“We had directions for an ending that would have made the film a black comedy. But when I got on set that morning, I started to change my mind. I thought of a new idea,” the director said.
Hellman was speaking in a KVIFF masterclass supported by Screen and moderated by Vox Humana’s Gideon Bachmann.
That idea involved a photo of his lead actress taken two years before, which was Photoshopped and printed that day and became an image that was in the final shot of the film as well as the film’s poster. “That radically changed the movie and it became a different kind of movie.”
One other change he made from the script of Road to Nowhere was shooting a 14-minute take of what was only one line in the script. It appears in the finished film as a scene of about 5 minutes. “I wanted to tell the audience, ‘this is not a music video, just relax and let this movie happen.’ This one shot has the sole purpose to tell everyone to slow down.”
He said Road To Nowhere — a neo-noir about a film director and a mysterious young actress — was his most collaborative film yet, thanks the the trust from his cast of Shannyn Sossamon, Dominique Swain, Tygh Runyan, Waylon Payne and Cliff de Young. “Everyone who makes a film is a control freak, but for some reason this time I wanted everyone to participate in a collective subconscious experience and try to shut off our brains and let things happen. Extraordinary things happened, the scripted morphed, it became something different, not in a deliberate way, in a subtle way.”
Road To Nowhere, which premiered at Venice last year, marks the first of Hellman’s films that he hasn’t edited himself. “I used to be the fasted editor alive on an upright Moviola, I was usually standing with my foot on the pedal. But since the advent of computer editing I’m not so fast at that. He had his collaborator Celine Ameslon edit the film. “I don’t regret it, I thought I was a really good editor, but she’s better,” Hellman said.
The California-based director also shared his unorthodox views on working with actors, saying “The only thing I ever told actors is don’t act. The actor shouldn’t become the character, the character has to become the actor. That’s how we have movies stars,” he said, adding, “Gary Cooper wasn’t making himself into someone else.”
Of his career, Hellman said: “I think what i’m trying to do usually is make what I think of as studio/Hollywood/A movies on a Z-movie budget. The producer thinks I’m making an exploitation movie and in my mind I’m making Gone With The Wind.”
Hellman said that Road To Nowhere, like his past films and hopefully his future films, is “about the difficulty of intimate relationships. That’s the only thing that interests me.”
As he presents his latest film Road To Nowhere in Karlovy Vary, American cult director Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop) revealed that his plans for the film changed on the day he shot the final scene of the film.