Dax Shepard, David Palmer & Kristen Bell, Hit and Run

Dax Shepard, David Palmer & Kristen Bell, Hit and Run

Hit and Run

Cast: Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Kristen Bell, Kristin Chenoweth, Tom Arnold
Director: David Palmer
Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance
Rated: MA
Running Time: 100 minute

Synopsis: Starring Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Kristen Bell, Kristin Chenoweth & Tom Arnold, Hit and Run tells the story of former getaway driver, Charlie Bronson, who jeopardises his Witness Protection identity, in order to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles for a 'once-in-a-lifetime' job interview. But things don't go according to plan, and they soon find themselves pursued by the Feds and Charlie's former gang. In addition to starring in Hit and Run, Dax Shepard wrote the screenplay and, in conjunction with David Palmer, also directed.

Release Date: September 6th, 2012

About the Production

Dax Shepard loves two things: his cars and Kristen Bell. Okay, three things - his other car, too.

So when it came time to make his next movie, the Parenthood star decided, why not make one about all three?

Dax Shepard had ventured into filmmaking in 2006 when he and longtime former Groundlings buddy Nate Tuck put together a comedy short called Reunited. "We walked into Groundlings, day one Level 1, fifteen years ago and made each other laugh, as we did every subsequent class," Nate Tuck recalls. "It was love at first sight. And we've been best friends ever since."

The short, which Dax Shepard wrote and directed, about two real estate agents (him and Nate Tuck) tormenting a client with practical jokes, eventually made its way into comedy festivals four years later. But shortly after it was completed, late in 2006, the comedian was already thinking about what was next. "We had this trifecta - Dax Shepard, Nate Tuck and me. A month after finishing Reunited, we were all wondering what we could do together," recalls David Palmer, who shot the short and would co-direct Dax Shepard's next two projects. "He sat me down at the Sunset Plaza and said, 'Listen, I want to make this movie. We're doing it with no money, but I have this idea for a mockumentary.'"

The resultant comedy was Brother's Justice, shot mostly over the next six months and slowly completed over the following three years, premiering at the Hollywood Film Festival in October 2010. The film featured Dax Shepard and Nate Tuck, as they attempted to pitch a poorly-conceived martial arts movie to people like Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Favreau, Tom Arnold and others, all of whom, of course, tell them to take a hike. "It was basically me following Dax Shepard and Nate Tuck around with a camera as they try to convince these people to get involved, and none of them want anything to do with it," David Palmer explains.

The presence of the stars who appeared in the film was no coincidence. "We cast all our friends. We're kind of a little troupe, in some ways."

One member of that troupe was producer Andrew Panay (Wedding Crashers), who had a bit part in the movie, and in whose Employee of the Month Shepard had just appeared. Andrew Panay was impressed with Dax Shepard's movie. "I saw the finished film, and I thought he was a genius," Andrew Panay says. "The three of them are all just great, and Dax Shepard is so gifted."

It was while doing press for Brother's Justice that the idea for Hit & Run was launched. "We kept getting asked what we were going to do next, and we just started saying we were going to do a car chase movie," Dax Shepard recalls. "We had no script or premise - we just knew we loved car chase movies. And because we had said it, we knew we would have to deliver."

Having grown up in Detroit, Dax Shepard was constantly surrounded by automobiles. "My father sold cars, my mother worked for General Motors, and my stepdad was in the Corvette group as a chassis engineer," he says. "So as a kid, I was around a lot of really, really amazing cars. It's my number one passion."

By high school, he had gotten into drag racing, as well as worked at GM himself, where he got in plenty of track time, something quite unique for a 17-year-old. Dax Shepard also made a number of appearances on covers of Motor Trend and Car & Driver. "There were all these cut-outs of me getting sideways'd in Camaros and stuff. You couldn't see it was me, but I had been part of the photo shoot."

One other thing that had made a lasting impression on him was a movie Dax Shepard had seen at the bright young age of five - Hal Needham's Smokey and The Bandit, which, release three years earlier, had been a mammoth hit. Starring Burt Reynolds, the witty Camaro-driving Bandit, accompanied by girlfriend Sally Field, outruns pompous, loudmouthed southern Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), who's constantly on their tail, as Bandit races the law in an attempt to help win a bet.

