Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson talk about The Dukes
On the old Dukes of Hazzard TV show, you might have gotten to see a stock shot of the General Lee jumping through the air. In the new feature film, you get to see all sorts of rockin' car tricks. As Bo Duke, Seann William Scott learned from the master so he could do as much hard drivin' himself as he could.
"I actually got to work with the guy, his name was Bobby Orr, and he was a Nascar driver, he teaches a lot of stunt guys, he has like five world records for stunts," Scott said. "He also teaches the Department of Defense. He works for the Department of Defense teaching soldiers how to maneuver their cars before they go to Iraq. He's amazing and he actually put the car on two wheels in our film. So we worked for about a month and then when I got to Louisiana , I had to work on the General Lee. Before I was working on a small Ford. To make a long story short, I did I would say about 10 or 12 really great stunts, whether it was sliding, reverse 180, forward 180, even just free driving stuff. One of the trickier things to do was drive the car fast on a dirt road, because the gravel you're just constantly fishtailing and if you lose control of the car, you're going to smash into a tree. I think it works really well. You can see pieces of me doing it and that combined with the great stunt drivers and the go-mobile thing that we had, it was great."
Scott watched the TV series through his formative years, but knew it needed to be updated for modern audiences. "Johnny [Knoxville] and I and [director] Jay [Chandrasekhar] had a beer and watched the show. We were like, ‘Wow, it's fun. We gotta update this thing. We gotta have some fun with it.' And of course when you cast someone like Johnny and me in the movie, we're going to make it crazy and weird. But we didn't do any research or anything. It wasn't like we were going, ‘How do I bring what John Schneider brought to the role?' Because they did their thing, so we're going to have to do ours."
Encouraged to ad lib many of their comedy moments, Scott went so far as to prepare 20 alternate lines the night before a scene. It could be "something as simple as the way he reacted to Katie Johnson in the sorority thing. We never really knew that he didn't have any game with women. I was like what if he's super confident, you get this thing where he's had this history with this girl and he gets there, faints, can't talk to her, comes up with a lame joke and obviously the only thing he can communicate with is his car. So a couple weird ideas like that is what we were."
For all his success in the genre, Scott does not see himself as a comedian. "I don't really think I'm funny at all. I didn't hate the funny kids in high school because they got all the girls, but it certainly bugged me because I couldn't tell a joke to save my life. When I started off in comedy, I was like I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm just going to use people and experiences. The thing is that I don't really like comedy that puts other people down. The American Pie guy was like that, but I thought what worked was the guy who deep down was kind of insecure and made fun of himself. You know The Office, BBC [version], it's one of my favorite things I've ever seen. That guy is my favorite actor in the world. What he did is so great and I think that was a guy who could have come off saying really inappropriate things, but deep down kind of made fun of himself. Came off like a guy who made fun of himself and that to me I found more endearing."
Of course, Johnny Knoxville is known as the ultimate physical comedian, putting his body on the line for several seasons of Jackass and a film. Breaking into movies has not been as difficult as one might expect, as filmmakers have been willing to see Knoxville as characters.
"It hasn't been a problem so far," Knoxville said. "I'm proud of Jackass. It's what got me here and just something that me and all my friends did that kind of took off. I don't want to outrun it at all. But that said, I want to do other things and I've been very lucky to do other things."
As Luke Duke, Knoxville never got to drive the General Lee, but that was okay by him. "In my head, that was Seann's thing. I didn't even do it when we were practicing with Bobby Orr doing the stunt driving. I just subconsciously didn't even think about it."
Knoxville did do his own stunts though, particularly in a scene where he's hanging onto a safe being dragged behind the General Lee. "I was on it most of the night. That was fun. We shot that first, flying about 75 feet in the air. [I did] as much as they'd let me. A couple of times the producer would step in and go, ‘If you break your arm doing this, we gotta go down for four weeks.' So I'm up for whatever though."
Though he has suffered countless injuries, Knoxville hardly considers himself a movie stunt guru. The legendary Jackie Chan and even Dukes costar Burt Reynolds have a lot over Knoxville.
"[Chan] has broken everything. Burt has broken a lot of bones. I've had a number of concussions and sprains, stitches. God, I've been dog bit, stabbed, any number of things. I'm doing all right now."
As Daisy Duke, Jessica Simpson makes her feature film debut. Her auditions came with a lot of pressure, from the speculation on another musician turned actor to press reports that she already had the role.
"With my first audition, I was very shy," Simpson said. "I didn't know [I got the part] in my first audition. I had to come back. They wanted to screen test me anyway because it was already in the press that I had the role. That put pressure on my already. It was something that I wanted really bad, but I should have never said it to the press. I should have never said I wanted the role. But actually doing that, I told myself, ‘You have to get this. When you walk in to do that screen test, you have to walk in as Daisy Duke.' So I went and worked one time with acting coach Larry Moss. He was basically just saying, ‘Just do what you're doing.' I was confident that he's trained a lot of amazing women like Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby and I was like, ‘All right, I'm going to go in there and just do what I'm doing and do what I would do.'"
Simpson wanted to do a movie and thought Daisy would be the perfect transition. "I thought playing up the whole Southern sexy thing would be great, to kind of show strength because a lot of people haven't really seen that from me. They've seen my ditzy side and my fun and dorky side, my obsession with clothes and all those things that are a part of me, but they haven't seen a lot of strength as a woman. I thought that Daisy Duke would be a great way to show it."
A wholesome good girl, Simpson had to psyche herself up to show off her body in the short shorts, let alone the bikini writhing around the General Lee. "I look at the General Lee and the bikni and all that, that was Daisy. That was definitely me playing the role. Me as Jessica Simpson, I could never do that. I don't even walk on the beach in a bikini. I lay down. I'm really shy. But I wanted to carry that to the music video as well."
With her film career set in motion, Simpson wants to play the kinds of roles that her idols did. The upcoming project Major Movie Star has an actress join the military. "It's like a Goldie Hawn/Private Benjamin type of role. My mentors are Goldie Hawn and Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton is my absolute favorite because she's an amazing blonde, she's an amazing woman, great southern lady, amazing songwriter/singer, all of it. She has her own theme park. She's a legacy and I hope to be doing the same thing as her."
The Dukes of Hazzard opens Friday.