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Taking a Joy Ride at Fox

by Daniel Hirshleifer

digitallyOBSESSED recently attended a presentation with Fox SVP of Home Video Peter Staddon, Joy Ride co-writer J.J. Abrams, and producer Chris Moore in L.A.

I found myself in a very nice theater, with plush seats a small screen. Not too small, mind you, but not very large. Eventually Peter Staddon, head honcho of Fox DVD, came in and started pitching us all the wonderful features of the Joy Ride DVD, saying that he felt they provide an intimate view into the world of making movies. He showed us some of the features, such as two of the four alternate endings, and the More Than One Rusty Nail featurette (which is far and away the best and most innovative extra on the disc). Staddon continued, saying that this DVD was something that Fox was particularly proud of.

After this, Staddon introduced one of the film's co-writers, J.J. Abrams, who is probably best known for writing TV's Felicity, and the producer, Chris Moore, who produced the American Pie films and HBO's recent Project Greenlight. The first question asked was about the four alternate endings, all but one of which were filmed. Abrams informed us that the original script had yet another ending that was thrown out almost as soon as production began. Then they discussed why they chose the ending used, saying the filmmakers didn't want to linger on the characters, as it would ruin the tension that had been building. Abrams talked about writing the script, how he was influenced by films like Duel, and then he discussed the kind of projects he would like to make. Both Abrams and Moore agreed that John Dahl did a great job of bringing the film to the screen; they also agreed that Fox was very supportive in letting them pursue every option they wanted to try in order to make the film the best it could be.

When asked if they thought commentaries might eventually be written into actor's contracts, Staddon said that rumors about these things were mostly founded on Arnold Schwarzenegger demanding $10,000 to do a commentary. Moore later joked, "I can't even imagine what an Arnold commentary would be like. 'I look good. That gun was heavy.'" Moore also mentioned that most people who participate on commentaries do so because they have good faith in the film, and it also serves as a way to reminisce, since actors have gone on to do other projects by the time recording session comes around. Staddon was asked if commentaries are ever edited for content, to which he replied that for the most part they're not, unless someone says something that could lead to the studio being sued or, in the case of two people on one track recorded separately, when they're edited to accommodate comments from all the participants. Also, sometimes participants don't like what they said on a first take, or remembered some anecdote that they want to add in, and in those cases, changes are made.

I asked about Steve Zahn, who was easily the best part of Joy Ride. I enquired as to whether Zahn did a lot of ad-libbing. To my surprise, Abrams said that very little of the Zahn's dialogue was ad-libbed, saying, "He's got this incredible ability to take previously written material and just make it spontaneous." He also cleared up how Rusty Nail started tracking the other characters (he sees their car has a CB antenna as he leaves the hotel). Abrams also said he was working on the new Superman, as well as the TV show Alias right now, but he's such a big fan of horror movies that he would love to write more scripts like that in the future.

As I left, I was given a goodie bag full of Joy Ride-related material: a t-shirt, hat, necklace, and a bottle of pink champagne. I thought it was all pretty cute, but the real gift of the day was getting to meet some very funny people.