Hitcher: Produced by Michael Bay

From filmmaker Michael Bays Platinum Dunes production company (producers of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror) comes The Hitcher, an update of the 1986 film of the same name.

Dave Meyers makes his feature directorial debut on the new thriller, which tracks the terrifying trajectory of Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) and Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton), a collegiate couple who are tormented by the mysterious hitchhiker John Ryder, a.k.a. The Hitcher (Sean Bean). The young couple hit the road in a 1970 Oldsmobile 442, en route to spring break. But their pleasure trip soon turns into a waking nightmare. The initial encounters with Ryder are increasingly off-putting for Grace and Jim, and they bravely fight back when he ambushes them. But they are truly blindsided when he implicates them in a horrific slaying and continues to shadow them.

Updating the earlier film of the same name, The Hitcher is the fourth production from Platinum Dunes, the company formed five years ago by Michael Bay with producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller.

Great Genre for New Directors

Given the success of the companys first three movies–The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning–Fuller notes, This genre is a great avenue to give first-time directors opportunities in. Our intent with Platinum Dunes was and is to let them be able to realize their vision of a film.

Dave Meyers is, notes Fuller, the first director who weve made a deal with before we had a final script. Wed been talking to him for some time; wed seen his reel and, from meeting with him, sensed that this story was important to him. Other directors will come in and talk about how theyre going to shoot certain scenes, and with which color palette. With Dave, we had a director who was more concerned about the story of this movie than he was anything else.

Form adds, We all talked about the movie we wanted to make. We try and ground our movies in reality, and not make them flashy with distracting shots or weird effects. Daves take on this movie felt real.

A Date Movie Thriller

Even so, as the director elaborates, Weve got scares, thrills, cars, blood, vistas, and a love story. The Hitcher is actually a date-movie thriller, which audiences usually dont get.

Meyers is a top director of music videos and commercials who makes his feature debut on The Hitcher. He reflects, I believe that people go to the movies to see memorable characters. Based on that, this project had what I was looking for; not only in terms of The Hitcher who is to the road what the shark in Jaws is to the water but also in terms of these two young people who you can care about. In most thrillers, theyre just one-dimensional kids who get killed off. In this movie, Grace and Jim are on a journey, not only in terms of their road trip but also in terms of their relationship. So there was a good character thriller here for actors, which made it something I was interested in directing.

Form remembers, After The Amityville Horror, we were thinking of doing a movie that wasnt a straight-ahead horror movie; a thriller with action. At a lunch one day, The Hitcher came up. Like most people, I had seen it a long time ago. We re-watched it, and we instantly thought, This is exactly what we need to do

Two Protags

The new movie now has not one but two protagonists, Grace and Jim, driving it both literally and figuratively. Form notes, Most of our movies, the ones weve done and the ones were developing, have female protagonists. We didnt think that a young woman driving cross-country by herself would pick up a hitchhiker, but a college couple would and it becomes a very different kind of journey for them.

Fuller adds, Grace and Jim are in love and they get into this horrible experience; they desperately try to make the right decisions, but things get worse. As far as were concerned, thats where true horror comes from, and there are real scares in this movie.

One difficulty for us in developing the new story with our screenwriters was getting John Ryder into the car with our young couple. That had to be changed from the original movie, considering that 20 years later drivers just dont stop for hitchhikers any more. So, in our version, Ryder had to be able to maneuver his way in which he does

Updating the Picture

Meyers says, If youre going to update a picture, then you need to bring something new and not just do the original movie again. There are certain key scenes that weve re-done, but with our own twist on them. The Hitcher is more dreamlike and ours is more real. The biggest and most exciting change, for me, is having two leads who you can be emotionally connected to, on a more articulated journey and in love. Theres more conversation in our movie because this boyfriend and girlfriend play off of each other and deal with the attacks, the situations, and the cops. In turn, I think that helps The Hitcher come into focus a little bit more, in terms of what hes after. Thats something I wanted to explore, too.

Casting

With the director in place and the screenplay completed, casting began. Fuller admits, Our casting process is unorthodox, but its what weve done and will do every time; we sit down with a number of actors and actresses and talk with them. This way, we get a sense of who they are as people. We tape these sessions, and then recommend which actors and actresses should audition for Michael and the studio.

