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Set Visit: The Hitcher (4/6)

Nov. 9, 2006by: Ammon Gilbert

Visiting the set of THE HITCHER remake has been a blast (read part 1 HERE), as well as all of our very cool chats with director Dave Meyers and producer Brad Fuller. While we were there we had a chance to talk with Zack Knighton, who's in the Jennifer Jason Leigh role this time around. You may remember him from his previous short-lived TV show 'Life on a Stick' over on FOX, but other than that, we haven't seen him in anything... until now. Check it:

Zack Knighton

Discuss the scene you're about to shoot?

Zack Knighton: Sophia and I are about to, we're looking for lodging, hence the hotel. This is sort of three-quarters of the way through the movie and we're at wits end, so we're basically looking for a place to lay our heads instead of sneaking around. But the cops are looking for us, and we're kind of sneaking behind these rigs. That's where we're at in this movie.

Who's been accused of the Hitcher's crimes in this version?

ZK: We're both being kind of framed for the crimes that are going down in the movie. We're both on the run. It's like a Bonnie and Clyde version instead of a lone wolf version like the original.

Have you seen the original?

ZK: I'm the biggest fan of the original, ever. I'm a huge horror film fan in general, so when they told me I was auditioning for it, it was like one of those jobs you didn't think you were going to get because it's like, "Oh man, that's the coolest job I can imagine. So yeah, I'm a big fan of the original.

What are the reasons to pick up the Hitcher this time?

ZK: I don't know if I can -- I don't know if that's a spoiler or not. I'm not really sure. It's definitely different, I can tell you that. It's different than the original. In the original it sort of starts with him. In the original the movie starts when he picks up the Hitcher, in what, the second minute of the movie or something? In our movie, we're establishing character a little more before we get the Hitcher. Not much more before, but it's definitely a different reason for picking him up than it is -- I think with us, everybody, we're trying to justify things more. I things have changed more since back then. I think it was '86 or something, the original. I feel like it might have been more acceptable to pick up hitchhikers then, that's why the movie was -- I feel like people don't pick up hitchhikers now because of that movie. You know what I mean? So I think that we have to sort of figure out how that would be a reality nowadays, why people would pick up a hitchhiker.

Any other big differences? Is it more of a re-imagining of the original?

ZK: It is. That's what's good about these guys. They don't remake a movie to do it shot for shot. They want to remake a movie because they have a genuine love for the original. They just love it and want to make a different movie of the same thing. The differences in this are obviously it's a boyfriend and a girlfriend driving, leaving campus for Spring Break. In the original, C. Thomas was driving a car cross-country for delivery. I think this movie we're focusing more on character and trying to get people to understand who these two people are before being terrorized by this guy. Make you care a little more for them. I think that's sort of the major significant difference in our movie.

What's your character like now that roles are swapped? You're in the girl role?

ZK: Well, kind of. It's not like Nash in the original obviously because he meets her on the road, and we start in the movie. Jim Halsey is -- C. Thomas' character I guess he was driving from New York -- I can't remember exactly where he was -- he's kind of like a hip, street guy and our version she's more of a city girl and I'm not a country boy, but more of a blue collar guy. He's just your average college kid and genuinely loves her. They're just this young couple in love and happy, but not in that fluffy kind of way, you know? In a real way. There's a little big of mushy stuff.

A lot of physical stuff and running around?

ZK: Yeah, we've been doing a lot. We've only been shooting this for about a month now and a lot of our stuff is in the car, the 442. I don't know if you got to see it. It's so awesome, the car that we have in this movie. It's a 1970 Oldsmobile 442. It's like your standard muscle car -- blue with white racing stripes. It's so awesome. It's like one of those thing, it helps you bring character, it helps you figure it out more because it's easy to act in that car. You know what I mean? You have these surroundings, big rigs around you and stuff like that. It makes it that much easier. Yeah, I mean Jim's your average guy. That's probably why they cast me and not some uber model pretty boy. They wanted people to be able to relate to these guys.

Where do the guns come from?

