Tye Sheridan Detour
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, Bel Powley
Director: Christopher Smith
Running Time: 97 minutes
Synopsis: Privileged law student and all round good guy Harper (Tye Sheridan) suspects his stepfather, Vincent (True Blood's Stephen Moyer) of causing the car crash that landed his mother in hospital. Even worse, while she lays in a coma, Harper believes Vincent is cheating on her. Feeling powerless and frustrated he looks to drown his sorrows in a seedy bar and ends up meeting redneck Johnny Ray (Brooklyn's Emery Cohen). A drunken conversation about choices and action takes a sudden turn with Johnny offering to 'take care" of Vincent for a cool $20,000.
A 'cleverly twisty neo-noir thriller" (Variety), Detour takes off when the next morning, a hungover Harper finds Johnny on his doorstep, ready to put their 'plan" into action. He doesn't remember agreeing to the deal but Johnny leaves him no way out. Along for the ride is Cherry (Bel Powley) Johnny's partner in crime.
They head off on the tense road trip to Las Vegas to find Vincent, with Johnny calling all the shots. Or is he? This sinister 'Sliding Doors" takes more than a few surprise turns and will keep you guessing until the very end.
Release Date: June 22nd, 2017
About The Production
Shot in Cape Town, South Africa, Christopher Smith's (Black Death, Triangle) thriller, Detour is directed from his own original screenplay. The exciting lead trio consists of Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen and Bel Powley, three of the hottest young breakout talents to emerge on the international motion picture scene in recent years.
Tye Sheridan was named one of Variety magazine's 10 Actors to Watch in 2014. He first gained the attention of cinema audiences for his critically acclaimed performance in Mud opposite Matthew McConaughey. Tye Sheridan was seen in three films at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival: Stanford Prison Experiment, Last Days in the Desert and Entertainment. Sheridan has recently completed the next film in the X-Men franchise, XMen Apocalypse in the role of Cyclops opposite Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence.
London-born actress Bel Powley played Princess Margaret in Girl's Night Out and was most recently acclaimed for her lead role in The Diary of a Teenage Girl opposite Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig. The Playlist said of her performance, 'for the most part, (it's) the Bel Powley show. This new British discovery is amazingly genuine and the movie rests on the shoulders of her effortlessly charming performance".
For his performance in Brooklyn, Variety called Emory Cohen 'the true breakout in this tale" and dubbed it 'star-making". Cohen previously received widespread attention for his roles in The Place Beyond the Pines, The Gambler and Beneath the Harvest Sky. He was recently named one of Variety's 10 Actors to Watch. He is currently filming War Machine opposite Brad Pitt for Netflix.
Supporting cast includes True Blood's Stephen Moyer and newcomer Jared Abrahamson (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days). Producers are Julie Baines and Jason Newmark. The film is fully financed by Headgear Films with Phil Hunt and Compton Ross also taking producer roles.
Writer/director, Chris Smith said of his cast: 'I've been following Tye Sheridan's career for several years and consider him one of the best young actors working today. I was also lucky enough to see Bel in the theatre recently in London, and was blown away by her performance. I knew immediately that putting them together on screen would create the perfect chemistry for my film. To finish the trio I needed a brilliant actor who could embody the character of Johnny Ray. A volatile, headstrong and savage character, who is also funny and charismatic. Emory had an incredible understanding of the character, and I couldn't be more excited to have him complete our wonderful cast."
The History and Inspiration Behind Detour
Writer/director Chris Smith first had the inspiration for Detour back in 2007 during a trip to LA with Producer Jason Newmark. Disturbia had just been released and he enjoyed its Hitchcockian nature, 'Disturbia had worked well and I loved Strangers on a Train so both were an inspiration for me".
Chris Smith came up with the idea of employing a split narrative where one side of the story is the protagonist choosing to kill, and the other one is choosing not to, 'The concept was very similar to my film Triangle and very me. I love all structural stories. I very quickly came up with the whole body and concept for Detour".
'Chris Smith found the germ of an idea and it took shape very quickly, so quickly I don't think I could even quite keep up with it!" recalls Jason Newmark, 'It evolved into this beautifully structured noir thriller in the space of about an hour-long meeting, which he then refined and then began to pitch around LA during the rest of the time we were there".
Despite interest from one big Hollywood player, lengthy negotiations were halted when the writer's strike kicked in so Smith, Baines and Newmark decided to take the project away from the US and set up development in the UK.
Smith returned to the script for Detour some years later, 'I was ready to write it and I found a character and story that I felt fitted that structure. It had been an idea I'd loved from the start".
