Listen in as producer Bill Gerber and actor Sean William Scott talk about The Dukes of Hazzard from the set!
Part 1 by B. Alan Orange
(Skip down for Audio Interviews from Seann William Scott and Producer Bill Gerber)
I hate movie sets. Their sterile, dead places that don't hold a lot of momentum or excitement. They're cool for about ten seconds, then the dreaded truth falls into place. This is the land of hurry-up and wait, where nothing really seems to get done. Frankly, I'm amazed films ever get finished at all. Especially a film like The Dukes of Hazzard. Why? Because it's a meticulous job that takes a lot of patience. Shooting one split second edit can eat up an entire morning. Considering the crap that's been plaguing the Cineplex as of late, this seems like a major waist of time and one's own life.
The Dukes of Hazzardmight be an exception to the rule. Director Jay Chandrasekhar is doing everything in his power to insure that this revised take on the Good Ol' Boy legend blows every other car chase film in history out of the water. From what I've seen, I think he just might succeed. I'd almost guarantee it.
This last January, I was lucky enough to visit the Warner Brothers Dukes of Hazard set with a few other regional sites. I was flown into Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where we were promised a chance to watch some of the actors in action. When we finally arrived, we were told the plans had changed and that we'd be seeing some of the car chase sequences instead. Initially, I thought, "Awesome!" This is a big deal. I love car stunts. And the ones being done for this new version of an old TV show are going to be some of the greatest put to film since The Blues Brothers and Smokey and The Bandit. Dukes is utilizing the Go Mobile, the manifestation of a stunt rig originally fashioned for The Bourne Supremacy.
If you've seen that movie's action centerpiece, then you already know how cool Chandrasekhar's Dukes has the potential to be. This time out, they've basically reinvented the already impressive stunt cars used in Matt Damon's hit summer franchise. The chassis has been vastly improved upon, allowing for even crazier, never before seen driving sequences. These new Go Mobiles allow for an authenticity that was unachievable back in the late 70s and early 80s, the heyday of car chase flicks. The Go Mobile houses a moveable cockpit, allowing the camera a multitude of advantage points. The actor can actually be seen driving the car, with the stunt driver out of sight. Every angle is now accounted for, and there's no more need for green screen. The close-up footage fully immerses you in the experience unlike any car chase has been able to do in the past. I can't really comment on the narrative or the acting, but I can tell you that the Cop Car f'em-ups to be seen here are going to blow your mind. Which is exactly how it should be. The Dukes of Hazzard was never about the plotlines or the indefinable thespian work on display. It was about watching the General Lee leap into the air. As an actor, when you have that, it's pretty easy to yell, "Yee-Haw!!"
We arrived on set early Tuesday morning. What we were going to be watching was part of a road rally race. This was taking place at a Boy Scout Camp, way back in the woods, on an old dirt road. Driving to this out of the way location was kind of neat. I love Louisiana. The ride was almost like a private Studio tour at Universal. Every few feet, we'd see some sort of General Lee configuration sprawled out on the vast wilderness lawn. We saw the front half of an orange Dodge Charger that was going to be hooked to a trailer hitch gizmo. We saw a black box race car that had an actual decal of Burt Reynolds in his Boss Hogg get-up wielded to the side of it (awesome!). We saw various versions of the General Lee in differing states of disarray. They've employed nearly seventy cars for the film. My favorite, though, was getting to see Boss Hogg's white Cadillac, which has its huge bull horns intact. We were allowed to get out of the van and manhandle a few of these vehicles. The Cadillac's door handle is a six-shooter. You pull the trigger and the door pops open. It was cool as sh*t; and I want one. Only Burt Reynolds could pull off tooling around in such a massive kicker.
This display was one any auto enthusiast would have died for (too bad they wouldn't allow pictures). I'm telling you, it was a better treat than visiting the Petersen Museum. Just past this hazardous array, a little further into the woods, I could see that they had a row of cop cars lined up, each adorned with a Hazzard County shield of authority. It literally looked like something out of the John Landis handbook. Squad cars sat on each side of a dirt pathway, their blue and reds rolling in unison. The General Lee was situated about twenty yards away. Only, this wasn't the Go Mobile. This was something else called an RDV (Remote Drive Vehicle). You see, the stunt driver sits on top of the roof in a little cockpit, and pilots the car, while the camera shoots the actor as he sits behind the actual driver's seat. It's a pretty amazing contraption.
