Actor Emile Hirsch is glad he took a chance on producer Randall Emmett, who made his directorial debut on the crime drama Midnight in the Switchgrass. The film follows an FBI agent and Florida State officer team up to investigate a string of unsolved murder cases. Hirsch plays Byron Crawford, a detective who's also on the case. I spoke with the star about his relationship with the producer-turned-director, playing a spiritually-driven detective and filming during the pandemic.
Why Emile Hirsch Came on Board to Midnight in the Switchgrass
"It always starts with the script for me, and I'd known Randall for years," the Trollhunters star said. "He produced a few films I was in, and I always liked him, and we're friends. When he said he wanted to direct [the film], I was pretty serious because I really liked the script and the character [I play]. When we did the read thru, Randall told me he wanted Megan Fox and Bruce Willis, and he had this whole vision for it. I just was like, 'You know what? Let's go for it.' It was a little bit of a gamble on Randall because he's a first-time director. My instinct told me that he was going to be able to kind of direct and do a good job of it, and I think I was right." In the film, Fox's character Rebecca goes undercover to try to stop the killer who's been known to frequent trucking areas. Hirsch wanted more from Byron than what he sees frequently depicted on television.
"The big thing was the spirituality of the character was not playing him like a normal gumshoe detective who is like he doesn't believe in anything," the actor said. "He's this atheist dude, and the job is kind of made him so jaded that everything is meaningless, he's lost and was this alcoholic, cigarette smoke haze. I've seen that character a lot. It's kind of hard and out, down and out, detective. I wanted Byron to have the kind of spiritual foundation and make him like a really Christian guy. He and his wife are a team, and they kind of uplift each other and to kind of make him the flipside of between the evil and make him the good side in the movie. I wanted to kind of make it almost like a spiritual warrior in a way. It's because I hadn't really seen that done recently. It felt like a kind of a fresh take on that kind of crime detective thing." For Midnight, he channeled the Coen Brother's 2007 classic.
"I got into a fight like in No Country for Old Men with that final monologue by Tommy Lee Jones had at the end of the movie, we were just talking about all the dark, all the black, and green," Hirsch explained. "Then he woke up and having that character, wrestling with these philosophical questions about meaning and existence. I was like, 'That's kind of cool.' Let's have Byron kind of echo some of those flavors within his own religion. He's questioning his faith and because he's just seeing horrible things on the job like, 'How can how can this be?' That's when his wife comes in; she gives him that extra reminder and sustenance to kind of keep going. I like seeing the two of them work together is like a really positive team."
Hirsch also credits past work like 2013's Lone Survivor playing Navy SEAL Danny Dietz and what he already learned from that and the true-crime documentaries he seen role going into the Lionsgate film. The actor also credits Emmett for going above and beyond what would be expected of a first-time director. "I would say [Randall's set] was pretty structured," he said. "It wasn't overly fast and loose to where I was like, 'Oh man, this is just like we're just spilling water out left and right here.' Like it was relatively controlled, but I still felt like there was room every day in all the takes to find something or to come to the table with a different idea, and he would be responsive to it. We really set about to kind of execute the scenes as written as best as we could, but I didn't feel like we were rushed too much to where we couldn't find some layers that weren't necessarily there right away." The actor credits the director's pose despite the delays caused by the pandemic.
"We shot for five days before the shutdown on March 13th," Hirsch explained. "Everything shut down. We flew back, and we tried to go back in July. There were COVID cases, so we had to shut down again. We were back in Puerto Rico for like two weeks. We didn't even shoot anything. The movie shut down the second time. We didn't go back until September to finish the movie, and we didn't even go back to Puerto Rico. We went to stay in Northern California, like all the way out there to a ranch, and it was wild. It was like six months later in March, April, May, June, July, August. Yeah, it was seven months later when we were finishing the film." Written by Alan Horsnail, Midnight in the Switchgrass also stars Lukas Haas, Caitlin Carmichael, Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly), and Sistine Stallone. The film comes out on July 23 in theaters, on-demand, and digital, and on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27.