Andrew and I had taken note of Sophia Bush in another movie previously. She seemed to have a lot of energy which you need to star in one of our movies, because they can be grueling physically. When she came in to talk with us, we saw that she did have that, and a larger-than-life personality, too.

Comparative screen newcomer Zachary Knighton, meanwhile, showed up to the audition on a motorcycle, marvels Form. He took his helmet off, and already we were seeing Jim Halsey. Knighton enthuses, I have always wanted to be in two kinds of movies; thriller and on-the-road. And The Hitcher has always been one of my favorite movies. So when I got the call to audition for The Hitcher, I thought, I have to get this part!

Fuller clarifies, We had already met Zach, while we were casting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. For whatever reason, we didnt go with him on that one. When he came back this time, we fought for him during six auditions over several weeks during which time he came back to read with Sophia because its not conventional to go with an actor who has not starred in a movie before. But we felt that he looked like our guy, one who would be driving cross-country with his girl. He had lost fifteen pounds in two weeks; he was doing whatever it took to get this role. Its rare to see that kind of commitment from an actor before they were cast.

The chemistry between the two young leads was evident from their read together. The producers knew that it had to be immediately believable on-screen to audiences. Form remarks, On all of our movies, we bring the talent out to location two weeks early; this is so people can get to know each other. We all spend time together and hang out.

Form notes, When actors are playing friends, or in this case boyfriend and girlfriend, that time together matters. On our productions, the only people who dont come during that period are the actors playing their adversaries.

Sean Bean

There was a separate sustained uncertainty over just who The Hitcher was, because Sean Bean was late getting cast though not for lack of trying. Fuller explains, We didnt have a second choice; we wanted Sean, but he was booked. Michael had worked with Sean on The Island, so we had met Sean and his agent. Sean had read the script and liked it. Finally, three or four weeks before shooting, Seans dates opened up and worked out. It was down to the wire.

Bean felt sanguine about the way things worked out. He reveals, I always try to choose projects that will challenge and excite me, and Ive found that playing villains can be more psychologically rewarding. I quite like being scared by movies such as this one, where its based on psychological fear and suspense and tension. The script was a page-turner. Also, I had seen the original film when it came out, and I remember being very scared by it. So, I was delighted to be asked to play this very disturbing character someone who pushes limits and gets away with it.

I felt it was important that, initially, you encounter him as a regular guy and not as an out-and-out psycho from the beginning. Ryder is intelligent and shrewd, and a good actor; I see his clothes as coming from a previous victim, as he takes the part of someone else. He himself is a kind of phantom, without his own back story.

Meyers notes, Sean is the strong actor we needed to bring a strong interpretation to the role. Rutger Hauers performance in the 1986 movie helped define who our Hitcher was written to be. Form clarifies, Clearly, no actor would want to imitate what Hauer did, so Seans is a different John Ryder and just as powerful. When Dave called action, Ryder would be right in front of you.

Bush states, It was great to have somebody in your presence that you can watch and learn from. After the first two takes I did with Sean, Dave had to tell me, Dont pay so much attention to him and Zach talking! Because Zach and I hadnt spent any time with Sean before he got in the car with us, I couldnt stop staring

Sean gives every scene his all. Hes willing to go full-on, and I communicated to him early on that I was as well. I told him, Go for it. If youre hurting me, Ill tell you. I did get some bruises, but that gave the scenes more reality.

1970 Oldsmobile as Character

Another key character in the film is a 1970 Oldsmobile 442. Form says, We were thinking, What is a cool car When we saw the 442, we felt it was the perfect car for our Jim Halsey. Knighton calls the 442 the coolest car ever. Just to be able to drive it in sequences was awesome. Fuller admits, The casting of Zach influenced the casting of the car and vice versa. In fact, The Hitcher is different for Platinum Dunes in several respects; first, we got to wreck some cars, which we havent done before. Second, its the first of our pictures that takes place in the present day.

The biggest challenge, though, is that the heart of this movie is Grace and Jims relationship, which is something we really havent done before; in order for this movie to work, you have to believe in their relationship.

Meyers says, I worked with Zach and Sofia to create a believable romance for their characters; Jim is not whipped and Grace is not objectified. Bush comments, Graces boyfriend happens to be her best friend, and they get put through something horrific together. The stakes are higher because theyre a couple. You see them going through a lot physically and emotionally its do or die.