The Hitcher - Fangoria
By RYAN ROTTEN
Revisiting any role once played by rugged Dutchman Rutger Hauer is a tall
order that not any Hollywood pretty-boy could manage. Imagine Josh Hartnett
as Reinhardt in a NIGHTHAWKS redux, or Jude Law as BLADE RUNNERs Roy
Batty. Then, feel the cold drip of embarrassment wash over you. THE
HITCHERs John Ryder isnt a stroll in the park either. In the hands of a
less-than-capable thespian, the role could have been an overblown, festering
turkey of an interpretation. Hauer, under the direction of Robert Harmon
in the 1986 original, opted for the opposite: a loner with a cool-breeze
saunter and enigmatic determination. His performance has survived two
decades and a limp direct-to-DVD sequel. So, what in the name of all
that is masculine was Sean Bean thinking when he enlisted to traverse t
he highways of America as Ryder in Platinum Dunes and Rogue Pictures
new update of THE HITCHER?
[The original film] made an impression on me, explains Bean, a huge
admirer of Hauers performance. As Ryder, Bean is a feral feline in a
bloodsoaked cat-and-mouse chase, the mice here being two college
students (Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton) on a cross-country drive.
I had certain reservations about being involved with another version
of the film, but what I found was that Ryder gives so much leeway to
maneuver as a character, I personally felt quite excited about it. I could
really f**k with these kids and push the envelope. I met with [Dunes]
Michael Bayhes made some good stuffand with him involved, you
know the film is gonna be well-constructed. Dave MeyersI knew his
videos, and hes got a twisted, eerie, creepy visual sorta thing. With
all of these put together, I felt it was a great opportunity, and not
because I was the lead. I felt it was something I could do well, and
it allowed me to mess around with the character and bring things out
that Ive not been able to do in the past with certain films. I wasnt
chained to any particular approach, and that excited me.
OK, we can dig thatnot that we had any problem with his involvement in
the first place. The British thesp has, to date, amassed quite the résumé
of bad-assery. To most, he first rocketed across the pop-culture radar
as the deadly Irish foil to Harrison Fords Jack Ryan in PATRIOT GAMES.
The poisonous villainy he brought to that film later slithered into GOLDENEYE
(where he played rogue agent 006), but it was in the LORD OF THE RINGS
trilogy where he swapped immorality for nobility as Boromir and transcended
that guy status to achieve blockbuster familiarity. Turns in FLIGHTPLAN,
NATIONAL TREASURE and THE ISLAND came soon after, with a pair of genre
projects thrown in for good measure: John Fawcetts THE DARK and
Christophe Gans SILENT HILL.
Beans weathered good looks are befitting of his contradictory body of
work; at one moment he can convey an amiable, salt-of-the-earth
demeanor, and in the next he can level the room to frigid temperatures
with a sneer. Luckily for Fango, no winter jacket is needed when meeting
the actor in a Beverly Hills hotel, where he makes the gracious offer to
join him in a smoke and a beer. We declinemissing the opportunity
to brag later about having drinks with Boromirand embark on a
wandering conversation about the John Ryder of the new millennium,
who, not coincidentally, resembles the Ryder of the 80s. After all,
why change a good thing when the clothes make the man?
It certainly adjusts your persona, body language and the way you perceive
things as a character, he says. It was a particularly interesting costume
long coats have always become synonymous with sinister. Its fitting for the
film, and it got grimier and grimier and shinier and shinier as we continued
shooting. I thought it was a really normal look, with a gray coat, blue shirt,
trousers slightly too short and crap hush-puppy shoes. Except its not shoes;
its shows when you hear the word waft through an exhale of nicotine
smoke and his thick accent. I believe Ryder became what was there before;
he assumed various identities before the film, and once hes out of that
identity and those clothes, he reverts back to what he was before he became
the person he has just knocked off.
He sees these two happy kidsyou know, students who have finished college
and are giddy going on holiday, just so full of love on a road trip. John Ryder
just despises that kind of shit, like, Piss off, Im really gonna f**k you up,
Bean says. Ryder, I believe, has a certain thing with [Bushs] Gracenot i
n a sexual way, but he sees something in her he can identify with and that
he can pass on in some kind of way.
Bean is appreciative that Ryder has maintained some ambiguity in this era
of explanation, where every bogeymans past is laid bare and their motives
made readily apparent. Its difficult to put your finger on what hes trying
to achieve, and thats something I was conscious of, the actor notes.
Thats what makes him so unpredictable and disturbing. I didnt want
to play him as a mustache-twirling villain. Hes soft-spoken and quite
humorous. Hes got a wry humor, but its all something that obviously
only he finds to be pretty funny. Bean laughs, reconnecting with those
dark bits that bring a smile to Ryders face. But he wasnt the only one
who enjoyed Ryders bittersweet company. If he has any redeeming features,
its his dignity. I quite liked that, and Dave Meyers did too. I think he identified
quite a lot with Ryderwhich quite worried me, actually. The director of
photography, Jim Hawkinson, he really took to Ryder, too. He loved that
character. Consequently, the camera loves him as well, as Ryder is allotted
plenty of power-shot close-ups to increase his palpable intimidation, yet do
nothing to reveal the true man behind the monster.
We had a lot of fun making things up on the set. It was great with Zach
and Sophia, cause they were up for anything, Bean adds, pausing to reflect
on a moment with his two co-stars that sums up Ryders menacing manipulation.
I just had a very crooked outlook. When they first pick Ryder up in the beginning,
he seems OK at first. Hes in the rain and is trying to get back to his family,
his car has broken down. Hes a pretty sociable guy, and things arent quite
working. The dialogue isnt right and its all very fractured and he breaks the
cell phone. These kids are in a tin box going 60 miles per hour down a freeway.
Just the way things develop from there, I found it all very interesting. The fact
he could have gotten the knife out straight away, the fact that he prolongs that
and plays with their minds and enjoys it. It tells you something about a character.
Im glad I didnt know everything about him; its more disturbing that way.
The conversation concludes on the future, particularly what Bean might have
coming up genre-wise, which is nil at the moment. However, he is aware that
Gans is talking about a SILENT HILL sequel, and turns the interview around to
inquire about Fangos thoughts on the first film. We string a few words and
names together like interesting, Eurohorror and Fulci-esque, especially
when it came to the films surreal third-act slaughter. He soaks it in and
replies, I thought HILL was really good. Gans has an incredible vision;
theres nothing quite like it. Everything seems to be to the side for him;
all of the action is on the edges of the screen. Sometimes I felt like
I was looking at a surrealist or Dadaist painting, in that things are framed
to unsettle you. Hes talented in that respect. It was good to work with him,
and itll be interesting to see if HILL 2 comes about.
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