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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART, Driven

CART Media Conference

Keith Allo
Gina Gershon
Renny Harlin
Kip Pardue
Burt Reynolds
Elie Samaha
Til Schweiger
Sylvester Stallone
July 13, 2000

MODERATOR: Thank for joining us today. It is a special weekends for CART and also for the movie Champs this weekend at the Molson Indy, principle shooting for the motion picture will begin with the entire cast. The shooting will take place throughout the weekend on track as well as Monday and Tuesday here in Toronto. Today also marks the first introduction of this All-Star cast to the media. Before we introduce the cast I'd like to introduce Keith Allo, CART's Vice-president Of Broadcasting. Keith.

KEITH ALLO: First of all, I am a little bit sad because I didn't quite make the cut, so I will just hold this like this. On behalf of the CART organization and the CART community, we are obviously extremely excited about being a part of this movie and being the backdrop for the film Champs. Although I think Sly would probably have a little bit different version, for us this has come together fairly quickly. We received a call from Sly in December and in February we were able to make an announcement and then basically here in July, seven months later, we are going full board to the principle photography. So I think that is due in large part to the commitment and the passion of both Sly and Renny. These two gentlemen are passionate about racing, about our sport. They absolutely love this game and I think it is their -- credit goes them for getting this project moving forward so quickly. For CART, the benefits are many; too many to sit here and mention right now, but I think the primary benefit for us is that for those of us who follow the sport on a regular basis we know the excitement, the wonderful personalities and what a dynamic sport this really is. But I think with the making of this movie, we have an opportunity to not only go out to the millions of fans that know our sport, but also to appeal to the hundreds of million people that are going to see this movie and introduce them to this sport in such a dynamic way that has never been done before. So for us, the opportunity to be on the coattails of an icon like Mr. Stallone and Reynolds and Renny get this sport out here to the hundreds of millions of people that will see this movie because of them, we hope it will hook the people to our sport because I think that you will find this film is going to be absolutely unbelievable. That is a guarantee from Renny, I think. So in general, we are thrilled to be here. We are thrilled to cooperate with this fine group of people through this week in Chicago and the rest of the shooting weeks. We look forward to the movie coming out next year.

MODERATOR: Our first guest is direct/producer Renny Harlin. Renny has been a familiar face in our paddock this season. They have already started filming in Brazil, Japan, Miami, Long Beach and Detroit. Renny first teamed with Sly as director and producer of Cliff Hanger. He also directed Deep Blue Satisfy, Die Hard 2, Die Harder, The Long Kiss Good Night, Nightmare In Elm Street 4 and the Dream Master. He has been producer of such films as Blast from the Past and Speechless and Renny made his debut as a producer in 1991 with the Oscar winning Rambling Rose. Renny, you can take over now. (APPLAUSE)

RENNY HARLIN: I will keep it brief, but I just wanted to say that car racing has been a passion of mine since childhood and the fact that I am here now with all these people in Toronto, shooting an open-wheel car racing movie, which hasn't been done in 30 years, is really a dream come true for me. And what makes this even more special is that we really have a fantastic screenplay. You probably remember a small movie a while ago called Rocky, and we happen to have the same Oscar nominated writer of that movie behind our screenplay. That brings me to a point that obviously Rocky wasn't a movie about boxing, and this movie is not a movie just about cars going around a racetrack. Obviously there will be a lot of human drama and I think the type of cast that we have lined up here is a testament to those words that Sly has put on paper and attracted these fabulous actors to do this film. Having said that, I want to also emphasize that we have come along way from the '60s in terms of movie technology and what we can now do digitally in terms of picture, the visuals and sound, I think will really put the audience in the drivers seat in this film and really offer an experience that you don't get from TV or from other any other media. I'd like to show you first a two-and-a-half-minute clip that we have put together. This is footage that we have shot in several races around the world this spring, and now we have been shooting here in Toronto for one week, so, you won't see all the actors yet in this piece because we haven't filmed with all the actors yet, but you will get an idea, a little glimpse to what kind of excitement that this film will hopefully offer. So let us take a look at the clip.


MODERATOR: I am going to hand it over to Renny. He is going to introduce a special guest as well as his cast.

