Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell in HIT AND RUN a film by Dax Shepard. Photo credit: Jeffrey Reed. Picture courtesy Open Road Films. All rights reserved.
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Hit and Run (2012)
Opened: 08/22/2012 Wide
|AMC Deer Valley||08/22/2012 - 09/27/2012||37 days|
|AMC Loews Meth...||08/22/2012 - 09/20/2012||30 days|
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Romantic Action/Comedy
Rated: R for for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content.
From the producer of Wedding Crashers -- written by and co-directed by and starring comic talent Dax Shepard (NBC's "Parenthood") -- HIT & RUN is the story of Charlie Bronson (Shepard), a nice guy with a questionable past who risks everything when he busts out of the witness protection program to deliver his fiance (Kristen Bell) to Los Angeles to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Their road trip grows awkwardly complicated, when they are chased by the feds (led by Tom Arnold) ... and increasingly dangerous, when Charlie's former pals, a band of gangsters (led by Bradley Cooper), enter the fray. HIT & RUN is co-directed by Dax Shepard and David Palmer.
About the Production
Dax Shepard loves two things: his cars and Kristen Bell. Okay, three things -- his other car, too. So when it came time to make his next movie, the Parenthood star decided, why not make one about all three?
Shepard had ventured into filmmaking in 2006 when he and longtime former Groundlings buddy Nate Tuck put together a comedy short called Reunited. "We walked into Groundlings, day one Level 1, fifteen years ago and made each other laugh, as we did every subsequent class," Tuck recalls. "It was love at first sight. And we've been best friends ever since."
The short, which Shepard wrote and directed, about two real estate agents (him and Tuck) tormenting a client with practical jokes, eventually made its way into comedy festivals four years later. But shortly after it was completed, late in 2006, the comedian was already thinking about what was next. "We had this trifecta -- Dax, Nate and me. A month after finishing Reunited, we were all wondering what we could do together," recalls David Palmer, who shot the short and would co-direct Shepard's next two projects. "He sat me down at the Sunset Plaza and said, 'Listen, I want to make this movie. We're doing it with no money, but I have this idea for a mockumentary.'"
The resultant comedy was Brother's Justice, shot mostly over the next six months and slowly completed over the following three years, premiering at the Hollywood Film Festival in October 2010. The film featured Shepard and Tuck as they attempted to pitch a poorly-conceived martial arts movie to people like Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Favreau, Tom Arnold and others, all of whom, of course, tell them to take a hike. "It was basically me following Dax and Nate around with a camera as they try to convince these people to get involved, and none of them want anything to do with it," Palmer explains. The presence of the stars who appeared in the film was no coincidence. "We cast all our friends. We're kind of a little troupe in some ways."
One member of that troupe was producer Andrew Panay (Wedding Crashers), who had a bit part in the movie, and in whose Employee of the Month Shepard had just appeared. Panay was impressed with Shepard's movie. "I saw the finished film, and I thought he was a genius," Panay says. "The three of them are all just great, and Dax is so gifted."
It was while doing press for Brother's Justice that the idea for HIT & RUN was launched. "We kept getting asked what we were going to do next, and we just started saying we were going to do a car chase movie," Shepard recalls. "We had no script or premise -- we just knew we loved car chase movies. And because we had said it, we knew we would have to deliver."
Having grown up in Detroit, Shepard was constantly surrounded by automobiles. "My father sold cars, my mother worked for General Motors, and my stepdad was in the Corvette group as a chassis engineer," he says. "So as a kid, I was around a lot of really, really amazing cars. It's my number one passion."
By high school, he had gotten into drag racing, as well as working at GM himself, where he got in plenty of track time, something quite unique for a 17-year-old. Shepard also made a number of appearances on covers of Motor Trend and Car & Driver. "There were all these cut-outs of me getting sideways'd in Camaros and stuff. You couldn't see it was me, but I had been part of the photo shoot."
One other thing that had made a lasting impression on him was a movie Shepard had seen at the bright young age of five -- Hal Needham's Smokey and The Bandit, which, release three years earlier, had been a mammoth hit. Starring Burt Reynolds, the witty Camaro-driving Bandit, accompanied by girlfriend Sally Field, outruns pompous, loudmouthed southern Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), who's constantly on their tail, as Bandit races the law in an attempt to help win a bet.
