Young actresses breaking into film often have to pay their dues in horror movies. The genre tends to provide the most fertile roles for young girls in danger. Sophia Bush doesn’t mind though, because they also allow her to get physical. Considering herself a tomboy, she took her licks on and off the set.

“I kicked a cactus running up a hill,” she shared. “I didn’t have [boots] on, I had my sneakers on. And we’re all trekking up this hill with cameras and all this equipment and just lugging junk. All of a sudden, everybody just hears me like ‘Waaaaa!’ I took my shoe off and it had gone right through my shoe, this big cactus needle sticking out of my toe.”

In The Hitcher, Bush plays Grace, a completely new female lead in the movie. The boy is still Jim Hallsy, but both Bush and the filmmakers wanted to distinguish her from the damsel in distress.

“I think it’ll be interesting to see how that all works out, but what is very different from the first movie, my character is not Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in any way. It’s different from the beginning with the relationship between Jim and Grace. We’re together. There’s major investment there, so seeing a couple at risk I think is a lot more upsetting than seeing two strangers who sort of met by happenstance. Grace is not your whiny sidekick in any way. She’s definitely the heroine and that was what attracted me to it in the first place. There’s not a lot of roles for females to really get to be the hero and to really get to kick some ass. And it’s really fun for me to get to do that. Zach and I have just had such a great time shooting all of these scenes and doing all of this together. It’s been very exciting.”

Though the 1986 Hitcher is a classic, it’s not known for the relationship drama between Leigh and C. Thomas Howell. “That was something that I think bothered everybody about the first movie. Why do you care about the two of them together? They don’t really have a reason to care about each other. With Zach and myself, you enter the movie in the midst of a relationship that is ongoing. It’s great because we spent the majority of our week of rehearsal out here before we started shooting just figuring out the relationship, figuring out the chemistry, figuring out the ways to not have to give any boring exposition, to just be able to show through the scenes and the way that we speak to each other and the looks that we throw and what’s going on between the two of us, to show the history of the relationship and the length of the relationship and to make you really enjoy how much fun these two are together. It’s not just this sickly enjoyable couple. We bicker at moments and we laugh in a lot of moments and it’s just really real. I think that the scenes that begin the film are enjoyable to watch because you just get it. Watching us together you understand it. You see how much we care about one another. I think like I was saying, it gives you a much greater investment as an audience member watching the movie. It’s a lot scarier and there’s a lot more at stake when our lives are threatened. There’s just more at risk.”

Produced by the team that brought us successful remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityille Horror, Bush knew that they wouldn’t ask her to be in a lame horror knock off. “It’s been amazing working with all of them. Brad and Drew have ‘it.’ When people talk about ‘it,’ there’s no definition for it because otherwise there could be an instruction manual and everyone would have it. They have it. They understand what a movie like this needs. They understand how important it is to ground and it’s been so nice to work with them and I think for myself and for Dave [Meyers] the director, to have them being his supervisors because he wants this film to be real. He wants it to be believable. We’ve seen enough horror films. The hero is not going to climb up the stairs in a strange house. There’s no motivation for it. It doesn’t work anymore. Dave has given us incredible license with how deeply he understands the story. Like how much work he put into it before he came here. He just knows what it needs and he gives us the license to change things and feel things out as we go and we’ll start shooting a scene and stop and start reworking it and start thinking about the element that we’re working with and what might make it better or what might make it juicier or scarier or whatever it might be. So sort of the three of them in that triangle have been very incredible because they all have a vision and it’s all very cohesive. Where their differences are, they have discussions that take things even up to the next level so it’s all been very constructive.”

The Hitcher is now playing.

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