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Friday, August 4, 2023

‘The Passenger’ – Director Carter Smith Brings Complex Characters to His New Road Trip Thriller [Interview]

Carter Smith (The Ruins, Swallowed) is back this week with the new thriller The Passenger, the latest collaboration between Blumhouse and MGM+.

Releasing on Digital and On Demand today (August 4), the film, written by Jack Stanley, stars Johnny Berchtold (Gaslit), Kyle Gallner (Scream, Smile), and Liza Weil.

“The film follows Randolph “Randy” Bradley (Berchtold) who is perfectly content fading into the background, but when his coworker Benson (Gallner) snaps and goes on a violent killing spree, he’s forced to face his fears and confront his troubled past in order to find a way to survive.”

For The Passenger‘s release, Bloody Disgusting spoke with director Carter Smith about the intense thriller and the challenges of creating an emotionally charged chamber piece.

The Passenger car

Beginning our chat, Smith highlights the central relationship between main characters Randolph and Benson that drew him to Jack Stanley’s script.

“I mean, that relationship, I found so fascinating and so ripe with just juicy stuff to dig into. I read it for the first time, and halfway through, I was rooting for Benson and wanting him to somehow be okay. That made me a little uncomfortable, leaving me a little like, ‘I don’t know how I feel about this.’ And when you get a reaction like that, that’s like a punch in the gut, a twist. I thought, ‘This is something that I think would be fun to dive into and explore.'”

Smith continues, “I saw myself in Randy as a weird high school outcast kid. And at one point, I felt, ‘Well, I wish someone like Benson had just come and kidnapped me and taken me for the day. Wait a second. That’s so wrong and weird,’ but then, it was also true.

“It all starts with Jack’s script. He wrote a beautiful script with incredible characters that are just fully fleshed out, which often is not the case. Often, you’re struggling to make them real, but luckily, it was on the page from the beginning. But with Benson, I knew that he had to be frightening, terrifying, and then on the turn of a dime, charismatic and charming and this weird big brother figure that was exactly what Randy had never had. Finding the balance between the two of them and trying to make sure that they’re both in the same world, that Benson wasn’t big and over the top, and then Randy’s super understated. I wanted to make sure they both felt grounded in the same way.

Gallner and Berchtold deliver compelling, layered performances that blur the moral lines. Carter reveals that Gallner was adamant in ensuring his character wasn’t a one-note villain.

“One of the things that Kyle was really interested in, I mean, all of us, Johnny and Kyle and I, was the intimacy of what develops between them. It’s emotional intimacy. They’re in this car together. And every time Kyle would reach up and touch Randy’s neck. I mean, it only happens a couple of times, but it is so powerful and strangely touching. I loved that Kyle would come up with that kind of stuff because it would be easy to paint Benson as a crazed, raving, one-note type bad guy. What Kyle did was so much more interesting than that.

The Passengers

Gallner, Bertchtold, and Weil

The Passenger is a self-contained thriller with limited set pieces, taking place in or around Benson’s car as he drags Randy along his violent spree. When asked whether having little place to hide in terms of visual storytelling presented challenges or was creatively liberating, Smith broke down his approach.

The filmmaker explained, “There’s something really nice about the fact that the whole thing takes place in less than 24 hours. It takes place in real-time. And for a lot of the film, they’re in that front seat of that car together. Yes, it’s challenging, but it just forces you to approach scenes, moments, stories and beats a little bit differently and talk about how things evolve, the visual language of it, but also whatever relationship is blossoming between them, what the progression is.”

The Passenger is now available on Digital and VOD outlets.

The post ‘The Passenger’ – Director Carter Smith Brings Complex Characters to His New Road Trip Thriller [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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