Writer/director relied on truckers to create gritty 'Paradise Highway'

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Updated Aug 9, 2022
Scene from 'Paradise Highway'

A new movie released today is set in the world of trucking, and the writer/director and the film’s star relied on professional drivers to get the details right.

Paradise Highway stars Juliette Binoche as Sally, a trucker who, to save the life of her brother (Frank Grillo), is forced to transport a young girl (Hala Finley) for human traffickers. Morgan Freeman portrays a retired FBI agent who pursues them to bring them both to safety.

Paradise Highway 2000x3000The film was written and directed by Anna Gutto. She said in researching the film, she relied on “a very generous FBI agent, several wonderful organizations who help trafficked children, and an intimate group of female truckers.”

Among those truckers were Desiree Wood and Dianne McNair-Smith. Not only did they assist Gutto with her research, but they also wound up in the film.

Wood is the founder of REAL Women In Trucking and McNair-smith operates 3 Girls Trucking Academy in Magee, Mississippi.

“I’ve been on ride-alongs, spending days in the passenger seat and nights in the top bunk,” said Gutto. “ I came to admire the trucker women for their independent spirit, straight talk, and “f*** it” attitude. I was amazed by the positive spin they put on their lives as they barreled down the highways of America, seeing both the beauty of nature and the ugliness of the man-made world outside the relative safety of their truck cabins – little worlds unto themselves, complete with baggage from the past and dreams for the future. Good chunks of dialogue in this movie are direct transcripts from the women trucker conference calls they invited me into.”

Both Gutto and Binoche rode along with Wood, and Binoche also learned to drive. According to publicity about the film, Binoche fell in love with the experience of driving an 18-wheeler both in the lead-up and while shooting the film.

“I loved hearing the motor,” said Binoche. “Because there are 13 different gears, you learn to be in tune with your engine sound, almost like a musical instrument, in order to drive well.

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“The sense of independence is fun, but soon you can really feel the danger of truck driving and I feel for drivers on the road. It is an exhausting job.” 

Paradise Highway is in select theaters and is available on demand.