In The Last Ride, young actor Jesse James – not to be confused with the outlaw or the reality TV personality – plays the teenager who takes to the road with ailing country music legend Hank Williams. It’s a flick about a larger-than-life musician and thus filled with great music, but it’s also a character-driven story, too. BFTV recently talked with Jesse about making The Last Ride and what he wants audiences to take away from the trip.
“It’s not your typical biopic,” he explained. “It is about Hank Williams’ last days, but it’s Hank Williams’ last days seen through the eyes of this 19-year-old mechanic who’s been hired to drive him to this New Year’s Eve show. Hank is very sick and at the end of a long, infamous career. It’s this very specific last three days of his life. The driver doesn’t know who he is, the driver doesn’t particularly care for music, he’s never been outside of his own state, he doesn’t have any dreams or ambitions.”
Did playing a true story change Jesse’s approach to the work? “It did a little bit,” he said. “When we first started out, the actual gentleman that drove Hank back then, he was okay with us making the movie. He sort of laid low after the whole thing happened, because people were sort of nasty and accused him of having something to do with [Hank’s] death. I wanted to be aware and sensitive of the real person. He asked us not to use his name, which was fine with us, because it gave me a little more creative life to sort of make the character my own.”
“I had so much fun making this movie,” continued the actor, whose next project to be released is the horror film Dead Souls for the Chiller network. “I’d never been to Arkansas before and I got to spend a lot of time in the south. Everybody [on] the crew was local there. Everybody was just so down to earth and sweet and kind and at the same time professional.”
But there’s one part of The Last Ride that was a little problematic: “The car just didn’t ever work,” he told us with a laugh. “There were always problems with the car. Harry Thomason, the director, he was never afraid to get underneath the car to try to fix it.”
Yet the finished product is a movie that Jesse – who listens to country legends like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, and is himself a guitar player – is ultimately very proud of. “The soundtrack’s fantastic. I’m always proud of the soundtrack. They really put together some amazing music that gets me every time I watch the film. The use of music I really enjoy,” he said, praising Benjy Gaither, who provided the film’s tunes. “And Henry [Thomas]’s portrayal of Hank is just hypnotic. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
“I hope that people come away thinking maybe a little differently of Hank,” Jesse added. “Hank has such a notorious reputation for being such a wild man and having such a tumultous life, and this takes sort of a quieter look at him.”
The Last Ride is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD; a trailer for the film is below. You can also keep up with Jesse on Twitter (@JesseJamesActor).
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.