• In Monte Hellman’s hypnotic road movie Two-Lane Blacktop, folk singer James Taylor gives a lead performance that is both unassuming and arresting, the kind of askew, unshowy, vanity-free acting that perhaps only a nonprofessional actor is capable of. As the shiftless twentysomething Driver, who initiates a cross-country drag race with a middle-aged man played by Warren Oates, Taylor is as meditative as the slow-burning film he’s in.

    Hellman wanted to cast Taylor after seeing his picture on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard. “I just flipped over his face,” the director once said. When he contacted Taylor and had him do a screen test, it was clear there was something special about the musican’s on-camera presence. As you can see in this clip from that test, in which he is interviewed by actor A. J. Solari, the twenty-two-year-old Taylor has a sweet shyness that’s slyly seductive. The footage was unearthed by Hellman from his garage in 2007 for Criterion’s DVD release of Two-Lane Blacktop.

    Now watch the man in action, however taciturn. Here’s the crucial scene in the film in which Taylor challenges Oates to their epic road challenge.

4 comments

  • By Bettie
    January 09, 2013
    10:43 AM

    I have never heard of this movie! Gotta find it--JT is so laid-back, almost shy. Love me some him!
    Reply
  • By Marc
    January 16, 2013
    10:46 PM

    Classic early 70's Americana.I never get bored of watching this film because it is that good:very interesting to see James Taylor and Dennis Wilson in their respective roles back then.If you love 70's retro,especially muscle cars this film is for you!
    Reply
  • By Georgia
    August 13, 2013
    07:42 PM

    never heard of it either..............omg............James was hot and also Dennis. I got to check into this movie
    Reply
  • By apaulo
    June 28, 2014
    12:27 AM

    Much later I worked on one of the four 55's that were used in the film. It is nice see this obsession with muscle cars captured on film. Great music :+:+:+: Great film.
    Reply

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