Josh Duhamel: 'Scenic Route' is 'The Reason I Got Into This Business' (Q&A)
The actor sheds his nice guy image in the thriller, hitting theaters Aug. 23.
This is Josh Duhamel like you've never seen him before.
The actor, who got his start on All My Children and most recently starred in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven, appears covered in blood, wearing a mohawk and a scowl on the poster for Scenic Route. The film, written by Awake creator and The Beaver screenwriter Kyle Killen, directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz, follows two former friends (Duhamel and Dan Fogler) as they embark on what becomes a life or death road trip in the desert.
"I was dying to do something like this," Duhamel tells The Hollywood Reporter of the project, on which he also served as an executive producer. "It's the reason I got into this business."
Below, Duhmel talks about his exhaustive preparation for the role, what "scares the crap out of [him]," how wife Fergie reacted to his new hairdo and how he really feels about the critically panned Safe Haven.
Scenic Route opens theatrically on Aug. 23 in New York, Los Angeles and select regional markets via Vertical Entertainment. The film, which premiered at the SXSW film festival earlier this year, is also currently available on VOD.
The Hollywood Reporter: I hear this is a passion project for you. Why were you so drawn to it?
Josh Duhamel: It was an absolute beast of a script. Kyle Killen is a really, really good writer. It was the kind of script that I'd been looking for -- it was like a mountain of both dialogue and physical behavior and everything else that is scary, but I was dying to do something like this that I hadn't done before. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I ever had. The amount of rehearsal that we had ahead of time and all of the stuff that we went through shooting it, it was just a -- it's the reason I got into this business, to be able to do a movie like this. So, yeah, I'm excited about it.
THR: The movie is carried entirely by you and Dan Fogler, and in the desert, no less. I imagine there had to have been some serious bonding while shooting this?
Duhamel: That was another scary aspect of this movie: 'Holy crap, it's just him and me through this whole movie. They're either gonna love this or they're gonna hate it.' So it was really imperative that we treated this like a play in the first third, first half of the movie. You couldn't come to set and figure it out there -- we had weeks of rehearsal ahead of time. It was all the work that went into it that I think allowed Dan and I to connect. He's a really interesting dude and we spent a lot of time [together]. We drove up to the Death Valley together, we spent weeks beforehand and our rooms were right next to each other in this old mining down in Death Valley. We became very close and are still very close.
THR: Forgive me for not knowing this, but do you have prior stage experience?
Duhamel: None really, the closest I've been is I take this workshop every year from Larry Moss, who I've worked with for years, and usually he gives you scenes from Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill or something, a long scene that you put up in front of a theater full of students. I asked him if I could put one of these scenes up as a way to start rehearsing for this because I didn't even know where to begin. I mostly take them just because they scare the crap out of me. That is about as close as I've been to doing it, but it's something that I would love to do.
THR: That was going to be my next question. Have you started looking into doing a theater project?
Duhamel: I think that it can only make you better as an actor, it's something that if the right project came along I would love to do that. Just doing these workshops has given me the courage, before it was something that I didn't know if I had what it took to get up there and do that. It was such a terrifying thing, but there's something so fulfilling about it once you actually get up there and do it. You understand why people view it almost as a drug, it's so exhilarating to get up there and put all the work that you've put into it onstage in front of people.
THR: In Scenic Route, I would think the most terrifying part would be cutting off all that hair.
Duhamel: That was my favorite part of it! That was one of the things I was like, 'Yes! I get to get a mohawk for this movie?' It was the cherry on top of the sundae. When else am I going to get a mohawk? That was something I was looking forward to. The scary thing was getting all the things we needed to before we cut the mohawk because there's no going back after you've shaved all that hair off.
THR: How long did you keep the mohawk after filming wrapped?
Duhamel: I always figured I would just cut the rest of it off after we finished the movie, but I ended up letting it all grow out and cutting it off bit by bit. I just felt really cool with a mohawk. I felt like a tough guy.
THR: Did Fergie like it?
Duhamel: Yes, she did very much. She's quite a bit more rock and roll than I am, so I don't think she's ever been more attracted to me than when I had my mohawk.
THR: At what point did you sign on for this project?
Duhamel: I came on really early on. I'd read it and I knew that the Goetz brothers were already on -- I hadn't met them, but I knew that I wanted to do this movie. So I met with them, I really liked them and they seemed to have the same idea about it that I did. They seemed to understand all the nuances of the script, but then it became a matter of finding the right guy for it. We knew it had to be a really good actor, obviously, but also somebody who had a real commitment to the kind of work that it was gonna take to prepare for it. You can't just phone something like this in, you have to put a lot of work into it ahead of time. Dan was the perfect guy for it because he'd come from the theater, he understood the hours of rehearsal it was going to take, so that's how it came about. Then it was a matter of doing the work and getting out there and braving the weather.
THR: How long was the shoot?
Duhamel: We were out there for three weeks, with several months of prep leading up to it.
THR: Given that your last role was in Safe Haven, it's safe to say this film is a huge departure for you.
Duhamel: I think this is one of the reasons I even got into the business in the first place is to have a chance to do stuff like this. When you first start out in this business, you have so few opportunities and you have to take what you can get. And once people start seeing you as one thing, it's hard to shake that idea out of their head. My whole career, since I started All My Children 12 years ago, has been about trying to prove to people that I'm more than what they think I am. It doesn't matter what role that I've done, I've always put everything that I have into it. I do as much research and as much prep as I can. Even that character in Safe Haven, there was a lot of work that went into that. Even though reviewers didn't like it so much, I actually was really happy with the way that movie turned out. It could have turned out really bad. It was a lot of fun to play and obviously this character's quite a bit more complex, and at the end of the day this was probably the most gratifying experience I've ever had filming a movie.
THR: You also have Strings coming up.
Duhamel: I finished that, I think they just finished shooting it, too. I had about a week and a half of shooting up in Winnipeg. It was a lot of fun, actually. The character is a social worker who counsels this kid who was sent to this small town to live with his dad. He's a DJ from New York and I'm the one responsible for doing court counseling on this kid, and as the movie goes on you realize that my character -- who is supposed to be counseling this kid -- is just as screwed up. It was a smaller part, but it turned out to be far better than I expected it was going to be.
THR: And there's not a ton of other projects in the pipeline for you right now. Are you getting ready to adjust to life as a family man?
Duhamel: I've got You're not You, which filmed right around Christmas time last year. It's a good movie. It's pretty heavy, but it's good. That's also coming up. Those are the only two things coming out besides Scenic Route. Other than that, I'm just developing some things, reading a lot of things and mostly getting ready for my little baby boy that's on the way.
THR: So exciting! Congratulations.
Duhamel: Oh my God, I can't even tell you. There's a lot of anticipation in the Duhamel household right now, I'll tell you what.
Days after this interview, Mr. and Mrs. Duhamel -- looking about to pop -- would step out to celebrate the film's Hollywood premiere. Photo below: