Sahara on the Road

by December Lambeth on April 8, 2005

in Film News & Trailers

Experience a road trip with Matthew McConaughy. While he was camping in high style near Kansas City, Matthew took a break at a picnic table to talk to some local critics about his most recent adventure in Sahara.

Sahara
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What’s it like to be Matthew’s travel partner?

First of all you will be traveling in class. A fully loaded Streamline camper with wireless internet, satellite television, electrical generator, gas bar-b-q grill, fridge, stove and a shower. You will get up bright and early, possibly woke by a Jehovah’s Witness or an interesting character camping nearby. While riding along the open road you will be plenty entertained by the faces of shock and surprise from the people passing by. The fellow travelers can’t believe that Matthew McConaughey is actually driving the truck and trailer himself. While in the cab you can listen to the ramblings of ideas has he records his thoughts into a mini-recorder or sit back and groove with the sounds of James McMurtry and the Heartless Bastards, Dennis Brown, Hishka, or Willie Nelson. Stopping at gas stations are always a treat meeting new people, shaking hands, and signing autographs. Can’t leave out the fishing, nature hikes, and gatherings around the fire at night.

For more details be sure to check out his journal at MTV.com and read about his six week experience.

Matthew McConaughey has been touring around with his Streamline all decked out in Sahara glory. He is camping out and visiting with the people; promoting what he truly believes to be an awesome action adventure comedy success. A group of local press met up with him at Basswood Country Inn and RV Park in Platte County. Honestly, I think most of us here in the midwest were a little shocked to see such a big named talent come talk to us about his film; we don’t get a lot of attention here. After meeting Matthew dressed in jeans and work boots, looking as if all he was missing was a fishing pole and some bait, it’s easy to see why he’s out meeting the people. He’s a laid back easy going country boy, who loves his job and believes the best way to be good at what he’s does is to live it. We sat around three picnic tables watching and listening to a very animated and proud actor about his upcoming and future adventures with Sahara. What follows is a talk he gave to local reporters…

Matthew: The road trip was all my idea. I wanted to do a little camping and I thought why not promote Sahara while I’m at it. Something different than interviews in a stuffy hotel room or tight conference spaces, instead interviews in the wide open. I called up the studio execs at Paramount and presented my idea. I don’t think they took me serious, so I called them back the next day just to remind them to get the advertising up and going on the Streamline camper. From there Gus Gustawes (Executive Producer) and I looked over a map and pick the first spot and off we went.

The first spot turned out to be Daytona where I went to the Grand Marshals from there it was just common sense that we would head northeast from Orlando to Atlanta, Nashville, Virginia, Maryland, Baltimore, College Park, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver and then to Los Angeles for a junket in which we will be in that hotel room; the truck and trailer will be parked right out front. Then from LA to Austin, back to LA where we will pull up to the premier on the fourth of April and get out of the trailer and walk straight onto the red carpet.

I’ve done many cross country trips before, but not with my Streamline. Last year I drove from Los Angeles to Florida and back up thru Colorado and thru Kansas City and back for about a forty day trip, for my own pleasure just my dog and I. So this ones a bit of the same, because my lifestyle is how I’m making my living and vice versa, just minus the dog. He got cancer last year and passed away after the last trip. It’s what I like to do, I’m able to get out, see new faces and new places; having little Bar-B-Qs like this or Grand Marshalling in Daytona, to hitting military bases and college campuses to premier the film. Even pulling over and getting gas at the truck stop is exciting, getting to meet truckers and passing out hats and T-shirts. That’s what it’s all about, living life not just mimicking it on screen. The people pull up beside us and see what it’s all about and then the biggest kick they get is to see that I’m driving.

Being the Executive Producer on Sahara comes with responsibilities, I want the film to be successful and the best way to do that is get it out to the public. Let them know what it’s all about and show them I am just as excited about promoting the film as I am about the film. If you have a vested interest in something, either personal or financial you want it to work.

Sahara started with me about seven years ago; I went to Clive Cussler (author of the book) and started lobbying for the part of Dirk Pitt. I went to his home in Colorado and went to see him two more times in Arizona and finally got his approval and at the same time the script and the finances just came together. So I was involved with it for a long time. I didn’t actually produce Sahara, but the legwork, now that I was doing. Did I actually sell it, no; but I put a great deal of work and research into the part. As an actor for hire, yes I go do pre-production work for myself; my job is to show up and give the best performance I can, and not complain about sandstorms and long days on the set.