"At first, I just liked it because of the car stuff," the actor recalls. "But then, as I kept watching it, I started to really, really appreciate the comic genius of Jackie Gleason. My brother and I would ride our Big Wheels and would fight over which of us would get to be Sheriff Buford T. Justice - we'd memorised all his lines. It was a huge, huge part of my childhood," as were other auto-centric movies like Needham's The Cannonball Run and, of course, Steve McQueen's Bullitt.

Eventually, Dax Shepard realised he wanted to make his own Smokey - "Just a little more comedy and a little more 'R,'" he says. Adds Nate Tuck, "I think he set out to do something inspired by Smokey and the Bandit and the car chase movies of old, where it's a fun car chase, just not a dangerous car chase. And with the way Dax Shepard writes, inevitably funny."

Movies offer an audience wish fulfilment, Dax Shepard points out. "We live vicariously through the experiences we see on film. In Smokey, Burt Reynolds has almost a super hero-y freedom, where he's not the least bit afraid of the law and drives however he sees fit. And if you're any kind of respectable American male, the second you get your license, your first thought is, 'Well, I could drive however I want. And if I see flashers, I'll just go for it and run.' That's a fantasy all young boys have had while behind the wheel. So, intrinsically, car chase movies offer a very relatable fantasy, of driving however the fuck you want to wherever you want."

After Brother's Justice, Dax Shepard went back to work on Parenthood, by that time a bona fide hit for NBC. But the car chase idea was not forgotten, especially by Andrew Panay. "Dax Shepard had pitched me on the idea of a car chase movie, and I was just obsessing about it and wanting to do it with him," the producer recalls. Andrew Panay suggested approaching film studios with the idea, prompting Dax Shepard to finally develop a concept, and - just three weeks later, in mid-March 2011 - a completed shooting script.

"We had his treatment, and we went out and pitched it a bit, and Dax Shepard finally wrote the script on spec, and it was just a great script from the get-go," says David Palmer. "The way Dax Shepard structures his storytelling is just brilliant. He spreads various story beats throughout the movie - like the through-line of Randy's (Tom Arnold) gun and the story of his car - that are set up to come together for a terrific payoff by the end of the movie."

Dax Shepard has a tried and true process which is always a winner, he says. "I like to go away and write in a hotel in Palm Springs. I'll go there by myself, and I'll stay for a few weeks and just write." A favourite activity involves, while out eating, picking up local real estate guides and surfing for interesting potential character names. "These real estate agents have hilarious names - they seem to have, like, cartoon names," he laughs.

His own character's monicker, Charlie Bronson, came not from the real estate world - nor, as one might expect, from the film world. "I'm fascinated with criminals, and there was a guy in England named Michael Peterson, this really violent guy, who had changed his name to Charles Bronson," as portrayed by actor Tom Hardy in the 2008 film Bronson. "I thought, 'Hey, it's really funny that that man named himself after Charles Bronson.' And then I thought it's even funnier if a guy named himself after the criminal who named himself after Charles Bronson!"

Charlie Bronson's unusual pre-bank robbery real name, revealed part way through the movie, Yul Perkins, similarly had nothing to do with Yul Brynner or any other movie Yuls, for that matter. "When I was a child, there was a Detroit newscaster named Yul Perkins. He was somewhat of a local celebrity," Dax Shepard reveals.

Creating characters for the rest of the film was not hard for Dax Shepard - they're, for the most part, based on his own friends, who appear in the movie. "One of the most unique things about Dax Shepard is his loyalty to his friends, and, more importantly, to friends that he feels are talented," says Andrew Panay. "Dax Shepard surrounds himself with really smart, great people, and he really believes in them. And I think, because of that, everyone bleeds for the movie and works really hard to make it the best." Says Nate Tuck, "That's the power of Dax Shepard. He has great friends, who are all very talented, funny and loyal, and they love working with him. It was very much a family environment."