A team of stunt coordinators swarmed around the 69 charger, making sure everything was good to go. We all went and hid behind some trees, out of the way. I situated myself on a large branch, ready to watch some business go down. This was pretty exciting stuff, especially for a Dukes fan such as myself. A small smile crept up on my face, and I waited. And waited. And waited. The car just sat there. The black and whites kept flashing their silent sirens. Hmm. I'd forgotten how much dead air actually fills a live set. I wanted to see a car chase. Damn it. My blood-pumping heart was ready for it. No dice. I had to smack myself in the face. This wasn't a movie. This was the making of a movie. Not exactly the most ideal place for a person with no patience.
Jay Chandrasekhar noticed us quietly sitting and waiting for a tiny taste of Hazzard magic. He decided to come over and introduce himself, his smile as inviting as any I've ever seen. The man is just genuinely good natured. You can tell that from the moment you meet him. A laid back guy, he explained first thing that that's how he was running his show. His energy output is leveled at very mellow, and the rest of his crew has followed suit. Jay went on to explain his reasons for diving into this situation at hand. He wanted to do a more serious film, something with some grit to it. Not a spoof or an out and out comedy. Sure, The Dukes 2005 will have its fair share of humorous moments, as the show itself did. But the general outlook is going to be a little more action oriented. And then we heard, for the umpteenth time (I'm sure you're quite well aware of these comparisons since I've already made them here myself) that Jay was aiming for a film more along the lines of Smokey and the Bandit, Bullitt, and the Blues Brothers. A mood that hasn't really been applied since Landis' semi-lame 1997 Blues Brothers sequel.
While we were talking to him, Bo Duke himself showed up. Yes, Seann William Scott, dressed in a green army jacket, jeans, and thick hiking boots, arrived to crawl behind the wheel of the General Lee RDV (the guy sitting on top had already been there for awhile). Chandrasekhar excused himself so shooting could start. This was it. The moment we'd been waiting for. I took my seat back at the fallen branch and prepared myself for some awesomeness!
It took a few more minutes to get everything ready. Then, without warning, the General Lee took off. It went about 10 yards, and then cut away from the police blockade, darting into the woods, were it dodged another car coming straight at it. Then, it was over. This took all of about four minutes to execute. We learned that what had just been shot would amount to a half second of screen time. It was a POV from inside the car. The crew and the stunt coordinators reconvened at the take-off point. And they prepared to redo it again. This took another half-hour to reset up.
Yup, exciting. I swear to God, I'd go insane if I had to be here all day. It takes an insurmountable amount of time to complete a single car chase, and this thing is going to be chockfull of them. Jay realized what we'd just seen wasn't the pinnacle of excitement he'd promised. So, he climbed into the back of his SUV, whipped open his laptop, and showed us a good chunk from one of the almost complete vehicular action scenes. There were a few missing insertion shots, but what I saw completely blew me away. My mouth was on the floor. This was great. I can't even describe the sheer magnitude of these car chase scenes. If the trailer showed only what he showed us, this would be one of the top grossing films of the Summer. Let's just hope the cast doesn't screw it up.
After watching some of these car chase sequences on Jay's computer, I had to look up and watch as the General Lee once again went into the woods. Doing exactly what it had just done about twenty-five minutes ago. So, I'd only seen about two seconds of the film being shot. So what? At least I saw that. I had to think to myself, "That's pretty damn cool."
Almost immediately after this short stretch of film was locked and loaded, it was lunch time. Producer Bill Gerber was gracious and kind enough to invite us over to the catering truck for a bite to eat. They actually had everything set up in the Boy Scout lodge. The layout was pretty nice, and watching some lady pick all of the lobster out of a big dish of pasta proved to be more entertaining than watching the actual crew set-up and shoot a portion of the final product. After we chowed down on a cornucopia of delicious dishes, Gerber took our tiny group of Internet Journalists out to the great Boy Scout Podium, where all of the seats where made of logs. It was here that we got to quiz him on all things Hazzard County related. We pumped the man for information, and he took each one of our, "Goddamn it, you guys better not screw this up!" Questions with ease.
The first, and most important thing, it seems, is that this is not another Starsky and Hutch. As Bill puts it, "This is the Anti-Starsky & Hutch." He then went on to tell us all about his cast, his crew, and the magnificent Go Mobile cars that are going to be on display. Gerber has a lot of genuine enthusiasm for the project. You can hear it all here in this audio file clip:
After that was over, Seann William Scott came over to our small huddle to discuss the fact that he was wearing his own clothes for the role. He basically asked the producers, "Can I just wear a Led Zeppelin shirt?' And they were like 'cool'." It's a slight veer to the right from what we're used to seeing Bo Duke wear. Seann and Johnny aren't the pretty boys Tom Wopat and John Schneider were. To hear all of Seann's Interview, click the following audio clip:
(Here are a few excerpts...)
Q: What was it about the DUKES OF HAZZARD that made you want to do this?
