Dennis was 25; Laurie just 17; and James was 22 years old when Two-Lane Blacktop was made.
HPP: You also worked with Jack Nicholson a few times. What did you learn from him? Or from each other?
MH: I worked with Jack five times, actually. Mainly what I learned from him was how to pick the right actor for the part. He had some breakthroughs as well, just by the process that we went through.
HPP: How did your directing style differ from the Hollywood norm at the time?
Well actually, I didn't think that it did. I was in love with Hollywood movies and was trying to emulate them, but in terms of story telling or creating characters, I don't use other movies as source material.
HPP: How did Two-Lane Blacktop affect your career?
MH: It was actually a double-edged sword. It helped a lot at the beginning; I was hot for about 15 minutes until the movie came out. Then all bets were off.
This gas station in Boswell, Oklahoma, no longer exists.
What to look for on-screen:
• In the opening scene, the L.A. Street Racers Association was featured. The group was actually quite worried about backlash from local law enforcement for being in the movie.
• Though the car looks like a '70 Judge, there are no Judge decals. In the original Wurlitzer screenplay, The Driver even refers to it as a Judge at one point, but it's not in the movie.
• Though the engine is referred to as a 455 throughout the movie, the engine callouts on the fenders, like the Judge decals, are absent. If this was a '70 Judge with a 455, it would be just 1 of 17.
• To further the yarn-spinning quality of the character G.T.O., he deftly describes the GTO's engine incorrectly a few times in the movie, referring to it as a 455 with Mark IV Ram Air, a Carter high-rise set up and 390 horsepower. A "Mark IV" is a big-block Chevy, the Pontiac engine didn't come with a "Carter high-rise" but rather a Quadrajet on a cast-iron intake and no Pontiac engine at the time was rated at 390 hp.
• Curiously, in the original screenplay the engine was to be described with a "Holley high-rise" and "tunnel-port" heads.
• Rudy Wurlitzer, the writer of the screen-play, was the driver of the green hot rod that lost in a race to the '55.
• Monte's wife, Jaclyn, played the wife of the hot rod driver for the argument in the bar scene.
• Singer Joni Mitchell was James Taylor's girlfriend at the time and joined him on set. According to the moviemakers, she can be seen out in the field during that gas station scene that prompted the race. (I couldn't see her, but perhaps you can.)
• Actor Alan Vint, who played a local in the restaurant who challenges main characters to come out to the track, was considered for the part of The Mechanic.
• Jay Wheatley, a technical advisor responsible for maintaining the cars in the movie, has a cameo with a Mopar at the opening of the Lakeland International Raceway (near Memphis) scene.
• A.J. Solari, the last hitchhiker that G.T.O. picks up, was a runner up for the part of The Mechanic.
• Most of the actors you see in the gas stations and diners are locals who live in those towns.
• Monte's son, Jared Hellman, was the last child to exit the station wagon at the accident scene.
• The little girl hitchhiker with her grandmother in the cemetery scene is Monte's daughter, Melissa.
Behind the scenes:
• Rudy Wurlitzer opines, "The whole idea of the road, of going from one place to another, is essentially American."
• Regarding the choices for the cars, Wurlitzer explains, "The GTO is the consumer car par excellence, a metaphor for the consumer culture. It's absurd, but in a great way. The Chevy is the artist's car, made and created by people who are in love with the process of building a car."
• Custom auto design and construction of the cars is credited to Richard Ruth, William Kincheloe and H. Alan Deglin.
• Esquire magazine printed the entire screenplay in its April '71 issue before the movie was released and dubbed Two-Lane Blacktop, "The Film of the Year."