By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—As Josh Duhamel counts down the days to when he becomes a first-time dad with wife-singer Fergie (now officially Fergie Duhamel), he also has another baby he’s ushering into the world. “Scenic Route” is the first feature film he has produced through his Dakota Kid Productions. He also stars in the drama, in which he plays a character unlike any other he’s played before.
The 40-year-old Minot, N.D. native recently spoke about the mainly two-person drama, written and directed by the sibling filmmaking team Kevin and Michael Goetz, in which he plays an investment banker who goes on a road trip to the desert with his unemployed writer friend (Dan Fogler). When their old pickup truck breaks down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, the ill-prepared travelers are left stranded. Hours and days pass in scorching daylight heat as well as freezing nights. With no rescue in sight, the two men mull their lives and their friendship, and repressed hostilities between them emerge.
The low-budget drama was shot in Death Valley, Calif., in March 2012, and premiered earlier this year at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Over the course of the film, Duhamel’s Mitchell descends from Izod shirt-wearing yuppie to a deadly Mohawked madman.
Q: Have you had any time to be with Fergie during her final weeks of pregnancy and has it set in yet that you’re going to be a dad?
Duhamel: Yeah. There’s a lot of anticipation going on at the Duhamel house right now. It’s pretty exciting. I’m mostly impressed with how gracefully—she’s just been awesome throughout this whole thing. She’s taken really good care of herself. She’s happy. She’s in great spirits. She looks beautiful. And I’m just really proud of her more than anything and I’m really excited about meeting this little dude. I can’t wait.
Q: What was your reaction when you first saw your hair cut in a Mohawk?
Duhamel: This was another big reason I wanted to do this movie because I got to have a Mohawk. How many chances am I going to be able to do this in my life? It looked pretty gnarly but it’s like a man walking around with a handlebar mustache. You get a lot more respect. My buddy, for the Buddy Game Weekend last week, he came with this full handlebar mustache that he’d dyed black. He said, “You wouldn’t believe how much more people respected me at the airport. They didn’t give me any s*** with my ID. They said, ‘Here you go. Thank you, sir.’” And it’s the same thing with a Mohawk. It automatically commands respect. Anybody with a Mohawk is a little bit out of their mind so therefore people may be a little more lenient.
Q: Did you actually cut it on camera or did you have a hair stylist do it off-camera?
Duhamel: It would have taken us all night to cut it with those tiny little scissors. In the movie we had all night (to cut it), but for shooting purposes we had to cheat a bit.
Q: What was Fergie’s reaction to your haircut?
Duhamel: She loved it. She really loved it.
Q: Your wife looks great. She didn’t put on a lot of extra weight during her pregnancy. How did she do it?
Duhamel: She exercises a lot and she has these juice drinks.
Q: What was it like working on this film on location in Death Valley?
Duhamel: For the most part, we were pretty lucky in this movie. It wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. It was 75-85, and sometimes it got to 90 (degrees). Then there were moments when it got really scary. There were moments when there were dust storms and the barometric pressure dropped and it would go from 75 to 36 degrees before lunch. So we couldn’t go back to work because (you couldn’t see anything). But it actually worked in a lot of places for the movie, I thought. I remember the grave-digging scene, where I was digging (Fogler’s) grave. We were worried that it wasn’t going to match to what was happening in the scene before but then we thought the mood of it is sort of great because I’m digging a grave. This is almost perfect weather. You couldn’t have asked for this. It would be very expensive to try and do it in a big-budget movie. So it really worked for us in a lot of ways.
Q: Was it warm in the hole you dug?
Duhamel: It was supposed to be warm in there but it was actually bone chilling.
Q: When Mitchell makes his confession about how miserable he is in his marriage and how much he hates being a father, was that tough?
Duhamel: Yeah, it was difficult for me. I actually asked the (directors) “Do we have to keep this in the movie? I feel gross even saying it.” But it was one of those moments where this character was really sort of stuck in life and was at a point where he didn’t know if he’d made the right decision. He’d actually gotten in his head, and it’s true, that this guy doesn’t really know if he made the right decision. Does he really love his wife? Does he love his life? And he says some things that are pretty unredeemable, in a lot of ways. And that was my worry, like, “Do we keep this? Have we gone too far?” But that’s what this movie is and that’s why I did it because it’s a brutal, honest look at two guys who are trying to figure out whether or not they’re ever going to achieve the things they set out to when they were younger. And if they don’t, is that OK.
Q: How was it working just with Dan?
Duhamel: We really needed the rehearsal for this. It was imperative to make this movie work. If we hadn’t had this kind of time to rehearse—and I was on the movie first—when I first met the Goetz brothers, we knew the only way this movie would work is if we found somebody who understood the amount of work it would take to pull it off because it’s a lot of dialogue in the beginning so it took a guy like Dan to understand that and jump in and do that kind of work that it took. When I read (the script), I knew I had to do this movie. I’d never had a chance to do something like this. I’d been looking for something like this. It was scary (too) because it pretty much on our shoulders the whole time, and we had to bring this movie about two guys stuck on the side of the road to life. That was the challenge. Working with (the Goetz brothers), whom I think are incredibly talented was great. I met them early on and they had the same ideas and more than I did. They were brave enough not to try and overshoot it. It reminded me of a movie from the ‘70s, where they didn’t need to do that much crazy camera stuff. They just kind of let it play out. A lot of times, directors just want to show off how creative they can be with the camera but these two were confident enough in their own ability that they didn’t need to show that.
Q: How long did you keep the Mohawk?
Duhamel: I just let it grow. I never cut it. (Fogler’s) got another movie coming out called “Don Peyote” (that he’s directing me in), and he said, “Dude, did you cut your Mohawk yet?” And I said, “No.” It’s kinda weird looking, because my hair grows straight out of my head so I looked kinda like a baby chicken—you know, because they’re hair’s all fuzzy. That’s what mine does. Then I had this long sort of (ponytail). So (Fogler) had me come in and do this cameo in his movie. I look like a freak (in it). Let’s be honest. It’s a crazy movie; but it’s good. You need to smoke a lot of weed and then watch it.
Q: Have you ever gotten lost or stranded in real life? What did you do about it?
Duhamel: I had a close one. It was a completely different situation, obviously. I was in North Dakota. I was a high school kid. It was me and my buddy, one of my oldest friends. I was on my way out to my girlfriend’s house at the time—she lived out in the country and there was a snowstorm—and I remember going on this gravel road during a blizzard. We were going over this (ramp) and as we came down, the car started sliding off into a ditch. Had we tried to get out to go walking, we never would have made it. It was too far (to the house). It was completely black out there. It took us about an hour to get the car out. It was an old ’77 LTD. It was (the size of) a boat—not an off-road vehicle. We were finally able to get it out. I don’t remember how we did it but had we not, I don’t know what we would have done. There were no cell phones at the time. I was so brave, though!
Q: What’s next for you?
Duhamel: Right now it’s baby time. So I’m going to be home. Then, I’ve got a bunch of projects that are in development that we’re producing, my company, which I’m really excited about. So it’ll give me some time to be home for that. I just finished a movie called “Strings,” that I shot in Winnipeg, and a movie with Hilary Swank that should come out later this year called “You’re Not You.”
Q: What’s the name of your production company?
Duhamel: Dakota Kid Productions, which is on this movie. This is the first movie I was ever a producer on. (He raises his arms in victory.)