Producer Julie Baines was originally introduced to Chris Smith after meeting at a film festival. The horror movie Creep marked their first collaboration through Baines' production company Dan Films, followed by Severance and then Triangle.
For Baines it was worth the wait for Chris to write Detour, as she explains: 'It's totally original and I really love producing films that are a bit different from what everybody else is doing. I love the fact that it's engaging and an extremely intelligent story. The plot structure is quite complex but it works. On Chris Smith' previous film, Triangle, there was a succession of loops of the same story which were played over in different ways so we would unravel the script and roll it back up again to make sure it worked and we've done the same with Detour".
The director/producer relationship for Chris Smith was a supportive and enjoyable one on Detour as he recalls, 'Julie's been brilliant. It's been one of those films where you know there are always things going on behind the scenes, but I didn't hear about them, Julie just let me get on and shoot the movie. I never heard about any problems and I knew Julie was always keeping the war from the door for me".
'I love working with Chris" adds Baines, 'He's got such a fascinating brain, so I always enjoy the process of how he works".
Although Detour is set on the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and down to the Mexican Border, Baines and Smith were aware of the cost implications of shooting in North America: 'We did recce New Mexico which has decent tax incentives but its still part of North America, and although we found it visually interesting, it was still expensive and the idea of South Africa was presented" explains Baines. 'When we recced it, we saw lots of aspects that could easily double for the route that we were taking and quite honestly, is was so much cheaper to work in South Africa, plus the weather's nice! Crews are very experienced because there's a huge amount of production going on there. The whole experience was a pleasure".
Despite the pleasure, as with any movie production, also comes pain as Baines shares: 'I've produced a number of films in different parts of the world and they are always more complicated than what you see on the surface. One of the challenges of being in Cape Town was the fact that fires had been raging in the mountains around where we were shooting, which was extraordinary and terribly sad. That impacted on our shoot and there was also a massive cycle race planned, so we lost our permits for shooting because the police called a last-minute emergency meeting to re-route the cycle race because of the fires. Who could predict that? It's just the nature of filmmaking. As each challenge raises its head, you deal with it".
About the Characters…
Chris Smith is a big fan of the Fritz Lang movie, The Woman in the Window, starring Edward G. Robinson as a university professor who accidentally kills someone then tries to get away with it.
'This character makes all the wrong decisions" explains Chris Smith, 'he's very much a good guy, doing something that's not part of his world. He's an intellectual guy who has entered the world of the bad guys. All the stuff he's got from schoolbooks that he felt he could control, has unravelled. I wanted to create a modern version of that in our story".
'Our lead character, Harper, played by Tye Sheridan, is this very schooled, Ivy League law student, who hates his stepdad Vincent with a passion because he believes he is having an affair, while his mum lies in a coma as a result of a car crash that his stepdad may or may not have orchestrated. He meets this bad guy, Johnny Ray, played by Emory Cohen in a bar and he has the idea, when he's drunk, that maybe this bad guy could murder Vincent. Johnny Ray is this sort of two-bob hoodlum who uses his girlfriend Cherry (Bel Powley) to hustle guys, get them drunk, take them back to her apartment, then when they fall asleep drunk, Johnny Ray robs them".
'Johnny Ray is thinking he could take Harper's money and then he and Cherry could just disappear. He's not really planning on killing anyone. He just realises he could make more money than usual".
'Cherry is looking to get out of the relationship with Johnny Ray. She's just been attacked by a client who didn't fall asleep as planned, and who realises what's happening and he ends up getting killed. This whole incident changes her outlook, she's matured and now believes she wants out of the relationship. It's not gonna be easy getting out of a relationship with Johnny Ray, not least because he's protecting her, although she doesn't know that".
'These are all classic film noir type of characters. All of them have endearing sides and all of them have dark sides, including our lead character, Harper".
About the Casting…
'It was obviously our ambition to get the best names possible for this movie. I've always been a huge fan of Tye Sheridan ever since I saw him in Tree of Life, Mud and Joe. I noticed his amazing ethereal quality", recalls Chris Smith.
Sheridan read the script immediately and loved it. 'You like Harper, the character he plays instantly because he's a thinker. He's a kid with money, who is in law school and he wants to be a defence lawyer. He wants to defend people without money. Harper is a crusader". 'Harper is an idealist. He's a good guy. He's got privilege and being able to work for free, is something that rich people can do that poor people can't. What comes with that is a little arrogance. He's clever and Tye Sheridan brings that to the character beautifully" concludes Chris Smith.