RENNY HARLIN: I wanted to just add that CART has been fantastic in facilitating our shooting, and all the teams who participated in this incredible form of racing, have been so supportive; that it has been really a pleasure and been very easy for us to sort of integrate in this world and shoot, but the bravest man, I think, in the whole group here is Elie Samaha who after years of Sly's hard work and some of my work, was the man who was ready to step to the plate or I guess in this case, step to the pit lane, and finance this film. I'd like to introduce Elie Samaha. (APPLAUSE)

ELIE SAMAHA: I just finished a movie with Sly which is actually going to be released October 6th and Sly gave me this script to read actually a year ago which he has been trying to get made. I read it on the plane on my way to Montreal where I was shooting a couple of films. The minute I got off the plane I said to Sly, this is actually Rocky on wheels and I want to make this movie. The next thing is I sat down with Renny and the rest is history. We start making this film which I believe is going to be one of the biggest summer hits for next year because everybody that is working on this film and everybody sitting right up here, is doing this from the heart more than it is just for the paycheck. All are actually trying to get something made that Sly believed in the same way he believed in boxing when boxing was two guys going around in a ring punching each other without seeing anything. So I think that this will change the history of racing for the future. I thank everybody for being here. (APPLAUSE)

RENNY HARLIN: Thank you. I am him going to introduce our cast here. We have Robert Sean Leonard here; Brent Briscoe; Til Schhweiger; Stacy Edwards; Kip Pardue who plays Jimmy, and your very own Estella Warren. (APPLAUSE) Here, of course, I have Burt Reynolds who plays the team owner. And Christian de la Fuente. Gina Gershon who plays Cathy. (APPLAUSE) And of course finally Sylvester Stallone who is also producing and has also written the script for the movie. (APPLAUSE)

SYLVESTER STALLONE: I think it is terrific to be able to venture into something that is very symbolic. I have always wondered why people have been drawn, gravitated towards racing in whatever form there is. Man has been racing since time in memorium, Ben Hur, whatever, and I think there is something very psychological to it. These are special people that get involved in a life and death, flesh and blood situation every day of their lives. But what is more intriguing is the impact on their private lives, who do they really are, who they really are when the helmet and uniform comes off, and they have to maintain relationships that every one of us out there experience every day. And their problems are perhaps a little bit more magnified because again of the life and death situation, but they still can relate and you can relate because they are not special. Once the uniforms come off, they are just everyday people, same kind of hangups, and dreams and courage and fears and cowardice and everything that goes into just making up the human psyche. So I thought if we can get this -- slowly get this on the page and be interpreted -- the main thing is just hiring the right actors. If you can get the words there, that is half the battle; then you have to get the actors that just naturally lend themselves to interpreting -- in other words, they are the real people. It is like -- they are not playing anything that is alien. They have it in them. Every one here has a natural inborn dramatic passion and certain kind of complexities that, I think, go into making excellent performances. So I am very grateful and we spent a lot of time casting. I think we saw -- there is about 6 billion people on the planet - we saw 7 billion people. We saw every one that ever existed. So I am really, really happy with this. Tell my mother I will be home in an hour. Thank you. And so I am really, really happy about it. If anyone wants to ask questions, feel free.

MODERATOR: Before start with the questions, I want to ask a question: Can you just talk about -- one of the keys for movie-goers is realism and just talk about the components you are going to put into this film that shows realism between cameo appearances with our drivers as well as the filming and the special events you have done?

RENNY HARLIN: Obviously in order to make an entertaining movie it can't be a documentary. But at the same time, since we -- both Sly and I have been following open-wheel racing for a long time of our lives, we are very particular about really showing it in the right light and in a correct way and not taking crazy scenes where things won't ever happen that way. We want to be able to go to the race tracks after this movie and hang out with our friends who are members of their teams and feel proud about this film. So we have taken a lot of time to make sure that things are accurate and the way that we shoot them it is accurate and we are integrating the real drivers into the story - they will interact with our cast members; play parts in the movie, and so on. That is a very important aspect and at the same time obviously we want to tell a story that is very dramatic, very moving, very emotional, and very entertaining.

MODERATOR: Anything to add to that, Sly?