The film, in fact, had no casting director. "We didn't cast any strangers," David Palmer explains. "They all got paid SAG scale for a low budget movie - because they all love Dax Shepard. There's a friendship and trust and sweetness about him that just brings everybody together." Notes Dax Shepard, "This was probably the worst work environment that most of these actors have had in years. It was chaotic, but everyone really had a good time."

As for the writing, he says, "I know these people really well, so I tried to make their characters as close to who they are in real life as possible - with the exception of Cooper, who's not a bad guy at all."

Says Andrew Panay, "It makes the film hysterically funny, because all the characters are sincere. It's not a reach for these actors - no one's acting outside their zone. They really believe in what they're saying, they have conviction. And that's the charm of the film."

Casting the Characters
Dax Shepard plays Charlie Bronson - a former getaway driver in a bank robbery gone wrong, who was forced into a witness protection program after testifying against his best friend and accomplice. Charlie Bronson now lives a peaceful existence in a small Central California town with his girlfriend, Annie Bean. But when Annie Bean receives the offer of a lifetime to head a college department in her field at a university in Los Angeles, Charlie Bronson, unwilling to allow Annie Bean to lose out on the opportunity by remaining in hiding with him, decides to leave witness protection and drive her to L.A. himself.

"Charlie Bronson is willing to put himself through the ringer for someone else," says Dax Shepard. "It's ultimately a very selfless sacrifice he makes, and the power of that is huge. It makes him a very, very sympathetic character. Just the simple fact of how many active hurdles he has to jump over to make another human being happy ends up making him very likeable."

But what really makes Charlie Bronson engaging to watch - and be with for an hour and a half - is his unique kindness and warmth towards whomever he is around - something uncommon in most getaway drivers. "I tried to write what I think is a sector of men you don't really see in movies - a kind of highly communicative, yet also traditional male, who's maybe stupidly testosterone-driven at times, yet willing to admit he's wrong." Adds David Palmer, "He's sweet, he's lovable, he's kind and supportive to his girlfriend, but he's also a bad-ass. He knows how to rip a gun apart, he builds cars, he rob banks, but at the same time, he's a very sensitive guy. And it takes a great actor to be able to play all those things and pull it off."

Charlie Bronson is also courageously honest. "Dax Shepard writes what people are thinking but probably don't want to say," says Andrew Panay.. "And he's able to say it in a way that feels like he's supposed to be saying it, even though he probably shouldn't. He knows how to speak honestly about real situations, but inject them with a bent of comedy."

"That's one of my own pet peeves," the actor notes. "I'm not opposed to the confrontation. It doesn't scare me. So if I dislike something, I don't mind saying it and having that awkward conversation. That doesn't bother me, but I think that's hard for a lot of people."

He has plenty of opportunity to do so with Annie Bean, played by Dax Shepard's real-life fiancé, Kristen Bell. "Annie Bean is a pacific, someone who believes in the intuitive, intrinsic goodness of human beings.

She trusts everyone," Dax Shepard explains. "She never forecasts doom, and nothing's fatalistic with her. Whereas Charlie Bronson grew up around wolves and thinks everyone's got an angle. And she's the opposite of that. And I think that combination makes for a good dynamic couple."

Kristen Bell agrees. "Annie Bean grew up in a small town, is very secure in what she thinks about life. She's very much a pacifist, and she very much wants to make a difference. She falls in love with this wonderful man, who she's been dating for a year, but then is offered her dream job and has to choose between this man, with whom she wants to have a life and a future, and her career dream."

She's also, as Kristen Bell puts it, "a goody goody." "She's got a degree in non-violent conflict resolution. So the challenge for me was how to make this girl be a goody goody and a little bit annoying, but still someone who's open and available to putting all points of view on the table and looking at them."

"Dax Shepard writes women well," notes Nate Tuck. "Women who've watched the film really enjoy her character, because she's multi-layered. She's very smart and very intuitive, and someone Charlie Bronson learns a great deal from in the story. Which is great, because Charlie Bronson himself truly knows who he is, but still finds he can learn something from her."