"At first, I just liked it because of the car stuff," the actor recalls. "But then, as I kept watching it, I started to really, really appreciate the comic genius of Jackie Gleason. My brother and I would ride our Big Wheels and would fight over which of us would get to be Sheriff Buford T. Justice -- we'd memorized all his lines. It was a huge, huge part of my childhood," as were other auto-centric movies like Needham's The Cannonball Run and, of course, Steve McQueen's Bullitt.
Eventually, Shepard realized he wanted to make his own Smokey -- "Just a little more comedy and a little more 'R,'" he says. Adds Tuck, "I think he set out to do something inspired by Smokey and the Bandit and the car chase movies of old, where it's a fun car chase, just not a dangerous car chase. And with the way Dax writes, inevitably funny."
Movies offer an audience wish fulfillment, Shepard points out. "We live vicariously through the experiences we see on film. In Smokey, Burt Reynolds has almost a super hero-y freedom, where he's not the least bit afraid of the law and drives however he sees fit. And if you're any kind of respectable American male, the second you get your license, your first thought is, 'Well, I could drive however I want. And if I see flashers, I'll just go for it and run.' That's a fantasy all young boys have had while behind the wheel. So, intrinsically, car chase movies offer a very relatable fantasy, of driving however the fuck you want to wherever you want."
After Brother's Justice, Shepard went back to work on Parenthood, by that time a bona fide hit for NBC. But the car chase idea was not forgotten, especially by Andrew Panay. "Dax had pitched me on the idea of a car chase movie, and I was just obsessing about it and wanting to do it with him," the producer recalls. Panay suggested approaching film studios with the idea, prompting Shepard to finally develop a concept, and -- just three weeks later, in mid-March 2011 -- a completed shooting script.
"We had his treatment, and we went out and pitched it a bit, and Dax finally wrote the script on spec, and it was just a great script from the get-go," says David Palmer. "The way Dax structures his storytelling is just brilliant. He spreads various story beats throughout the movie -- like the through-line of Randy's (Tom Arnold) gun and the story of his car -- that are set up to come together for a terrific payoff by the end of the movie."
Shepard has a tried and true process which is always a winner, he says. "I like to go away and write in a hotel in Palm Springs. I'll go there by myself, and I'll stay for a few weeks and just write." A favorite activity involves, while out eating, picking up local real estate guides and surfing for interesting potential character names. "These real estate agents have hilarious names -- they seem to have, like, cartoon names," he laughs.
His own character's monicker, Charlie Bronson, came not from the real estate world -- nor, as one might expect, from the film world. "I'm fascinated with criminals, and there was a guy in England named Michael Peterson, this really violent guy, who had changed his name to Charles Bronson," as portrayed by actor Tom Hardy in the 2008 film Bronson. "I thought, 'Hey, it's really funny that that man named himself after Charles Bronson.' And then I thought it's even funnier if a guy named himself after the criminal who named himself after Charles Bronson!"
Charlie's unusual pre-bank robbery real name, revealed part way through the movie, Yul Perkins, similarly had nothing to do with Yul Brynner or any other movie Yuls, for that matter. "When I was a child, there was a Detroit newscaster named Yul Perkins. He was somewhat of a local celebrity," Shepard reveals.
Creating characters for the rest of the film was not hard for Shepard -- they're, for the most part, based on his own friends, who appear in the movie. "One of the most unique things about Dax is his loyalty to his friends, and, more importantly, to friends that he feels are talented," says Panay. "Dax surrounds himself with really smart, great people, and he really believes in them. And I think, because of that, everyone bleeds for the movie and works really hard to make it the best." Says Tuck, "That's the power of Dax. He has great friends, who are all very talented, funny and loyal, and they love working with him. It was very much a family environment."
The film, in fact, had no casting director. "We didn't cast any strangers," Palmer explains. "They all got paid SAG scale for a low budget movie -- because they all love Dax. There's a friendship and trust and sweetness about him that just brings everybody together." Notes Shepard, "This was probably the worst work environment that most of these actors have had in years. It was chaotic, but everyone really had a good time."
As for the writing, he says, "I know these people really well, so I tried to make their characters as close to who they are in real life as possible -- with the exception of Cooper, who's not a bad guy at all." Says Panay, "It makes the film hysterically funny, because all the characters are sincere. It's not a reach for these actors -- no one's acting outside their zone. They really believe in what they're saying, they have conviction. And that's the charm of the film."