Based on a true story, the film Midnight in the Switchgrass chronicles the serial abductions and murders of young women and the FBI agents that are trying to stop them. The directorial debut of Randall Emmett, the film stars Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch, Lukas Haas, and Caitlin Carmichael. It’s out in theaters and on demand on Friday, July 23, and releases on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27.
“While in Florida on another case, FBI agents Helter (Willis) and Lombardo (Fox) cross paths with state cop Crawford (Hirsch), who’s investigating a string of female murders that appear to be related,” says the official synopsis. “Lombardo and Crawford team up for an undercover sting, but it goes horribly wrong, plunging Lombardo into grave danger and pitting Crawford against a serial killer in a twisted game of cat and mouse.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Midnight in the Switchgrass star Emile Hirsch about his role as a cop that chases down the killer, his role in Trollhunters, his love of pickleball, and more.
Tyler Treese: Your performance in Midnight in the Switchgrass is so impressive. What really grounds the story is that it is based off a true story of the truck stop killer. Did you look much into the real serial killer for prep?
Emile Hirsch: On this one I didn’t because [writer] Alan [Horsnail] kind of kept the inspiration a little bit vague. So he said it was inspired by a true story. Even if you grill him directly, it would be a couple of different sources of bad guys. Because of that, I didn’t want to get too attached to any particular real-life case because then I’d feel like I was making the truck stop killer movie as opposed to a fictional movie. I feel like Alan didn’t name the people deliberately. I think the reason why he did that is because he knew that there would be like an extra pressure to make it accurate in those ways as almost like a biopic or something. He didn’t want to give the script that kind of pressure. If that makes sense, it was kind of a long-winded answer.
Lukas Haas gives such a sensational performance as the killer. It’s uncomfortable to watch in scenes. I know you don’t have a ton of face-to-face interactions because you’re chasing them down, but can you speak to his transformation and how he just embraced that character?
I feel like Lukas, he was so interesting because you just never expect him in that way to be that kind of a role. He has such an innocent sort of qualities to him. So to see him take on more of these terrifying characteristics is kind of shocking a little bit. I feel like he just got a great role and I love what he did with the part. He was super serious and he really took the performance seriously and was really committed to it to try to show this craziness in kind of its whole spectrum. I think that’s why he’s so good is because he didn’t make him just like a one-note bad guy.
There are so many emotional scenes, especially early on. You have one of the worst conversations possible where your character has to tell a mother that her daughter passed away. What did you draw from for those scenes? Because it has to be a hard conversation even fictionally.
I think having seen certain films and TV shows and documentaries about true crime or families or this type of thing, that type of thing bleeds over through osmosis. In terms of the actual personage of that situation, that’s a tricky one, you know? When it comes to doing research, that’s one of those areas where sometimes you just got to use your imagination because it would almost feel wrong to like try to like find someone whose family member was murdered or injured and be like, “what was it like?” I feel like that’s one where you put yourself in somebody’s shoes for a minute and you think about it, you’re going to have a decent [understanding of] 1% idea of the pain, but even that 1% is still too much.
You have some fantastic co-stars here. Megan Fox is fantastic in her role. Getting to work with Bruce Willis has to be exciting. Can you speak to working with both of them?
It was great. Bruce and Megan were super cool. The first scene that Megan and I did was our bar scene. That was the first scene that I actually shot on the whole movie. It was a great kind of tone to set for me and Megan because we kind of learned about each other. We learned about each other’s characters or what kind of people we were and how we were both determined in our jobs to excel and not just settle for the bureaucratic kind of by rote way that our jobs were being handled. By seeing each other’s commitment in that bar scene, as characters, the commitment to solving the crimes, then that’s sort of how they figure it out is because then they’re willing to both go rogue and by going rogue is how they end up cracking a big part of the case. So they sort of feed off each other and their determination is a big part of what does it.
I was looking at your Instagram and I’ve got to ask, when did you get into the sport of pickleball? Was that like a pandemic hobby or have you been a fan?
One of my buddies in Hollywood plays and kind of got me into it. So I’ve been playing for a few years now and then [director] Randall [Emmett] got into it and then suddenly everyone’s playing pickleball. My friend just broke her hand the other day playing. She like dived into a fence and hit the cement and just broke her hand. It was pretty crazy.
I didn’t know, pickleball had such injuries. I hope she heals up.
Yeah. It was pretty rare, I think. Just clumsy.
Trollhunters is also releasing and we’re seeing the end of that whole franchise. There were three series, and then the movie coming out. How exciting is it that both of these works are releasing one after another?
It’s pretty cool. Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans is going to be so good. I’m so excited about it. I think it’s going to be so awesome. It’s like years and years in the making. Guillermo del Toro made sure that it was just going to be rocking and the animation is so good and the story is so cool. It’s so well done. It’s going to be just absolutely massive on Netflix. Every kid and every parent is going to want to watch that one. It’s really going to be awesome.
What’s great about that series is that it appeals to everybody like you were saying. It’s just a really good fantasy story. I watched that as well. The story that your main character goes through, it’s a lot of growth we see.
Did you get to see Rise of the Titans yet?
Yeah. I did. It was great.
Oh, awesome. Yeah. I’m so excited for it. Guillermo was so determined to just get the perfect performance. Crafting scenes where we’d go back and like record and re-record. He’s such a perfectionist. He really wanted to film to just be perfect.
Last question here. Does your approach change any when you’re doing voice acting compared to a live-action role, like in Midnight in the Switchgrass?
Yeah. It’s a little bit different because you’re not really using your body. It’s just your voice. I mean, I guess your voice is technically a part of the body, but sort of. I guess I’m not sure actually. We’ll put the technicalities over there. Yeah. It’s a little bit more results-oriented at times in the world of performing, but I like it. I actually think all the voice acting I’ve done over the years for Trollhunters has oddly kind of helped my live-action acting. It’s really made me concentrate and focus in on sound and voice. Especially to also, I’ve put out a couple of albums under Hirsch, like singing albums that I’ve made with my buddy. There’s these kind of like, kind of weird techno, electro-pop records. I think like all the attention to sound between Trollhunters and Hirsch music I’ve been putting out, I feel like it really makes me double down on voice work so much more now in my live-action acting in a way that I was always concentrated on it, but I really appreciate it even more now. Maybe the Brits were right there, like [does a British accent] acting is about the voice, you know?