The character has another quality that's unique to her in the film. "Annie Bean has a way about her - she's so peaceful and beautiful - that is just incredibly disarming and wonderful," David Palmer says. Tom Arnold's character, Randy, for example, flummoxed from having just run his van off the road, can't help but stop in his tracks and congratulate Annie Bean on her new job. "Everybody just gets caught like a deer in the headlights."

Writing for his sweetheart couldn't have been easier - not just because Dax Shepard knows her so well, but because of Kristen Bell's skills as an actor. "There's no one that is easier to write for than Kristen Bell, because she has almost zero limits as an actor. Anything that you write, she can deliver, and that's really awesome. I can write that she cries seconds after making a great joke, and she makes it happen." Notes David Palmer, "And when she cries, it's real. She cries a number of times in the movie, and she's so talented as an actress, she's just able to go there."

Dax Shepard, of course, not only wrote for Kristen Bell, but also directed her - risky in any movie biz relationship. "Me directing Kristen Bell could've really gone one of two ways, one terrible and the other perfect - and it happened to go absolutely perfect," Dax Shepard says. "It was the most joyous experience I think we've had as a couple, because we were together 24 hours a day for two months, and it was heaven."

Having two seasoned pros doing scenes together also made for an efficient shooting schedule. "She became an enormous asset while shooting a movie with no time in the budget,"Dax Shepard notes. "We had a very tiny window to complete the movie - half our schedule was car chases - and that meant we had to make up some ground during the emotional narrative stuff. Some actors don't heat up until the eighth take, and then there are actors who it ain't gonna get better than Take 3. And she is so consistent and so quickly delivers what you're looking for that it made the whole production work very efficiently."

The relationship made knowing what her director needed shooting scenes a breeze, Kristen Bell says."Because we had talked about it so much, I knew what he wanted from each scene, as well as why he wanted it. It ultimately came down to trust, because I trusted his vision, and I really wanted to see his vision executed. Plus, I was so proud of him - I loved watching him bring that vision to life. He was so cute as a director! And a good kisser, on top of that."

While on the surface, Hit and Run is a car chase movie, at its core is the amazing relationship between Charlie and Annie, something that mesmerises audiences from the opening scene to the last. It's hard not to want them to succeed - they're just too great together to not be.

"That relationship is what really carries this movie," says David Palmer. "I remember when I first read the script, I called him and said, 'Oh, my God - this is an homage to Kristen Bell. This is a love story.'

It's not just a car chase comedy - it's a romantic car chase comedy."

"That was the big surprise," Dax Shepard says. "I thought I was making a dude's movie - it's car chases, there's fist fights, there's tons of blood, there's raunchy comedy. And after screenings, women were coming up to me going, 'This film, it touched me so much.'" The sentimentality of the film is too hard to deny, even amongst the high speed action. "It's really weirdly romantic. Cause at the end of the day, it's a guy fighting his ass off to give the girl he loves what she wants, and that's something that women connect with."

The connection audiences have with the intimacy of the two characters is actually born out of the real-life relationship between DaxShepard and Kristen Bell. "It's quite genuine," says David Palmer. "You are really peering into their lives, and that's why it's so engaging to watch."

The film opens with the couple waking in bed, talking warmly, Charlie ably calming his mate as she struggles with her anxieties about her job. "That opening scene, where we're lying in bed talking, that's what we do in real life," Kristen Bell says. "The camera just became irrelevant." Notes Dax Shepard, "That scene lays a foundation of reality - this is very much how we communicate, this is who we are as a couple in real life, and it frees us up to explore some other themes. It generates love for them from the audience - it makes them want the two of them to stay together no matter what."

The couple, who celebrate their fifth anniversary together in September 2012, spent their first year and a half dealing with the very same issues that Charlie and Annie work through onscreen. "It's a metaphor for what Kristen Bell and I went through when we were first dating," Dax Shepard explains. "We had come from drastically different backgrounds - I had a dodgey past, a little on the scandalous side." Recalls Kristen Bell, "I had a hard time swallowing a lot of the things that Dax Shepard told me - a lot of, 'You did what??'"