SCOTT: It wasn't because I was a huge fan of the show. I just thought it could make a really cool movie. It's about two guys hating each other and towards the end, they're good friends. I feel really familiar with these characters. As long as it's not tongue-in-cheek. They wanted it to be in the tone of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and BLUES BROTHERS, more of a southern rock thing. I thought that would be cool.
Q: How good did you get at driving the car?
SCOTT: I'm pretty good at it. We got the best in every situation. We got the best driver in drifting. The best guy in rally racing, and stuff like that. Obviously there's a lot of stuff that I didn't do. But there's a lot of really incredible things I don't think we've ever seen any actor do. I remember the guy who plays the bad guy in BOURNE SUPREMACY. He's an awesome actor. You see that one shot in that chase where he does the reverse 180. It just feels different. You can tell it's him driving. You'll see a lot of that in this movie.
Q: Was it your choice to play Bo Duke? What makes him different from Luke?
SCOTT: At first, there was really no difference. I thought that was a problem. Yeah, I wanted to drive the car. I mean, at first, before Johnny came on, and I agreed to do it, I just wanted to learn how to drive the car and I thought it'd be a lot of fun. I wasn't gonna do the movie without Johnny. The studio suggested a couple of people, and I'd never met Johnny, but I thought we'd be a perfect team for this movie, cause we're both a little bit unpredictable. The two of us would be a lot of fun, really crazy.
Q: What'd you learn about working with him? Anything that you didn't expect? Is he crazy?
SCOTT: No. He's a great guy. I didn't know anything about him before. I just knew probably the same stuff that any other guy would. But he's just a really good guy. And really smart. And a lot of fun.
Q: Despite an inclination to hurt himself?
SCOTT: No. He knows that his audience loves to see him do his. There's a couple of things that the studio wouldn't let him do but he fought it, you know.
Q: How about working with Jessica. How's that going?
SCOTT: Good. She's a great girl. We don't have that many scenes together. But she's a really good girl.
Q: Did you know her before working on this?
SCOTT: No. No, I don't really know many people in the movies. I don't get out much. She's really sweet and she's doing a great job and she's a total natural. I guess I underestimated the amount of attention with her doing this movie because I didn't know her very well, but it's exciting. Once we started, we realized that she does have a huge audience, and that she brings a lot to this film, and how she's generally a good girl.
Q: How bout Burt and Willie?
SCOTT: I think the director did an amazing job casting this film obviously with those two guys. Willie, he's like the nicest guy on the planet. I've only seen him a couple of times but he just exudes kindness. He just stands there and he's just smiling. I get afraid to say something to him because he's so nice I don't want to disappoint him. Burt's the same way. But with Burt, it's really surreal cause, you know, you grew up watching his films, and he has so many great stories. Especially playing Boss Hogg. People that love the show are not gonna be disappointed at all. They're gonna be blown away. I've never been so excited about a film that I've done. I think everything that we've done is just spot on and I think it's gonna be huge. But with Burt Reynolds playing Boss Hogg. He's like that villain that you love. He's funny, cool, hip and weird and kinda indirect.
Q: How familiar were you with the TV show?
SCOTT: That was the only show I watched. Every Friday, I think, at 8:30. I was a huge fan. But I don't think I'm playing it like John Schneider.
Q: How long can you see yourself playing this character?
SCOTT: Actually, I hope this is huge. I just had a great time. I love what they did. I mean, you never know what could happen. I think this movie has the potential to do really well and just be a blast. I think it's gonna be really funny and really cool, with a different tone. If they pull it off, hopefully, we'd be able to do a couple more. I'd like to. I like the character a lot. I've never had this much fun.
Q: Has Johnny pulled any pranks on set?
SCOTT: No, he's been good. I'm trying to think. In the very beginning, he just threw a salt shaker at my balls, and that's pretty much been it. He always reminds me as I'm getting into the General Lee; he'll stick something by my ass, and then like I can feel it and I stop and he goes 'you owe me'. So I'll do the same thing and I'm thinking 'what could I do to that guy that hasn't been done before?' I've heard that we pulled our pants down and swung our dicks at Jessica or something and she got all pissed. On the internet. One of you guys said that.
Q: So that didn't happen?
SCOTT: No, no.
Q: Are you guys still sliding in through the windows in this?
SCOTT: We haven't shot that yet. That's one thing we have to shoot. The car stuff is sick. It's up to us to make sure we're as cool as all the car stuff. I think that'll be the thing that people will be shocked to see. They're not gonna expect it to be that cool.
Well, I'll tell you what...I wasn't expecting it to be that cool. It sure shocked the sh*t out of me. After our interview with Seann William "Bo Duke" Scott, we were loaded in the van and taken to another off-set location...
Tune into Part 2 for the rest of my set visit...