ZK: Oh, we acquired the guns. I'm not going to tell you how we get them because definitely it's a big difference in our movie. We've obviously been sort of framed by this guy in a way I guess, intentional or not, and we do -- this is a point where we acquired them as a means of survival. And they're cool too. I have a Beretta, which I've always wanted to feel in my hand.

Lessons to use gun?

ZK: Your basic lessons. You know: This is how to look cool when you hold a gun, those kinds of lessons. They basically just show us that the chamber's empty and let us know that everything's cool. We all know how some movies are cursed. I'm sure everyone wants to avoid that.

An average guy probably wouldn't be a weapons expert anyway.

ZK: Yeah, exactly. I don't want to know too about it. I feel like Jim Halsey has probably been to a shooting range in his life, as I have as a kid growing up in Virginia. But I don't think he knows too much about guns.

How many killings are you initially framed for?

ZK: Oh jeez, I don't even know how many. I can tell you, I'm pretty sure that we may exceed the body count of the original in this one. I think that's probably a pretty safe assumption.

This will be rated R?

ZK: Oh yeah. I'm sure this will be rated R. Absolutely. I mean, if it wasn't, I'd have to worry about the ratings system. I say rated R, they're hoping to get rated R, not NC 17.

How is it working with Sean Bean? Scary?

ZK: Yeah, he's awesome. He's incredible. The thing is that I'm a huge fan of the original, but for me, what made the original was Rutger Hauer. He nailed that role. So of course after the happiness and exuberance of getting the job, I started to wonder who are they going to get, who could possibly, whoever was going to do it had the biggest shoes to fill, I thought. Especially with hardcore fans of the movie. And then I heard Sean Bean was in this and I figured he was going to be incredible. I wasn't worried about -- he's doing a completely different take from the Hitcher [played by Hauer]. That guy, it's amazing to watch him work. He's incredible. He's one of those actors, when you're working with him, you don't see what he's doing until you watch it on the playback, and you see everything he's done in the take, and it's amazing. He's done like a million movies, so he's a pro for sure. I think people are going to be scared as hell when they see this guy.

What's it like working with Sean on a one-on-one basis?

ZK: He's a pretty reserved guy. I'm not sure if that's his personality or if that's how he's approaching doing this role. I can tell you this. I called his room and left him a message to see if he wanted to go to dinner with us this weekend and I never heard back from him. But he's a really sweet, nice guy when you're working together. But he keeps his distance. I'm pretty sure that's for his role. I don't want to be too familiar with him either. I want to be scared of the guy and I am in real life.

With night shoots, is your scheduled completely flip-flopped?

ZK: Oh yeah. I got off last night at 3 a.m., which is really early for me, and I was awake till 7:30 or something, trying to get to sleep. So I'm completely at night. We're working all night till 7-8 in the morning, and I wake up at 3-4 in the afternoon, hit the gym for a minute, maybe sit by the pool and then I'm right back to work. But I can't really think of a better way to spend my summer.

Done any of the New Mexico stuff yet?

ZK: No. We're just shooting all of the Austin stuff now. I mean, right now we're in New Mexico, the scene is in New Mexico, but we haven't done any. Most of the New Mexico stuff will be in the day time, desert, stuff like that. So we're getting all the night stuff out now, and I guess we'll move to days once we move.

Which way is the couple heading, from where to where?

ZK: Well, we're supposed to -- we can't say we're leaving at UT [University of Texas] anymore, so we're leaving Any Campus, Texas and driving to Havasu, outside of Vegas.

You're wearing an Austin shirt.

ZK: Yeah. Guerro's. Everyone's going to know it's Austin when they see the skyline. I'm not sure of the reasoning, but I'm assuming that the University of Texas does not want a couple of students representatives who are killing out in the real world or are chased or whatever by this guy.

Any scary things on set?

ZK: I haven't experienced anything scary, out of the ordinary scary, like weird occurences or anything like that. Just Sean Bean scaring me. I was scared maybe the first week that I might get fired.

Watch the dailies?

