Rock Flashback: James Taylor in “Two-Lane Blacktop”

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(Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

(Getty Images/Spencer Platt)

In the summer of 1970, film director Monte Hellman saw a Los Angeles billboard with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]James Taylor[/lastfm]‘s face on it, and he believed he’d found a star. After the jump, read about Taylor’s road movie, Two-Lane Blacktop.

Two-Lane Blacktop is about two drifters with a ’55 Chevy race car who eventually get into a cross-country race with another driver. Taylor was cast as a character known only as the Driver. Four days before principal photography began, Hellman still didn’t have Taylor’s co-star cast. He eventually settled on [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Dennis Wilson[/lastfm] of the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Beach Boys[/lastfm], figuring Wilson’s real-life experience with cars would translate into his on-screen role as the Mechanic. Completing the cast were 16-year-old Laurie Bird as the Young Girl, and Hollywood veteran Warren Oates as GTO, the driver of the other car in the race.

Two-Lane Blacktop was shot on location across the country, and it shows an America that no longer exists, one of small-town diners, full-service filling stations, and hitchhiking as reliable transportation.

[pullquote quote="You can't stay with the same high forever, right?" credit="Warren Oates as GTO"]Like many youth films of the ’70s, there’s not really much of a story to it. The atmosphere of lonely alienation is the point of the film — the Driver and the Mechanic are silent as much as they speak, and while each of them seems to have an interest in the Young Girl, neither one does much to communicate it to her. (GTO is a livelier character, spinning a variety of tales about who he is and where he’s going, depending on who he’s talking to.)

Read much more about the movie here and see some terrific stills from the production, too.

Here’s the trailer.

Experience more Rock Flashbacks.

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