Many sit downs were conducted talking about the tone of the script, the creativeness of the story; is it an action adventure and a comedy or is it an action comedy with adventure? Let’s talk about humor, does it have a lot of humor in it? So what’s the humor and where does it come from? Is there a sitcom episodic event coming from each scene? Does the humor come from jokes in each scene or is it in the meeting of interesting characters and the irony that happens along the way and the way they react to similar and complete different situations. We agreed it was the latter.

We talked about wanting Sahara to be a franchise picture and we’re going to do more than one film; it would be smart to make more than one since there are multiple books. Whether you’ve read the books or not you need to have the feeling of what the book is about, not that the characters just met for the first time and now they are saying goodbye at the end of the film; but they have been on 20 or so adventures before this and we’ll be on 20 or so adventures after this. This way the audience will have the familiarity amongst the characters and their relationships seem more genuine and real.

After the tone of the script and the way the characters were to be betrayed we started talking about casting, it’s very important part to pulling off the belief that these characters know each other and have a history. That’s who returns every time in every book. I’ve been a fan of Steve Zahn for a long time; I would see him in a film and would want to see more. We sent him a letter and the script, he loved it and it was on after that; he plays the Dirk’s child hood body and sidekick Al. The casting of Penelope Cruz was one of the first things we talked about, there is an international lineage to these stories; it’s not just an adventure down here within the states, it’s always off in some exotic land. We thought Penelope would add just the right touches to Eva Rojas, World Health Organization official.

All this time we were bringing in writers trying to make the script better, building the action and strengthening the story. The best thing I knew to do was to look at what’s really working and if you shine a light on what’s really working, tone, humor, action, logic so on then you are making a better script already. Then you start looking into the things that bug you about the script and decide wether to fix or scrap those parts. Of course all of this means long meetings with writers. It’s funny how you can sit and talk about parts of the scripts and send them off to write and it comes back almost if you had been sitting in a whole other meeting.

As an actor it’s my job to show up on set on time and do my job, that’s just who I am and part of my work ethic. If you show up and contribute 110%, it makes it easier on the director, producers, and everybody involved. A good actor works hard and works long; being the lead actor whose there everyday, getting the call sheets, setting the tone, being glad to be there, not gripping because the sand storms are coming because what are you going to do about it anyway? Trying to find solutions to challenges instead of sitting back gripping about them, it’s the best way to contribute and making a film successful. Everyone’s out there, you’ve got a circus of over 300 people and everybody’s trying to get it made. You’re all on an adventure anyway so let’s do our homework on pre-production and on production follow the plan, but also loosen up a bit and let the magic happen that we didn’t plan on. Would I be out here doing this if I wasn’t an actor? Maybe, maybe not I don’t know.

Now that casting, writing, producers and team members are picked and primed, we go to location. I had traveled to Mali before this film and had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Ali Farka Toure, an African bluesman. While there, I met a guy who was a brilliant guide, he and I took off hiking; we camped out and stayed out there for two and half weeks. We would come across a tribe every week or so. First you meet the chief-who met you at the property line, look you in the eye and if he liked what he saw, he’d give a soft handshake and you’d come in. While there you receive the hospitalities of a mattress on the roof, a cooked chicken and they walk you down to the cleanest part of the river so you can bathe and wash your teeth while they keep an eye out for you. There you are, don’t speak any of the language, but all of a sudden after two weeks of it, you’re getting every joke and who the joke is directed towards. You can’t help but find that common rhythm that’s the common denominator of mankind. I was there for three weeks. It was nice to be familiar some what familiar with the location we were to be shooting the film.

Now onto the fun part, STUNTS. I probably did a little bit more than the insurance company wanted me to do. Doing some of the stunts myself adds to the fun and buzz of being an actor. I like to play sports, but on a film like this it’s not what you typically think of a sport. On any given day I could be leaning back horizontally to the ground doing 40 mph across the desert and that’s the buzz; that’s the extreme sport of it all. If I’m not focused and in good shape everywhere else, stretched out etc., I could get hurt. Racing the camels at 40 mph against a train and driving a speed boat in and out of places was awesome. That’s what I call, getting paid to be 8 years old, why do you think I love my job?

As for making a second to Sahara, well we are not sure yet. We would love to make another, but it all depends on April 8th. Sahara opens up in theaters at noon and by midnight we’ll know if Dirk will be heading out on his next adventure into the unknown. But on that night we’re just going to sit back and let it ride.

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