ZK: Yeah, everybody's so incredibly collaborative on this movie. I've never been in anything like this, my first lead role in a feature, a studio movie. I've had some other gigs before, some really great gigs, but for me I was assuming I wouldn't be able to see playback or dailies or be part of the collaborative process. Everybody's so collaborative; everybody wants to make a great movie, so they want to know how we would say it, Sophia and I. They want to make it real and they want to make it accessible to people our age.

Get to know Sophia first to build on-screen relationship?

ZK: Yeah, it took me a while to get the job. I had about four or five screen tests with her before I actually got the offer. So we were getting to know each other then and we spent a week together in Austin before we shot and were rehearsing. Especially at the beginning because it's so important at the beginning of the movie to see these people and have them be real and believable and have people believe that these people are in love and are going off to do this fun thing. So yeah we had some time together. She's awesome. We're like brother and sister now.

Visit any regular places in Austin?

ZK: When I'm not working, which is one night a week. I love the Jackelope. It's a great bar. And what else. The Long Branch Inn; that's a great spot. That's where we had our kick-off party. But that's pretty much it. My spot is the Four Seasons pool at like 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Ever experienced anything like the hot desert shoot?

ZK: Well, the first week we were in a car and it was like 110 degrees. We were in a car with windows up. That was really hot. I've never shot a movie in the desert, so I'm pretty excited about it. It's like one of those things: I'll be uncomfortable, but my character is going to be uncomfortable. It's all those exterior elements that bring so much more to your performance. And especially the scenes with him in the car, the Hitcher. Stuff like that, it does feel claustrophobic when you have three people and then a camera.

So, does it take place in the front seat? How is car configured?

ZK: It's a muscle car. It's got a back seat. There's only one scene in my car with the Hitcher, much like in the beginning of the original. But it's pretty claustrophobic [loud train obscures some comments].

Any injuries on set?

ZK: I have not gotten any injuries, but there was an injury the first day of shooting with the grip. He cracked his head and split his head open really bad. But I come from a big theater background. They say if you spill blood on stage, it's good luck. Hopefully that's the same for film.

Do you have a lot of grueling, physical things to do in the film?

ZK: Yeah, it's really cool. There's a lot of car driving, car chases and stuff. They won't let me do all the 360s and stuff like that, but I think as you'll see tonight, it's going to be a grueling thing tonight, which will be interesting.

We've already talked about the scene, so it's not a spoiler.

ZK: Well, I think it's a spoiler to -- I'm not sure. You guys know what's happening. Right. I'm not sure. I know that you guys are going to know.

Well, it would be difficult to write about without referring to it...

ZK: Right, that's what I thought. I don't know what they were thinking. But yeah, tonight should be interesting and grueling.

How do you prepare for that?

ZK: I don't know what to tell you. You know, I feel like I know what would get me about that scene and so when it happens, it's going to be there. You know what I mean? I feel like knowing what we've been through the whole movie, knowing what's happening in the truck.

So how will you play that: stoic? terrified?

ZK: I think at that moment in Jim Halsey's life, he's probably the most vulnerable and the most clear and the least amount of fronting as he's ever been. That's the way I think about it. Hopefully it'll come across when they play it.

Favorite horror film?

ZK: My favorite horror movies? All my favorite horror films are the older horror films. One of my favorite horror movies is a film called "Black Christmas." I don't know if you guys know it.

They're remaking that one too.

ZK: I heard about that. It makes sense. The thing about "The Hitcher" too is that a lot of people don't know about "The Hitcher." It's crazy. People know the iconic video cover from the video store of C. Thomas'e eyes. I think it's different than making the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Everybody knows about the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Maybe not everybody's seen it, but this is the kind of movie that I feel people heard about, but not everyone has seen. A lot of people, the younger generation, 18-year-old kids I know haven't seen it. So yeah, I don't know. I feel like remaking a movie like "Black Christmas" makes sense.

It's kind of dated now.

ZK: Oh, the scene with his eye in the crack of the door is still one of the scariest scenes. I like a lot of those campy horror films.


I'd like to give a big THANK YOU to Zack for taking some time in between takes to talk with us- he was a very cool dude who likes horror movies, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of him in the future. Stick around for my interview with super hottie Sophia Bush, and get pumped for THE HITCHER remake as it hits theaters on January 19th, 2007.

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