"I wanted their stuff to be the stuff Kristen Belland I really wrestled with as a couple," Dax Shepard says. "I wanted my character's defects to be my own real character defects." Andrew Panay observes, "Their relationship is at the core of the movie. It's the thing that grounds the film, and it's what keeps it pumping. It's the heartbeat, uncovering the true relationship of a couple, the good and the bad."

Audiences relate in a big way, to both the difficulties and to the loving way the two characters relate with each other. "Those moments are so real," says Nate Tuck. "People watch them and think, 'I want to have that conversation with somebody who I love.' Women watch that first scene and say, 'I want to be that girl in bed - I want my man to talk to me the way that Dax Shepard is talking to Kristen Bell.' Every woman wants to be talked to by their man like that."

Charlie has another core relationship in the film - this one more of the goofy variety, in the form of Tom Arnold as a U.S. Marshal who - in name only - is there to protect Charlie within the witness protection program. Though it is often unclear who's protecting whom.

Dax Shepard and Tom Arnold have been the best of friends since Tom Arnold's 2003 appearance on Punk'd. "I played Ashton Kutcher's neighbour, and Dax Shepard was interviewing people to be Ashton Kutcher's assistant. It was a crazy, fun day, and we hit it off right away," the actor recalls.

Last year, he received a call from his buddy. "He called me from wherever he was writing the script and said, 'Oh, my God, I wrote this hilarious scene for you,' and he explained it. I didn't quite understand it, but he was laughing, so I knew it would be funny."

His character, Randy, arrives onscreen in an explosion of comedy, as he drives his van to Charlie's house, spilling coffee all over himself, then chasing after his vehicle when it takes off without him (the keyword here is "parking brake," Randy. . . ), as he angrily fires his gun trying to stop it.

"Writers often mistakenly write for Tom Arnold as stupid, which is not the direction for him," saysDax Shepard. "It's too simple - he's not stupid, he's very, very intelligent." One thing Tom Arnold is, though, is emotional: he wears his emotions on his sleeve - and apparently the rest of his shirt. "I've known Tom Arnold a long time, and I've found him to be the funniest and most entertaining when he is embarrassed and gets defensive about it. It's when he's most endearing. So my goal was to get him in an embarrassed, defensive state as quickly as possible in each scene. There's nothing funnier than watching someone be embarrassed and insecure, and he plays that like no one else."

Notes David Palmer, "Tom Arnold is a brilliant guy in real life. But he has an intensity and need to move and be active and to not settle, and I think those were things he was able to draw on and bring into this character. Dax Shepard knows Tom Arnold really well - it wasn't a big stretch."

Randy is a bumbling, nervous slob of a guy - "He's a loveable mess," says pal Dax Shepard. As Tom Arnold explains, "I knew I was going to have to spill something on myself and have a problem with it, and I knew we were filming somewhere where it was, like, 110 degrees. So anything less than a sloppy, messy guy wouldn't have worked. Maybe that's how Dax Shepard sees me, too, I don't know. I knew I'd be running and shooting a gun, and it would be dusty. So instead of trying to hide those things, which is what I usually do, I thought I would just go for it and let it be just as pathetic as possible."

Giving someone like Randy a badge and a handgun is very dangerous - and very funny. "He is the last person you want to have a handgun," Dax Shepard says.. "Plus, this is a car chase movie, and he's a terrible driver. There's just something very funny about a guy who can't barely walk ten feet without screwing up. But he's so loveable, you just want to root for him."

In performing his duties, it often becomes unclear whether Randy is there to look after Charlie, or vice versa - it is often Charlie who is seen calming the flustered Randy down and making sure he's okay. "Randy clearly crosses the line between subject and friend," Dax Shepard explains. "I researched witness protection programs - remember, the marshals have to live in these shitty towns, too. It's almost as if they're in witness protection, along with their charge. They had a life, too. And they don't pick their best guys for this duty. So Randy's pretty lonely. And it's important to have a character you pull for, not just someone who's there for comic relief."

