabulary to draw from. And, you know, we get to use each other’s energy like, “Mike, your turn.” You know? I’m thinking about the next shot and what I’m going to do with the setup.
MG: The only arguing that goes on might be before we’re ever around with any of you guys and it might just be whoever’s more passionate. Like, “This is why I think we should do it.” And he’s like, “Alright. You’re more passionate about it. That’s the way we’re going to go.”
WA: Have any of you ever been lost or stranded in real life; how was that?
JD: I had a close one. Completely different situation, obviously. I was in North Dakota – high school kid. It was me and my buddy, one of my oldest friends. On my way out to…my girlfriend’s, at the time, her house. She lived in the country and it was a snow storm and I remember going over…a gravel road but, it was this blizzard. And going up and down this thing and as we come down, the car starts sliding off into a ditch. And had we tried to get out to go walk anywhere, we would never have made it. We were too far. We didn’t know it was completely black out there. And it took us probably an hour to finally get the car to a place. It was an old 77 LTD. It was a boat, not an off-road vehicle. And we were finally able to get it out. I don’t even remember how we did. But, had we not, I don’t know what we would have done. There were no cell phones at the time.
DF: I got lost in the freaking rooms here (SLS Hotel Beverly Hills). I couldn’t find my room last night. Holy crap! It’s a freaking maze. I was walking around with my suitcase.