'When it came to casting Cherry, something bizarre happened" shares Chris Smith, 'We heard great things about this actress called Bel Powley. There was a buzz around her film Diary of a Teenage Girl. We had this conversation three months before Sundance and I was like -Really? This girl's a complete unknown'. I looked through her stuff and agreed to meet her and we just had the best hour laughing our heads off. I fell in love with her – she was so perfect for the movie".
'Bel feels girl-next-door, cute and attractive, without being a boring mannequin doll, a pin-up or a stick-insect. She's really attractive and funny, and she's believable as a girl who is a low-rent stripper and hustler, but there is also an innocence to Bel. She just looks really good naturally. Rather like a Sandra Bullock who is really attractive, but not someone you'd stick on a catwalk. They're girl-next-door cute and interesting. She's like Meg Ryan back in the day. These are the actresses who guys can fancy and girls would like to be their friend, they're not jealous of her" notes Chris Smith.
With two of the lead characters in place, the search was on to find Johnny Ray. The start of principal photography was imminent and the production needed someone big enough to complete the trio.
The idea of Emory Cohen was put forward and Smith agreed that the young actor they'd all loved in The Place Beyond the Pines was 'absolutely amazing". Baines immediately arranged to get Smith on the phone with Emory Cohen, 'fortunately he'd read it without an offer and he literally blew me away on the phone. I thought I was chatting to some kid who had grown up in the Bronx! He told me he was gonna be tricky and that he was gonna get right into the character. I then explained that I saw Johnny Ray as a good guy not a bad guy and he totally got it. The character works because of him and because the three leads are so perfectly balanced".
'There are two very distinct sides to the character of Johnny Ray, he's a danger to those around him and he's a danger to himself" notes producer Jason Newmark. 'There's a fractured innocence to his character and we needed an actor who was able to deliver both the dangerous side and the wounded soul. Emory Cohen had blown us away in his role in The Place Beyond the Pines, and we were just over the moon when he read the script and accepted".
'We've been very lucky because of all of them" notes Chris Smith, The Diary of a Teenage Girl turned out to be great and Bel got rave reviews, Emory's now in the new Brad Pitt movie for Netflix, Tye is in the new X-Men movie and both Bel and Emory are on Variety's -Ones to watch' list."
Producer Julie Baines was aware of the complexity of casting the lead trio on Detour because the chemistry between Harper, Cherry and Johnny Ray was absolutely key to the project working. She explains some of the challenges of that process: 'When we first started casting, I'll admit we got it slightly wrong, because we were pitching Harper somewhat older than we have him now. It's ironic really because way back, we envisioned him as an 18 year-old, then we persuaded ourselves that he should be older because we were encouraged to find a big name cast and there were very few 17 or 18 year-old -names'. There came a point last year when we realised we'd got it wrong and that's when we decided to look at Tye Sheridan, who is totally brilliant in everything I've ever seen him in '. This turning point in the casting changed the balance of the cast in a good way and a comment made to Baines by Tye Sheridan's co-star, Jared Abrahamson really resonated with her: 'I was fascinated by what Jared said about Tye Sheridan. He observed that Tye Sheridan is an 18 year-old kid but if you look into his eyes, he's like a 100 year-old man. It's completely true. Tye Sheridan is an extraordinary actor, considering he's only 18. He already has a huge depth of experience, largely because of playing opposite actors like Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. Tye Sheridan is just so natural, you can't take your eyes off him. Watching the rushes every day has been really exciting".
Casting the character of Johnny Ray brought similar challenges as Baines recalls, 'It was crucial that we got Harper and Cherry right before we cast Johnny Ray. We looked at actors in a range of age groups because there were different ways of approaching that role. I know that Chris's process is quite organic, which is what I like about working with him. He will often come up with a different idea and re-write the script accordingly. We could have had Johnny Ray as a young character or as a 40 year-old at a push, but that would have created a totally different character. So, casting him was complicated as there were too many options open to us. Plus, financiers and sales agents are always keen to cast names in order to do pre-sales. Then we found Emory Cohen who is just absolutely stunning. The minute he became available, Chris and I knew he was the right person but we had to convince everyone that our instincts were right! Now that people can see the material, they'll agree. The whole trio are just great together".
The Look, Feel and Style of Detour…
Chris Smith is a big fan of film noir and opted for what he describes as a 'kind of modern noir". His interpretation of noir in Detour is creating characters who are all in an uncertain world, 'they're all facing uncertain futures but I wanted to have a very visual style so we came up with a mood board, looking at films we liked such as David Lynch's work and we had lots of references to faded Americana".