The relationship, like Charlie's and Annie's, reflects Dax Shepard's and Tom Arnold's in real life. "It's actually the same way they are in real life," says David Palmer. "What you see onscreen really mirrors the way they are together as friends." Dax Shepard agrees. "He was supposed to be supporting me in a personal issue a number of years ago - and at some point I realised I was supporting him! And I was best man at his wedding, and it was my job to get him there - and that was a big job - and getting him to write his vows in time. That's very much our relationship. I think I may have captured ours more accurately than mine and Kristen Bell's!"

Charlie's nemesis in Hit and Run is Alex Dmitri, a cool, but violent, former bank robber, now, thanks to a tip from Annie's ex, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), hot on the trail of his former accomplice. Besides wanting his share of the money - which Charlie stashed somewhere on his father's ranch - Dmitri wants revenge for Charlie's having turned state's evidence, in return for witness protection - something he was forced to do to avoid the prosecution of his ex-girlfriend, Neve Tatum (played to nasty perfection by the stunning Joy Bryan, Dax Shepard's Parenthood co-star). There are also a few other things he wants to square away with Charlie…

Playing the dreadlocked hooligan is none other than Bradley Cooper - another close friend of Dax Shepard's, who also appeared in Brother's Justice. "I wrote everybody else based on their own personality - except Bradley Cooper. He's nothing like this guy." The director wanted to stay away from the typical bad guy character, and knew Bradley Cooper could pull off what he was seeking. "I don't like the archetypal or generic bad guy - they're boring. So I thought it would be cool if the biggest star in the movie happens to be the bad guy, because you're naturally going to be interested in him. And Bradley Cooper is just simply fascinating to watch as an actor - and he's a total stud."

Bradley Cooper plays the character in a manner which, at first, makes him seem like a cool cat, but one quickly learns why he was leader of the pack. At a market, observing an enormous body builder purchasing cheap bagged dog food for a pit bull he spotted outside, Alex Dmitri goes from simple chiding for feeding the dog what he deems as poor sustenance to effortlessly giving the giant a beating and taking his dog.

"Dax Shepard brings him in with a big punch," says David Palmer. "He really wanted to define this character early and put some fear in us. This guy seems so sweet, but he's a dangerous trip wire that can go off at any time." Andrew Panay agrees. "The way Bradley Cooper plays him, you know that at any moment, if things don't go right, he can snap and things can become a little hairy," not an easy thing to portray. "That's not the type of role you can just give to any actor," says Dax Shepard. "Bradley Cooper was the one person I had access to that could do that and really pull it off."

The actor also came up with the unusual look for Alex Dmitri - who, despite his Russian background, wears a headful of dreadlocks. "Anything the big cat wants, he can have. If Bradley Cooper comes and does your movie, he can wear a clown wig if he wants. I gave him carte blanche."

Important to Dax Shepard was that the two had an obvious history together. "I think the most important part of Bradley Cooper's character in the story is how close he was to Charlie," he explains. "I think what makes that relationship dynamic is that they legitimately loved each other as friends at one time, but had this regrettable event that broke them apart. And you can see it in both our faces, particularly Bradley Cooper's." The biggest source of Alex Dmitri's anger at Charlie is eventually revealed: that he was abused by a bigger animal while serving his time in jail… you know, that way. The result of Alex Dmitri spilling the beans on the subject is an unforgettable discussion the two have while driving in a carload of people, becoming more and more convoluted - and more hysterical - the longer it goes on.

"What makes it funny is that Charlie is clearly trying to take away some of the pain of what Alex Dmitri has gone through," says Dax Shepard. "But everything he says makes it worse and worse and worse - every avenue he takes gets him deeper into the pain of what happened. He's just trying to help."

The idea for the hilarious scene - constructed in Dax Shepard's typically skilful manner, like many such scenes in the film - came from a real conversation he and Nate Tuck had after watching an episode of HBO's Hookers at the Point. "There was a guy who was fresh out of prison who paid for oral sex from a female, yet was expressing a desire to be with men while receiving this," Dax Shepard explains. "Nate Tuck and I were so confused by this that we had a very long conversation about just what happens in prison. Was this a product of that experience, or is he just confused? Who would we want to be raped by if we were in prison? And does it make you gay if that happens to you? It was a screwy, honest conversation of own our curiosity how all that stuff shakes out of prison - and that's what I put in this conversation between Charlie and Alex."

