Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to No Exit director Damien Power and cast members Dennis Haysbert, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl, and Havana Rosa Liu. The chilling suspense thriller will start streaming exclusively on Hulu February 25.
No Exit is the story of Darby Thorne (Havana Rose Liu), a young woman en route to a family emergency who is stranded by a blizzard and forced to find shelter at a highway rest area with a group of strangers.
When she stumbles across an abducted girl in a van in the parking lot, it sets her on a terrifying life-or-death struggle to discover who among them is the kidnapper.
Power (Killing Ground) directed No Exit from a screenplay by Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man and The Wasp). The film is based on Taylor Adams’ 2017 novel (check price at Amazon) and produced by PGA Award winner Scott Frank (The Queen’s Gambit).
Power was asked about the No Exit source material and how it helped in terms of creativity and inspiration. He said, “Well, I think the script that I read was already quite faithful to the novel. There are a few elements that I thought we could take from the novel though.
“I mean, you know, as a novel, it had character-driven plot, it’s got high stakes, it’s got these surprising twists and turns, this incredible, hostile setting, and this great ticking clock with the girl in the van. And all that was already in the script that I read. I can see why people read it and thought this would make a great movie. So did I.”
Liu spoke about the intensity of the role and what she went through for it. She said, “Honestly, I just fell in love with Darby right away. I use this thing, like, called ‘The 36 Questions to Fall in Love’ in order to find character every time. I’m untrained, so generally, I’m just, like, throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks.
“That one has been, really, the most impactful, I’ve found. And with Darby, I barely even had to think. It just felt like it was flowing right from me.”
Liu added: “I find her to be gritty, and bold, and charming, and also tortured, and also very vulnerable in a way that I don’t think we always see heroic characters holding on to throughout the course of the film, not to give anything away.
“I think for me, it was just the best, most sort of complex, nuanced character I could have asked to play, given that so many of her faults really are her strengths, and vice versa.”
Ramirez said of playing the mystery of the role and the film, “Well, I think a big portion of that, that actually affected so much of-of going in and throwing down was the two weeks that we all had in quarantine in New Zealand. So for two weeks, all the source material that Damien had sent me, and everything we had talked about was basically just, like, ruminating in my stomach, and just kind of, like, cooking up.
“Then by the time that we went to go film, it all came out. There’s some scenes with Dennis that we got really playful in there. So, [it] honestly just felt like a pressure cooker that felt safe to be our best and our worst selves.”
Rysdahl said of his connection to Ramirez’ character that they spent time in quarantine working it out. “Not to give any spoilers but we definitely — it was about four days into quarantine and I was like, we should find these people’s numbers, so we can actually — we’re about to do something crazy together and I’m just sitting here stewing in somewhere where Danny was, in Lars’s brain.
“I got Havana’s and Danny’s and we had a FaceTime, like a three-hour FaceTime, and we got really into it. We started talking about our own families. You know, I have a large family, just for these kinds of characters to work, you have to bring yourself into it, and find the personal in it.”
Haysbert spoke about understanding Ed. He said, “I played a lot of military characters over the years, and the one thing I’ve noticed about all the military characters, and I’ve also traveled extensively, with the USO, that no two soldiers are alike.
“So every time I play a soldier, he’s not the same guy. Ed is looking for an opportunity to show who he is. I incorporated some PTSD with him, some other traumas… what I learned most about Ed is that he has issues, and he’s gotta deal with them, and when it comes up, he gets the chance.”
Power laughed when asked about the blizzard conditions they were all in. He explained that they filmed No Exit in a studio in Auckland in New Zealand in the summer. “We had a lot of fake snow, which was not without its own hazards, as Havana can tell you.
“She got totally hosed by a show tornado on day one, which was pretty painful.” There was also digital snow added to the scenes. Lui joked that the shivering was from heat exhaustion, saying it was really hot on the set.
Power also said that there wasn’t anything from the source material that he wished could have made it in, saying they were pretty faithful to the novel.
“We made some tweaks to the characters and their backstories, and their backgrounds and how they came to be there, but that he was happy with what made it in.”