By Clark Collis
Updated November 05, 2015 at 09:38 PM EST

Josh Duhamel is well known for playing romantic leads and good guys. But in the new drama Lost in the Sun (out Nov. 6 in theaters, on VOD, and via iTunes) he portrays an ex-con who essentially kidnaps a bereaved teenager and embarks on a crime-spree with his new, reluctant partner.

So, what’s going on, buddy?

“Yeah, this is definitely not romantic,” says the Transformers franchise star. “I have made a real effort to not do things that people expect. Just creatively, I wanted to do some stuff that challenged me, and allowed me to stretch it a little bit. I’ve been looking for stuff that felt different, yet cool. Making the movie was a passion project, something that we’d worked for a number of years to get off the ground. So, here it is!”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You say this was a passion project. How did you get involved with the film in the first place?

JOSH DUHAMEL: Well, the writer-director, Trey (Nelson), sent me this letter along with the script. My agent was like, “I want you take a look at this; it’s pretty good.” And I did, and he wrote this really poignant letter that pointed out what he wanted to do and this story he wanted to tell. I felt the script was really honest and bare-bones. There wasn’t a lot of trickery behind it. It was what it was. I just liked the simplicity and the intensity of it. This was a cool character, I liked the journey, and it was an all-hands-on-deck sort of mentality on this thing. You know, there were no fancy trailers, there was no fancy craft service. Everybody was there because they liked the story and wanted to make the movie.

You do get the sense, watching the film, that it was shot where there are cows and not much else.

Yeah. We were out there in the middle of Texas shooting it. You wanted it to feel like dirty west Texas, like it’s been weathered and worn-down over time.

Talking about being worn-down, your voice in the film sounds like you’ve been gargling with razor blades.

Ha! Well, I had this brilliant idea that I was going to put these caps on my teeth, to make my teeth look all f—ed up. What I didn’t realize was, when you put these caps on, the mouth isn’t used to that. I had cuts and everything throughout my gums the entire time. I was so miserable, my mouth was just torn out from these fake caps that I had on my teeth. And all of that leant to this miserable [chuckles] existence that this guy embraces every day.

Nearly all of your scenes are with a young actor. Were you involved in the casting of Josh Wiggins? Because, clearly, if you two hadn’t gotten along, that would have made it seem like a very long shoot.

Yeah, I was involved. I went to Austin, and we had pretty extensive auditions, for that part especially. We needed to find the right kid — somebody who wasn’t too childish, somebody who wasn’t too mature. He was just really really good, and solid, and subtle. There’s something intense about him that was really cool. I was just really proud of him. He’s a really great kid and a really good actor, I think.

You can see an exclusive clip from Lost in the Sun, above.