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Hitching a ride with Sophia

The Hitcher, which opens Friday, is a remake of the 1986 cult classic. However, as the star of the film – One Tree Hill’s Sophia Bush – says, it’s a very different movie from the original.

Bush plays Grace Andrews, a college senior on a road trip with her boyfriend. When they pick up hitchhiker John Ryder (Sean Bean), also known as “The Hitcher,” their trip becomes a struggle for survival.

The Oracle: How did you feel about making a remake? And did you see the original film?

Sophia Bush: You know what’s funny is when the original picture came out, I was still at a point where my parents weren’t letting me see movies like that. I was young enough that they didn’t quite want me exposed to that sort of material. And when I read the script initially, I didn’t know we would be updating a film that had been made – I was just so shocked about how great it was on the page and by the intensity of all the action.

When I went into my meetings, I was amazed that everyone was talking about the original. (I) immediately went out, bought it and it’s still in its plastic wrap, because I thought at one point I said that I don’t want to see (the original) movie because I don’t want to feel like I am walking in someone else’s shoes.

We’ve updated the film completely. We definitely pay homage to the original. It is, like I said, a cult classic and such a great movie, and so many people are so passionate about how they felt about it. But at the same time I figured, you know, once our movie is done and I’ve seen our movie, then I’ll go back and watch their movie because we are definitely throwing a lot of nods their way. But we did update the film a lot to change quite a bit of it to make it fit in with today – to make it something that people are going to enjoy and still be shocked by – instead of something that can be predicted at every moment because it’s a moment-to-moment remake. That’s not what we wanted to do.

Oracle: How did you prepare for the scenes in which you had to act terrified? Did you have a process into getting into the scared mode?

SB: Definitely. There is a real challenge in making a film like this when it’s an absolute emotional roller coaster. It’s not just a scream kind of movie, where you are running around screaming your head off – it’s very mental. The film is very mental, very psychological, and it is difficult for three months to be keeping yourself at a heightened state of trauma 12 hours a day.

There is a bit of a see-saw effect with that, because you got to pick it up for a scene and then wait while there is a complete camera and lighting change, or wait for a company move or anything that might take you out for a while. I think there definitely becomes a trigger, but a lot of it would really just be prompted by the film. It’s pretty hard not to get upset when you’re thrown around quite violently by police officers and you are covered head to toe in blood and you are bruised and battered and your body is aching. I think every actor’s process is different, but a lot is about tapping in what’s happening for me.

Oracle: How do you balance being a regular of a television series and making movies?

SB: I haven’t been on a vacation in four years, and I am finally at that point where I would like to take (one) maybe. I need to take a month off once the show is done and just kind of relax. But at the same time, I’m a workaholic and a perfectionist. I have to watch something that I’ve done at least three times before I can actually watch it because the initial reaction is, “That wasn’t really spot on” (or) “That was 98 percent.” Where is the missing 2 (percent)? I don’t feel like that was awesome yet. I really get a rush working and I really, really love it. I hope to be working on films till the day I die, but there comes a time definitely when you hit a point you just want to relax. I think me and the dog and the people who are closest to me (who) I value most will probably do something really fun in April for a little while.

Oracle: What are you going to take away from the experience of filming this movie?

SB: Everything. It was such an exceptional time for me, and one of those things I know – it’s something that sits in my gut – I know that for the rest of my career this will still be one of the things that I hold as one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Our crew was so exceptional; they were all so talented and so good at their jobs.

To see the amount of action and the amount of sheer stuff we packed into this movie was unbelievable; the cars we crashed, the things we destroyed, the things we blew up – it was such a massive scale. We had a huge special-effect shot with a couple of cars one day. We flipped a car in a way I never thought a car could be flipped, and it landed on a camera and the shot is in the movie – it makes the movie. This car is coming right at you, and it goes black for a split second and then cuts back to the action and (then) goes black (again) because we dropped a car on a camera.

It was completely insane and unbelievable. We are doing a high- speed chase and there is a police helicopter flying so low that it is bumping the top of the cars, and I’m looking up and the helicopter guys are like, “Isn’t that awesome?” (And) I’m like, “This is just crazy.”

It was amazing to be on a movie just of that scale, but it’s a very rare thing when you get to exercise yourself as an actor in a lot of different lights in a film where most people assume it’s going to be of a certain genre, but when you mix in some romance and the suspense and the trauma and the fear and that pulse-pounding adrenaline that comes from the speed of the movie that comes from you kind of pulling yourself at the edge of your seat, it’s amazing.

It was one film, but really all across the board for me as an actor. I really enjoyed all the people that I worked with, and I really enjoyed the person I got to play. There was a lot depth to Grace – that’s why I don’t really feel like she is like anybody I’ve played in the past because here she is, your happy-go-lucky senior in college – definitely a feminine girl – but she’s got a little bit of that “guys’ girl” (attitude) in her.

She can hang out with her boyfriend in his old classic car that he is in the middle of fixing up and she kind of gives him hell for it, but she is completely appreciative of it at the same time. Here’s this girl who’s so carefree and seems so happy and seems self-assured, but has never actually been tested. And when you are put into a situation (where), for the first time in your life, you’re either going to rise up on the situation you are being put into, or be crushed. I think it’s a pretty amazing emotional test, playing with all the levels – it really was an emotional rollercoaster.

It’s very interesting going on a rollercoaster ride when it’s not in chronological order – when on the first day of shooting you are shooting the third to last day of the movie, and the next day you are back to the second day. You got to map out the trajectory and stay with it, but also be prepared to change it at any moment because of what’s coming at you in a scene that you didn’t predict. It was a very intense but really beautiful experience shooting this movie.