(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
Since tackling more serious material than, say, “Without a Paddle” or “Employee of the Month,” with the excellent indie “The Freebie” and NBC’s solid “Parenthood,” Dax Shepard has noticed that critics like him a lot better. But he hasn’t seen a change in public opinion.
“My most successful movie’s still ‘Without a Paddle,’” says Shepard, whose latest, “Hit and Run,” opens Wednesday. “It’s more successful than ‘The Freebie’ or any [makes air quotes] quote-‘good movies’ I’ve done. And those people didn’t see it because they hated it. They saw it because they love it. So they like me in ‘Without a Paddle’ as much as any ‘Parenthood’ fan likes me as Crosby. So to me it’s like, if I’m making people happy, I don’t have a hierarchy of what’s more important to me: to make people who like ‘Without a Paddle’ happy or people who like ‘Parenthood’ happy.
“Happy people are happy people.”
As star, writer and co-director of “Hit & Run,” Shepard, 37, splits the difference, offering intimate moments between Charlie (Shepard) and his girlfriend Annie (Shepard’s real-life fiancee Kristen Bell) as well as broad comedy, like a hotel room filled with naked elderly people. That encounter occurs when Annie and Charlie, whose dangerous background remains unknown to his better half, must run from the criminals (including Bradley Cooper) Charlie testified against before going into the witness protection program.
At the Park Hyatt, Michigan-native Shepard talked about coming to terms with a significant other’s past, the reason for Cooper’s dreadlocks in the movie and his fiancee’s fixations, both real (sloths) and fake (Taylor Lautner).
I’m interested in the real-life inspirations behind this movie. Most importantly, how much is Kristen actually, as your character says to hers in the movie, distracted by Taylor Lautner?
That’s just an inside joke with her and I. Because we went and saw the “Twilight” movie—I think it’s pretty hilarious that it’s appropriate for 40-year-old moms and their daughters to go and for the 40-year-old moms to be screaming, like, “Take your shirt off, Lautner!” Whereas if a father and son went and saw Kristen Stewart in “Zathura” and were screaming, “Take your shirt off!” guys would end up in jail. I just think it’s a pretty funny paradox that women are allowed to gawk over Lautner. So any time Lautner would be around I’d constantly accuse her of liking Lautner. But she doesn’t really like Lautner. I would always tease her and say she was going to that Lautner action movie. Every time we’d see a billboard I would say, “Oh, there’s your movie, honey. You’re going to be first, opening day, going to that Lautner movie.”
How does she respond to that?
She laughs or plays along and talks about how gorgeous he is and natural he is.
You’ve talked about the relationship between your characters having similarities to you and Kristen, regarding things couples have to learn and understand about each other and their past. Is there a story that you can share that particularly shook up Kristen about yours?
There’s not one specific story, but I was a raging addict for 11 years, so there’s all kinds of terrifying stories within that 11 years. That I find humorous and she finds terrifying. I think at the beginning of our relationship we were coming from such drastically different backgrounds that it was very scary for her to commit herself to a guy with my background and potentially have children with. And I gotta imagine we’re not the only two people in the country that have had that dynamic in the beginning of our relationship. And a lot of friends of mine, they don’t overcome that. They don’t communicate about that, they don’t work through that, and we were lucky enough to do that and I believe she feels very safe with me but that was a process. So yes, this movie explored that, albeit in a car chase movie. [Laughs.]
So you weren’t involved in a car chase when you spilled the beans to her?
No, no, but a lot of those arguments that we have in the movie are very, very similar to ones we’ve had. Just with mildly different specifics.