Deep Dive and Behind-the-Scenes Trivia of This Scary On The Road Horror Film – Scary Catalog
Lewis just wants to get home from college for summer vacation in his cool car and pick up his crush, Venna, along the way. Unfortunately, his delinquent older brother Fuller has to follow him, and he insists on installing a CB radio in the car to talk to nearby truckers. What starts out as a harmless prank – tricking a trucker into thinking he’ll meet a beautiful woman named Candy Cane at a motel – turns deadly when the subject of their prank seeks revenge.
tower of joy (2001) gave the world of horror classic lines and scenes that have stuck with fans more than two decades later. From the haunting voice of vengeful trucker Rusty Nail saying “Candy Cane” to a love for Steve Zahn’s brand of comedic relief in another terrifying horror movie on the road, the film is stuffed. The film is filled with casting gems like Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski, features a wide range of alternate endings, and has an icon for the voice of Rusty Nail. Read on for a deep behind-the-scenes dive into the making of tower of joy.
Be warned: there are major spoilers ahead.
The cast and crew of tower of joy
Each film begins with a script. tower of joy was written by creative duo Clay Tarver and JJ Abrams. Although this was Tarver’s first screenplay, he would later write several episodes of Silicon Valley (2014-2019). Abrams wrote: tower of joy before his career-defining projects like Lost (2004-2010), Cloverfield (2008), and the recent star trek movies.
Although director John Dahl began his career in film, he has spent the decades since tower of joy make hit TV series like Yellowstone (2018-) and Bad (2019-).
Three main characters make up the main cast of tower of joy: brothers Lewis and Fuller, and Venna as the object of their affection at once. Since most of the film takes place in Lewis’ car, casting these three characters was crucial.
For Lewis, the production needed an actor who could play the nice college guy with the crush while also being a believable muscle car driver. While they had several actors in mind, including Tobey Maguire, they ultimately went with the late Paul Walker. At the time of filming in 1999, Walker was best known for his roles in teen films like college blues (1999) and She is all that (1999). He would eventually become best known for his role in six of Fast and Furious films, the first of which was released in 2001, the same year as tower of joy.
The role of Lewis’s brother, Fuller, had to go to someone who could convincingly play both a delinquent and a bit of comic relief. Steve Zahn landed the role, adding tower of joy on his long list of films where he plays the funny guy. This includes This thing you do (1996), You’ve got mail (1998), and Sahara (2005).
Leelee Sobieski rounds out the main cast as Venna. As she joins the brothers halfway through the film, her presence signals the acceleration of antagonist Rusty Nail’s revenge. Only 17-18 years old when filming, Sobieski already had roles in deep impact (1998) and never been kissed (1999). Although she’s had a few roles here and there over the past two decades, she mostly avoids the spotlight and has focused her attention on her artistic career, as you can see. on his Instagram.
Besides the three main characters, the most important character is the vengeful trucker, Rusty Nail. Two people were hired to fill the role: one for the on-camera personality who appears at the end of the film, and one for the iconic voice heard on CB radio. Although both roles were uncredited, Matthew Kimbrough played Rusty Nail on camera. This character actor has had a wide range of small roles in film and television since the 1980s.
The role of Rusty Nail’s voice was a lot harder to fill, but if you listen closely, you might recognize the man behind that iconic voice.
The man behind the voice of “Rusty Nail”
For many fans, it was Rusty Nail’s deep, haunting voice calling Candy Cane over CB radio that made this movie so memorable. We tremble with fear and revulsion with Lewis, Fuller and Venna. The voice makes or breaks the film, which is why it was difficult to find their official Rusty Nail for the production.
During filming, someone on set would provide the voice of the film’s killer so that the rest of the cast would have someone to act out their scenes. It wasn’t until post-production that they finally found the right person to play the role: Ted Levine. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, you’ll definitely be familiar with his other roles.
Ted Levine is best known for his role as serial killer Buffalo Bill in Thesilenceofthelambs (1991). He uses an equally haunting voice for this role as he tells a captured woman, “she rubs the lotion on her skin, or else she gets the hose back”. Perhaps it’s the subconscious memory of that role that makes Rusty Nail’s drawl so terrifying.
Movie and TV fans will also recognize Levine from Monk (2002-2009), shutter island (2010), and big sky (2020-), among many other roles.
Four alternate endings
In the film’s theatrical ending, the police find a dead body in the driver’s seat of Rusty Nail’s truck, assuming it is the man himself. But just as Venna and the Thomas brothers slowly begin to relax, they hear Rusty Nail’s voice on the ambulance’s CB radio. The killer has fled and the survivors will never feel safe again.
That’s not the only ending they filmed, though. In the end, they had four alternate endings, which can be found on some DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film:
- Lewis breaks a plank holding the truck up, causing it to crash into Rusty Nail, killing him.
- Venna breaks free from her bonds, grabs the shotgun that was set up to kill her, and uses it to shoot Rusty Nail instead.
- Rusty Nail ends up inside the hotel room and is pushed into the path of the shotgun when the cops enter, setting it off to shoot him.
- During the cornfield scene, rather than jumping to the motel, Rusty Nail ends up chasing Lewis in his truck before hitting a tank and exploding. The trio then watch Rusty Nail die in the hospital from his burns before the final credits.
Interestingly, none of the alternate endings allowed Rusty Nail to survive the end of the film. Only the theatrical ending kept it alive and left the film open for a possible sequels.
More behind-the-scenes questions for tower of joy
1. The original working title of tower of joy has been To crush. Other final title contenders included barley sugar and highway horror.
2. It was renamed kill on the road in the UK and Roadkill in Australia due to the negative connotations of “joy rides” as stealing cars rather than fun roadtrips.
3. Most of the film takes place in Lewis’s car: a 1971 Chrysler Newport.
4. Rusty Nail’s death count: 2. He killed the driver of the ice cream truck, using his body as a decoy at the end of the film, and the night manager of the last motel. Although he ripped out the jawbone of the man in Room 17 and left him for dead, it appears he survived the official ending of the film.
5. Although considered an expansive road trip film, tower of joy was filmed only in California, Nevada and Utah.
6. In an alternate ending that included Rusty Nail’s semi-explosion, you can see a water tower in the background. The production spent $100,000 on the tower with plans for it to break down and pour water on his truck, but they ran out of time to film that aspect of the scene. With that ending not even being used, it was a sunk cost that never materialized.
seven. No need to worry about the tape wrapped around Leelee Sobieski’s head and wrists in the final scene. The production used cling film instead so there was no adhesive to pull on her hair and skin.
8. Filming took much longer to tower of joy than is typical for movies. Filming began in 1999 and ended in 2001. With many reshoots and alternate endings, the filming duration lasted two years, whereas filming normally wraps in a few weeks or months at most.
9. tower of joy had a budget of $23 million and earned $36.6 million at the box office.
ten. Even though the box office profits weren’t significant, tower of joy was always a favorite for critics and fans alike. He has a rotten tomatoes rating of 74% and an audience score of 66%.
11. The cult success of tower of joy spawned two sequels: Joy Ride 2: Death Ahead (2008) and Joy Ride 3: Kill on the Road (2014), both of which were direct-to-video releases that did not feature any of the original cast.