Josh Duhamel looks a little different. The last time I saw him, he was a bloodied, broken, and mohawk-ed mess of a man in the middle of the desert on the road trip from hell. In person he looks like the very clean-cut, very tall, very handsome guy you've seen on soap operas and as a charming romantic lead in comedies. However, in the batsh**t crazy Scenic Route, one of the best movies at this year's SXSW festival, Duhamel morphs into a Travis Bickle-lookalike who beats his best friend (played by Dan Fogler) to a bloody pulp after they both begin to mentally and physically disintegrate in the desert. We're not in Safe Haven anymore, Toto.
It's an unexpected change of pace for Duhamel, one that the actor was equal parts thrilled and scared to dive into. Scenic Route is a dialogue-heavy character study that keeps its stranded characters in one harsh location for ninety percent of the film. "One of the reasons I wanted to tackle it was because it was scary as hell and was more heavy lifting than I've ever had to do in my life," Duhamel told Hollywood.com of taking on the part in the mind-bending drama.
"My whole thing is, if it scares me, I wanna try to do it. Once you started getting into it, there's nothing more gratifying than tackling something as big as that," Duhamel continued. "You're putting yourself out there with all this dialogue, the two people. It's on you, there's no robots to save you, there's no explosions, there's no CGI, it's literally like a play."
But it wasn't just an emotional and career-oriented challenge that he had to deal with. Filmed on a shoestring budget over the course of just 16 days in the appropriately titled Death Valley, Duhamel, like his continually unraveling character, had to deal with the unforgiving desert elements during the shoot. Duhamel said, "There were days that were pretty miserable, I gotta say." But huge temperature dips and brutal winds actually helped, in the end, with the tone of the film. "We were lucky in a sense, the mood... the wind blowing and the dark skies that came over, we were doing stuff that needed to feel like that."
While most of us — hopefully — won't find ourselves lost in the torturous desert embroiled in an epic meltdown with our best friend ("It's a teeter totter of power between these two," as Duhamel succinctly put it) the universal human themes are what really drives the film. "People can really relate to the idea of friends drifting," Duhamel said. "As you get older, people that you were close to, that you shared these ideals with, and for whatever reason time passes and you look back and you're like, 'What happened?' I think we can all relate to that."
Of course, the one thing people will be talking about other than Duhamel's performance is that mohawk. Some particularly daring SXSW festival-goers admired the actor's insane 'do so much they let him give them mohawks at the premiere, but what did his pop star wife Fergie think of the punk rock look? "She loved it. My wife is a little bit twisted in that way, she loves anything outside of what people expect. As soon as it was done I let it grow back out, but it takes a while. I had fun with it, I loved every second of it. I miss it."
[Photo credit: SXSW]
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