We’ve all, at one point or another, experienced road rage, whether it be as the giver or the receiver. Road rage, as defined by Wikipedia, is “aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by motorists. These behaviors include rude and offensive gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted towards another driver or non-driver…”. In Derrick Borte’s latest thriller UNHINGED, we see this behavior amplified when a highly unstable man goes after a woman who honks at him at while at an intersection.
For the release of the film, I had the chance to speak with director Derrick Borte about UNHINGED. During our chat, we discussed everything from the casting of Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius, to filming the car chases, and what he hopes viewers take away from the film.
Hi Derrick, thank you so much for speaking with me today. To start things off, what drew you to this project?
Derrick Borte: I wanted to do something with Solstice Studios and a lot of times it starts with the people and the script. They sent me the script and I couldn’t put it down. It just sort of seemed like a good fit, a good challenge. There were some serious challenges that scared the hell out of me that I felt like, okay, I have to do this. Then I heard we were going to New Orleans during Hurricane Season to make the film which was kind of the biggest red flag (laughs). I thought, okay, now I definitely have to do it, don’t know how this is going to work but I’m going to have to figure it out now (laughs).
The movie features a lot of tight shots as well as a sense of claustrophobia. When it came to creating the look and feel of the film, where did you draw inspiration from?
Derrick Borte: Initially, I started thinking about a duel which, obviously, on the surface added some similarities, but then I started thinking about Russell’s character as the shark in Jaws. We started scouting locations in New Orleans, out in Kenner, where it’s pretty flat and it had that really non-descript white summer sky. I just really wanted it to feel more pressure so we found all those underpasses downtown to go for that kind of rat-in-a-cage trapped feeling. Then all the elements started coming from that, I think.
For the majority of the film, we are watching our two leads chase each other while driving. How was it filming those scenes?
Derrick Borte: I’ll tell ya a funny phrase that I thought really applied just perfectly which is “nightmarish but fun” (laughs). It was very challenging with a car, especially when there’s stunt driving. You got pod cars where the driver’s on the rear so that the actors don’t have to drive. You have some actors that don’t want to use the pod cars and sometimes the pod cars don’t work. There is a combination of all those things along with the occasional green screen car – where you are in a studio and you try to match that to what’s outside. Then, you know, the real stunts in it and trying to make it all match together and cut together to make a movie it’s… just the car work alone was a massive undertaking for this film.
I can only imagine! When I was talking to Caren Pistorius (who plays Rachel) she said it was really hot inside the cars.
Derrick Borte: Because we didn’t want Caren’s character to have a new car and there were certain things we needed in the vehicle, we chose this old Volvo wagon. We got 5 of them and I think the air conditioning only worked in 1 or 2 of them but we used different cars for different things. There were times when she and Gabriel Bateman would be in a car that didn’t have AC and we would have to do a few takes and then get them out into a cooling van to take a break while we reset everything. Hopefully, after the fact now, she feels like it all helped for the performance to feel authentic. It was tricky on a daily basis trying to deal with things like that, for sure.
When it came to casting, what was the process like and did you have Caren and Russell work closely together or did you keep them separated?
Derrick Borte: Initially, Russell was cast first and when it came down to the final choices for the Rachel character, I felt it was important to get them in a room with Russell just to chemistry read in person. I knew they were going to have some scenes where they would have to be in that kind of a space together. It was clear very quickly with Caren once she got into those scenes with Russell in the room and they were reading opposite each other, the chemistry/volatility that really worked in our favor there was really nice. She has this authenticity and sort of “every woman” quality but also has this great strength that she shows in a very authentic way all while being very captivating on camera. She just had this great combination of all these things. That was much more apparent once she was able to read opposite Russell. That’s how the casting process went and beyond that, a lot of their scenes seem like they’re together but they’re not together, they’re on the phone. That’s always tricky for actors to have a reader on the other side of the phone reading to them that’s not the actor they’re playing against. Thankfully, both of them were very generous with each other even on their days off. They would be willing to take a phone call and play the other side of the scene on the phone even if they weren’t on set. All of that worked out nicely and I think they really helped each other bring these characters to life in such an authentic way.
What are you hoping people will take away from the film and do you think it’ll make people think twice before divulging into road rage?
Derrick Borte: I hope that people have a fun, wild ride to begin with. I hope that they just have an escape from what’s going on in the world for 80 minutes at least and take a ride, as a viewer here. Everyone that read the script and some people who have seen the film so far has all said they think twice before honking the horn at somebody now. You never know when you can be just one horn honk away from honking at the wrong person on the wrong day and something really bad happening. If years from now someone looks back at UNHINGED and says it was some catalyst towards a movement of more civility in the world, that would be a pretty awesome thing. Short of that, I hope it’s just a great escape for people to get back to the movies when they deem it safe enough to go.
For more on UNHINGED check out our review here. UNHINGED will arrive in theaters August 21, 2020. (Please make sure that whatever theater you go to is safe and follows CDC Guidelines, social distance protocols, and requires face masks).