Such mindless banter appears to be the norm in the Dax Shepard household, according to the lady of the house. "These are conversations that I hear him having with his buddies all the time. I'm sitting there going, 'I can't believe they're still debating this.' And almost every single conversation in the movie is a real conversation I've had to listen to - they really took place."

Another is based on a real conversation she and Dax Shepard had, in which Annie objects to Charlie's use of the word "fag" ("Nitrous is for fags," he tells an admirer of his car's engine) when describing something he considers lame. "We have had that discussion, and we both have been pretty fiery about our own points of view," Kristen Bell says.

Dax Shepard's comment is more on the way men use language with each other - using sometimes coarse verbiage to drive home a point, rather than being verbose. "He's saying men don't use it as slander, it's just a simple choice of words, be they politically correct or not," notes Andrew Panay. "All Dax Shepard is commenting on is what the reality is - and which he isn't afraid to say - which is, 'This is why I'm saying what I say. I don't mean it like it sounds, I mean it like this. Is it the 'right' way to say it? I don't know, but my intent is positive.' His comedy is never mean-spired - it's actually the opposite. It's funny, and it has a sweetness to it, which is true to who he is. And people get that when they watch these scenes in the film."

In case anyone should have any concerns of homophobia on the star's part, not to worry. "He and Kristen Bell have been engaged for a year, but have said publicly that they won't get married until their friends can, too," David Palmer says of his pal, the co-host (with Kristen Bell) of a good many rallies in support of gay marriage. "My analogy," says Dax Shepard, "is if we were our current age in the 60s and we lived in the segregated South, we wouldn't host our birthday party at the front of the bus if half our friends were black, who the law said couldn't attend. So likewise, we're not going to invite friends to a wedding that they can't have themselves."

One such friend is actor Jess Rowland, who plays a local police officer named Terry. Another 12-year friend of Dax Shepard's from the Groundlings, Rowland lauds his pal's non-stereotypical, nonflamboyant portrayal of gays in the film. "Dax Shepard's writing is honest and respectful about homosexuality, which is one of the reasons it works." In one scene, Terry and his female police partner (played by Dax Shepard's real-life sister, Carly Hatter) discuss whether or not Randy might, in fact, be gay. "In the scene, she objects to the possibility, because Randy looks to be about 50 - he's 'too old' to be gay. And Terry responds wryly, 'We don't grow out of it.' There's just great beats in there, which are really honest and true."

The question of Randy's orientation comes about through the use of a fictional iPhone app called "Pouncer." David Palmer recalls, "Jess Rowland once told Dax Shepard about a similar, real app which enables gay men to spot other gays easily (who have that same app) and network or introduce themselves." Dax Shepard notes, "We had another friend who was not out of the closet, and Jess Rowland said, 'Do you know so-and-so's on (this app)? I saw them on it the other day.' We just thought it was amazing, using technology like that. So I decided to use that in the movie."

It turns out that when Terry stops a speeding Randy (is 100 mph speeding?), it fires off his Pouncer app - because Randy has the very same app on his own iPhone, which Terry realises and takes as an opportunity to "back him up" one day. So has Randy indeed "switched teams?" "To be honest, I don't think Randy was on any team," Tom Arnold comments. "He's probably in love with Charlie, but didn't know it. I think he's just putting his foot in the water with this Pouncer thing - he's fairly new to coming to deciding who he really is, instead of just being a lonely fat guy. He's weird enough, and then to have this bit of romance or whatever was kind of a nice thing for him. Besides, Dax Shepard writing that in there for me is probably where he sees our relationship going in the future."

