HIT AND RUN
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."
HIT & RUN Production Notes Page 4 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
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."
HIT & RUN Production Notes Page 5 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
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
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."
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