Juliette Binoche learned how to play a truck driver in her new movie Paradise Highway from a real-life woman truck driver who has seen the hardships — and the joys — of living on the road.
“It’s a journey you cannot do halfway,” Juliette Binoche told MovieMaker. “You have to do it entirely, or not.”
Paradise Highway, directed by Anna Gutto and out now in theaters from Liongate, takes a close look at the trucking industry and the hideous realities of an industry that runs alongside it: human trafficking. In order to save her brother (Frank Grillo), Sally (Binoche), a fearless woman truck driver, finds herself responsible for a young girl named Leila (Hala Finley). As Sally struggles with what to do with Leila, a good-hearted FBI operative (Morgan Freeman) vows to save Leila from a life at the mercy of human traffickers
Juliette Binoche’s truck driving mentor for Paradise Highway was Desiree Wood, founder of a non-profit organization called REAL Women in Trucking that’s dedicated to women truck drivers’ rights and stopping them from being sexually assaulted on the road.
“I went on a trip with a woman truck driver. We went for four days and slept in the truck and ate at the truck stops and talked a lot about her life and her past and why she became a truck driver, and what are the problems and what are the joyful situation that you go through as a truck driver,” Binoche said. “There’s a sense of freedom, there’s a sense of being your own person, your own boss, if you’re not working for a company who exploits you.”
Binoche couldn’t say enough good things about Wood, who gave her the tools she needed to play the role of Sally with accuracy and deference to the real-life female truck drivers of the world.
“She’s amazing. She’s a life force, and she’s a defender of truck driving for women. And I think it was one of the reasons and I wanted to do this film,” Binoche added.
The Chocolat star recalled one particularly brave and impressive thing that Desiree did on the road, but like her character Sally does in Paradise Highway.
“I remember there was a moment — it was in the evening, and we had to get some gas, and she [Wood] said something like, ‘Uh oh, okay, I’m gonna go on that line, and this guy is not going to be happy.’ And we arrived close to the sleeper of that driver she was telling me about, and the guy got so mad at her, and she yelled back like a lioness,” Binoche said. “The guy was so astonished that it was a woman. But… that was the only way she could go, because the guy wouldn’t move forward. So she knew the rules, but she faced the rules. You know? She faced the situation. I was quite surprised by that. It frightened me.”
“Desiree probably wanted to prove herself she could do it, and she does it beautifully, being independent and all,” she added. “It’s rough work because it’s long hours, and it’s a male world, and so, as a woman, you have to be prepared to face situations that are not easy for women. But she learned to be tough in a way to protect herself. But at the same time she’s joyful and full of life and intelligence.”
Main Image: Juliette Binoche and Hala Finley in Paradise Highway courtesy of Lionsgate
Paradise Highway is now playing in theaters and on demand.