Terry, in the film, is the brother of Annie's ex-boyfriend, Gil, played by another close friend and Brother's Justice alum, Michael Rosenbaum. "Dax Shepard called me and said, 'Hey, I'm shooting this feature - we're going to race cars and we're going to hang out,'" the actors recalls. "I said, 'Cool, I'm in.'" Gil, apparently not quite over Annie and ferociously both jealous and fearful of Charlie, looks for any chance he can to lure her back with sleazy, yuppified innuendo, always resulting in a sour response from Annie. In a yet worse, vain attempt at winning her back, he figures out Charlie's real name and contacts Alex Dmitri, hoping to free Annie from her "criminal boyfriend's" clutches, but only making things far worse for everyone.

"He's just really in love with this girl, and he really thinks he has a chance of getting her back," Michael Rosenbaum explains. "In his delusional mind, he's waiting for this other guy, Charlie, to fail, and at the same time, he's right there, in case something does happen.

Part of Gil's makeup, his "hook lines" he attempts with Annie, leave the audience both scratching their heads and laughing out loud. For example, when she returns to their former house to retrieve her teaching certificate, he arrives at the door shirtless - he was wearing one just a moment before - and asks, "Do you want to go to the couch and process while I get your belongings?" "We're in the car, after getting away from Charlie, and I ask her, 'Do you want a warm meal?' Who says that?!" Michael Rosenbaum laughs.

"I wanted Gil to be a huge source of comedy," says Dax Shepard, "and Michael Rosenbaum is so funny and has a great ability to make pretty broad stuff believable. You never want to have so archetypal a douchebag that the audience wonders, 'Wait a minute - why on Earth was Annie ever with this guy?' That was a hard line to walk, and only Michael Rosenbaum could play it in a way that's both believable and ridiculous at the same time."

On the surface, Gil appears to be just the type of man that would appeal to someone like Annie. "He's handsome, a guy in a small town who's successful, and he's head over heels in love with her," Dax Shepard explains.

So what is it about Charlie that Annie can't pass up? "Gil is everything she should need - on paper - except what's inside," Andrew Panay notes. "Charlie is not only intelligent, but he's warm, he's truthful, and he's true - he can calm her. From the start, with Gil, coming to do the door without his shirt on, he's not an honest guy. He's seemingly honest, but he's not really." Besides, says Dax Shepard, "The goody goody always wants approval of the bad guy. Annie knows how to make a professor happy - but does she know how to make the bad guy happy? It's the old thing about how opposites attract."

Hit and Run is rife with opportunities for cameos - mostly pulled from Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell's Rolodex, of course. "We called our friends, people we respected, and asked them, 'Do you want to come mess around for a few days on our little movie?'" Kristen Bell recalls. "They all said yes, which was pretty overwhelming."

One of Kristen Bell's own closest friends, actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, plays Annie's boss at the local college, Debby Kreeger, who informs her of the opportunity in Los Angeles - and fires her to make sure she takes it. "We wanted a character that was so opposite of Annie, to show her by example of what will happen if she doesn't take action and leave this small town," Kristen Bell explains.

Dax Shepard welcomed her appearance. "She's an older version of Kristen Bell, which was perfect - it's fun to watch the two of them together, because they really are almost identical. If anything ever happened between Kristen Chenoweth and me, I don't think I'd be blame," he grins.

David Koechner plays a redneck who, after questioning Charlie about the engine under his car's hood, later returns to steal the power plant, leaving Charlie and Annie without their greatest ally - at least temporarily. "I called him and said, 'You're probably going to like this one. It is a redneck,'"

Dax Shepard recalls. "He's such a sweet guy, he would show up and play anything. And he's hysterical." Jason Bateman makes a surprise appearance as a U.S. Marshall towards the end of the film. "He and Kristen Bell worked together on Couples Retreat, and they became friends. I asked him if he would do our film, and he just said, 'Tell me where and when.' That was a huge gift for us. It's such a great little treat, when audiences hear his voice first and then realize who it is."

Comic actor Sean Hayes can be seen briefly during the final credit sequence, as Annie's new boss at the university in Los Angeles. "She opens the door, and he's just finished blowing a few bonghits," describes David Palmer. "The whole office is filled with smoke."

Playing Charlie's father, Clint Perkins, is veteran Beau Bridges. "He's the only one in the cast I didn't know," says Dax Shepard.