His road to redemption starts with finding a treasure in a trash bin.

Movies

Conflicted Emotions About Fatherhood and Ex-Cons Drove Adopt a Highway

Logan Marshall-Green's transition behind the camera was given a boost from helping hand Ethan Hawke, who stars in the low-budget drama.

As with many first-time filmmakers, Logan Marshall-Green found a story that channeled both his passions and his personal life.

“I was lost as a dad,” Marshall-Green said about the inspiration for Adopt a Highway, his drama about a paroled felon who navigates some morally complex territory after finding an abandoned baby in a dumpster.

While such a story provided catharsis during Marshall-Green’s rough transition into fatherhood, the veteran actor decided to pair it to the struggles of ex-convicts trying in good faith to integrate back into society despite numerous obstacles.

“I have a lot of passion for people who are flawed and misunderstood. The California penal system is the worst in the world. I wanted to tell one of their stories,” Marshall-Green said during the South by Southwest Film Festival. “They’re just ejected back. They don’t give you a rulebook. I felt a lot of compassion for these men and women.”

His character-driven screenplay follows the soft-spoken Russell (Ethan Hawke), recently released after spending two decades in prison (the legitimacy of which is later questioned) and working a fast-food job when he makes the aforementioned discovery during a chilly night.

Rather than calling the police, he stumbles through caring for the infant himself, sensing a mutually beneficial opportunity for emotional fulfillment. Except that his parenting skills are severely lacking, despite the good intentions.

“I was trying to challenge myself to use my heart a little more,” Marshall-Green said. “I tend to use a little bit of my darker and more intense side as an actor, and I just wanted to get away from that.”

Rather than star in the film himself, Marshall-Green (Prometheus) wrote the lead role specifically for Hawke, who also signed on as a producer. So did prolific genre veteran Jason Blum, who collaborated with the director when he starred in the 2018 thriller Upgrade.

Although Marshall-Green, 42, felt comfortable as a rookie filmmaker while on set, he found greater challenges during postproduction, such as editing and music. That’s where Hawke became a mentor of sorts.

“This needed real chance-taking,” Marshall-Green said. “It was a huge learning experience for me.”

Hawke also suggested Marshall-Green reach out to Grammy-winning country artist Jason Isbell, who agreed to compose his debut film score.

“It guided us in a new direction. Jason knew exactly what this story wanted to be,” Marshall-Green said. “The score becomes a bit of a character, guiding [Russell] back to his roots. I think it’s a guardian angel, in a way.”

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