'I'm an English guy, writing a movie about America, and the America that I imagine comes from these film noir movies. The idea of a gas station-diner with rolling tumbleweed is a complete cliché, but it's a cliché that everybody loves. But, those places really don't exist anymore, so the Route 66 Americana road trip movie was hard to create. I'm a huge fan of the classic driving movies like Two-Lane Blacktop and Vanishing Point and they've all got this desert road Americana and that was a big inspiration".
Smith was also drawn to a 1960s/70s retro feel for Detour, particularly French cinema in the 1970s, the work ofJean-Luc Godard, as well as movies like Bullet and Harper, 'A lot of those movies from the 60s had a high colour range, it would be a blue car and a yellow jacket and I really like that look".
'We decided to go for a very balanced formal style because I don't like movies that are so stylized, they don't feel natural. If you see a guy in a movie in a yellow shirt and he walks into a room where's there's a yellow cup, the production designer might think they've done a great job, but for me that feels false. So, we were very careful with our references of real photographers so that it felt designed but organic".
Smith and production designer Sharon Lomofsky had around five weeks of prep time on Detour but luckily they gelled instantly through their passion for the same American photographers as well as the retro feel, as Sharon Lomofsky recalls:
'We looked at a lot of photographs by a core group of people like Steven Shaw, Larry Sarton,Todd Hilter, William Eggleston and Mitch Epstein. We came up with a palette using colour and space in a way that gave the film a slightly period feel, using yellows, blues, greens and pinks in a very gentle but lovely way".
'Harper (played by Tye Sheridan) is the lead character and Harper's magazines and posters became a fixture in the art department, 'we also used the poster from the movie 1966 Paul Newman movie Harper on the set of Harper's bedroom" shares Sharon Lomofsky.
'Colour in the posters is used in blocks and Chris was talking about using split-screen, which is very much of that time. I think one of the ideas as well is that Harper gets caught in his own nightmare so we chose to use a lot of space in a negative way. We didn't fill the frame, we used widescreen and then supported it with an art direction that keeps the space very simple and very plain and not over cluttered" concludes Sharon Lomofsky.
Smith and cinematographer Chris Ross decided to shoot Detour on very wide-angled lenses, 'Chris Ross and me love them. It's got this very strong approach when you film on wide-angle lenses. You have to be really close to the actors faces to get that big, bendy kind of effect so that whole movie is made up of the actors walking around with a camera two inches from their face. That was a new discipline for me and for them. I love the way it looks".
Every movie poses its challenges and for Sharon Lomofsky, a road trip set across America and into Mexico shot in South Africa was her challenge, as she explains, 'When you're shooting in a country that drives on the opposite side of the road, that's a challenge for locations and the art department as we had to block off traffic, switch road signs on major highways, take signs down and come up with the American signage and make it feel natural".
For every major challenge, there are also the highlights and Sharon Lomofsky found the experience of being in Cape Town and working with Chris Smith and cinematographer Chris Ross the major highlights, 'Even though it's been very fast-paced, we've all been on the same page and quite intuitive, and it's always good when you gel as a creative team".
Smith is proud of what has manifested from his original vision for Detour and when it comes to highlights, one of his favourite scenes is between the lead trio in the car where Johnny Ray presses Harper on whether he's attracted to Cherry, saying: 'Do you fancy her because you're defending her?". Johnny Ray is driving and Harper is in the back of the car and Johnny Ray asks him, 'Would you like to fuck her, yes or no?" Harper responds by saying 'I don't wanna fuck her, she's your girlfriend". Johnny Ray then says, 'But if she wasn't my girlfriend, would you want to?". 'I love that scene", says Chris Smith, 'I love the way he pushes that question".
Another highlight for Smith is where 'Bel puts on her southern belle nymph" from the back of the car when they are pulled over by the cop. 'She puts on this little character when she's trying to seduce people. I love that scene".
Much of the feel and style of Detour is a response to Smith's regard and sense of nostalgia for movies that he loved as a teenager in the 1980s like Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct, 'There aren't many movies out there like that anymore" notes Smith, 'they were sexy thrillers and they were made by the studios and I think it's a real shame they don't make films like that now".
As a personal note to his young sons, Chris Smith has incorporated their names into the film, 'Harper is my eldest son and he was born not long after I started writing this so as a little love letter to him, I've called our central character Harper. I didn't want the baddie to be named after our second son, so I've named Conrad's Bar after him instead".
Release Date: June 22nd, 2017