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Q&A with ‘The Hitcher’ Director Dave Meyers

From pop divas in skimpy outfits to demented hitchhikers, director Dave Meyers has had an eclectic career so far. He got his start shooting music videos for the likes of Janet Jackson, Pink and Britney Spears but has finally branched out into feature films, getting the chance to remake the terrifying The Hitcher.

The 1986 original starred Rutger Hauer as a hitchhiker who terrorizes a guy (C. Thomas Howell) traveling alone on the road. But in this contemporary remake, now available on DVD, it’s a young collegiate couple (Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton) being stalked by the truly evil Hitcher (Sean Bean). Hollywood.com talks with Meyers  about snagging this gig and creating nightmares for a new generation of motorists.

Hollywood.com: Have to say, this Hitcher creeped me out as much as the original.
Dave Meyers:
[Laughs] Thanks. I tried very hard to update it in a way that made it contemporary for a new audience and didn’t rely too heavily on things that had become outdated from the original.

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HW: What were some of the elements about the original you thought were outdated?
DM:
First of all, nobody picks up a hitchhiker nowadays. So we went through extensive lengths to explain how the guy gets in the car. And I think it was believable. It’s almost the fluke thing: You almost hit him in the rain, so now at the gas station, there he is and you’ve got that guilt thing going on. Also, originally it was just going to be a girl traveling by herself but I said, no way would a girl let a guy into her car, wearing a trench coat. I thought C. Thomas Howell in the [original Hitcher] had a tough time expressing his feelings. I saw it as a limitation he didn’t have anyone else to bounce stuff off on. I just thought having a couple who start in love and have that love tested at every corner was a fun way to fill the holes between Hitcher appearances. Cause the Hitcher was so damn cool.

HW: Following Rutger Hauer’s footsteps, however, must have been tough for Sean Bean.
DM:
It was. But I encouraged Sean to go into a different direction. The way I describe our interpretation is that while Rutger was flamboyant and eccentric and ghostly, Sean was more a real guy on the road and mysterious. A thug, almost. We went for realism and played to Sean’s strength.

HW: Being that this was your first feature film, having made your name making music videos, what was it about The Hitcher that grabbed you?
DM:
Believe it or not, it was all the behind-the-scenes politics. I liked what [producer] Michael Bay was doing for our kind. They talked to me about a couple of films they were working on but The Hitcher was a character-driven one. And that was one thing I always told myself, that if I did a film, I wanted it to have at least a chance to have character, a chance an emotional center and most horror films don’t. I found that with The Hitcher and appreciated Michael as sort of a big brother. A mentor. He was there when I needed him, which for this was after I finished shooting and in the edit room. Ultimately, he protected my integrity. And it was a cheap movie to make. A couple of the $100, $150 million movies I was offered bombed and those guys are dead. I did a movie so cheap it couldn’t fail. It could be hugely successful or it could make its money back. Either way, if I could make it good and have the people to protect me creatively, then great.

HW: Were you apprehensive about doing a remake?
DM:
The comparisons, you can’t avoid them. It’s something you know when you sign on to do a remake but it seems like we are in that kind of culture. I’ve been offered a lot of films and many of the ones I didn’t do tanked. So it’s got to be about what I can have fun doing, and I had a lot of fun making this movie. I mean, 95 percent of the audience hasn’t even seen the original.

HW: Exactly, so now, thanks to you, a new generation of folks won’t be able to get the image of someone being pulled apart by trucks out of their heads.
DM:
Passing on the torch, as it were. Here, have nightmares on this one.

HW: Any cool bonus features you’re proud about on the DVD version?
DM:
I’m curious to see what people will think about the alternate ending. It was my original ending but didn’t get a chance to test it.

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HW: Was it difficult transitioning from music videos to feature films?
DM:
It’s hard to get your first movie made, especially coming from music videos. They look at you as visual people, not story people. That’s why they’d offer me $100 million movie, thinking I’d just show up, shoot nice angles and just shut up. Then they manufacture the story with other people. I don’t want to say it’s an overall rule but that tension does exist. So I felt [doing The Hitcher ] was a situation in which every time I’d point out a problem with the script for the most part, 80 to 90 percent of the time, I’d get the studio and producers to agree with me.

HW: Was there less pressure?
DM:
The pressure is something I look forward to. I just look forward to it when my voice is strong enough that on those big-pressure films they listen to me. And that’s a big issue with these films. There are certain directors who are allowed to have a voice and other directors who are just work for hires. And I think for an audience, you know when you are watching a movie that’s been phoned in, done by committee. And you know a movie that’s been personally inspired.

HW: How did you get your start as a music video auteur?
DM:
Actually, I was working on trying to do features and I ran into [director] Gus Van Sant. He was doing To Die For at the time and he was the only filmmaker who agreed to take a meeting with me. So I went into his office and he heard me out and told me to consider doing music videos. So I turned on the TV that night and starting watching them. I’d always thought music videos were a little superficial and uninteresting. But then I watched TLC’s “Waterfalls” video and thought, “Wow, that’s a substantial video!” I had to have that growth to realize you could do a lot with that medium. I got signed up and landed a video with Kid Rock, who had only sold 7,000 records. Over a beer, he explained white trash to me and we went off to shoot this video. I did three videos in a row with him and next thing I know, I was a MTV name.

HW: Out of the singers you’ve worked with—Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Missy Elliot, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson—who was the most fun?
DM:
I have a great time with Janet cause we’re friends. Pink and Janet, those two are my really close friends. I’ve done about nine videos with Pink, started with her from the beginning. Her first six or seven videos were done by me. We sort of created her brand together, her visual identity and she’s such a humble person, it brought us closer together. J.Lo was great, too, very professional. Missy’s so much fun, joke all day long with her. It’s hard to pick one.

HW: Do you think Britney can make it back?
DM:
Absolutely! I think she’s in the process of it, the whole reason she shaved her head. I think she’s shaved off all the bad shit that’s happened to her. Hiring back her manager, getting rid of a relationship that didn’t seem like it was right, putting the pieces back together. She’s getting her wall back up. It came falling down a few years ago and the tabloids loved watching her fall. Hurts me to see that happen because she’s such a sweet soul. It’s like the Truman Show or something—she can’t hide from anyone. So mentally she’s getting it back together, I think. These are just my outside thoughts, looking at her actions. I’d shave my head, too, if I’d been through all that crap.

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