SYLVESTER STALLONE: Nothing to say. I didn't do it. Really, I think that a lot of it will be actually on, you know, on the screen -- we can sit there and we can describe and we can tell you what we are going to do - be an arm chair quarterback - but we have all the elements to make a wonderful film and we have tremendously supportive people because Hollywood has changed drastically in the past 25 years, and it is very, very difficult to get a film made that is called a "high concept film" because no one knows how to place it and this was -- this is the kind of like category this fell into like with boxing, like with any sports film, you go: Sports - I don't know, I don't know if I want to see another guy sweating. No, that is not it at all. This is a very, very technical film. Also like, for example, like in the script there is more technology involved in one of these cars than there was to put a man on the moon, so it gives you an idea, they just don't have to be drivers; they have to be kind of almost technological wizards to really understand the mechanics of this car, so there is a lot of pressure. There is not much difference between these drivers and young astronauts, believe me, the training and the dangers are perhaps even more. I would say they are even greatly amplified doing what they do than actually being and astronaut, so it gives you an idea the pressure that they are under and they do it once every day. These others fly once every five years. So you can imagine the burden that they live under and the performance expectancy. So I just find that fascinating and technically we will be able to do things, to see racing through the eyes of these particular men that has never been able to be done because they just did not have the technology we are talking about Hollywood, kind of CGI, and computer technology, where you will be placed in the car. It will not be like a camera on top and me riding alongside on a bicycle and a Polaroid saying: Yeah, that looks good. No, it is going to be very, very technical. I am so excited to see some of the blueprints that Renny has come up which I think are just absolutely genius, so it is just a matter of getting up there and do it.

Q. Since we are in Toronto, can you talk about how you found Estella and her role in the film?

SYLVESTER STALLONE: Estella, she had just won a few positions, few awards, you know, with great poise and beauty going. My God we are casting, we are looking for someone who just had this natural charisma who obviously is beautiful, but there are a lot of beautiful people on the planet. The inner beauty and the sensitivity, just a natural kind of charisma is just something that can't be implanted. You either have it or you don't. She came into the office and she is very, very new to this profession, but quite often, I believe that acting can't be taught. You either understand it or you don't. It is just something that comes natural. She just seemed to be a natural.

Q. What kind of problems will there be since the movie Days of Thunder (inaudible) because that is the movie most people know -- what is the difference in this movie than what they did in the past and (2), if you can talk about the danger aspect in making this movie?

SYLVESTER STALLONE: Real simple, one thing, obvious thing, it is really an ensemble cast. That other film was basically about Tom Cruise and his dilemma. This is basically three-generational racers trying to deal with: You are over the hill; you are reaching your peak, and a guy who is just coming into his own. So there is fear; there is envy; competition, and there are private lives which get very, very entwined between, so it is about their love lives and their romantic situations and loss and great dilemma and being involved with X wife, so it gets very, very different than Days of Thunder. Now, the racing aspects of Days of Thunder is much more American. This is worldwide. This is an international sort of feel. So it will be visually absolutely 100% different. But it will be in the same spirit -- extremely competitive, but absolutely, it will be diametrically opposed in a visual sense because that was ten years ago, so we have come along way.

RENNY HARLIN: I'd like to add that as strange as it might sound, what we are trying to do is really make also the car one of the characters in the movie. We are not taking anything for granted. We are not just saying that it is just this vehicle and you jump in; then you drive. We are really trying to show what this car is made of and how the driver interacts with the car and the incredible technical aspects of these cars. So I think while that sounds very technical, my belief is that it will actually make it very interesting for not only those who are enthusiasts in this area, but people who never even thought twice about what cars are made of and how they work and what race cars are all about and so on; women and children the like. I hope that after this movie people will understand actually the interaction of the driver and what happens in the engine and why and how and make it exciting and interesting.

Q. Kip, can you just tell us about your role in the movie and what your character portrays in the movie as well?

KIP PARDUE: I play a character who is, you hate hearing the expression a "rookie sensation" but that is what he is. He comes in with a lot of hype first season on the CART Tour. He comes in as the No. 1 driver for the PacWest Team and just doesn't fully understand what this sport is all about. He understands the technicalities of the racing; understands how the car works; understands how to make it go faster than anyone else, but doesn't understand the whole lifestyle that this sport brings about. That is where Sly comes in. Sly's character comes -- is hired actually to help me make the transition and be the racer that I know I can be. So it is all about becoming who you really can be, living up to your potential.

Q. What did you know about racing prior to reading the script? What have you discovered about it in this whole process and what kind of homework did you have to do in order to really get into the character?

TIL SCHWEIGER: Homework was I had to learn my lines. I knew a little bit about racing because I am from Germany and Formula One is really big in Germany. And that was basically it, what I knew. I didn't know that much, but today actually I got my first driving lesson. We went out to the track and drove and it was unbelievable. Chip and I went together. I said: We have the best job in the world. He didn't win.


Q. Could you talk about the difficulties you had in getting this film made?

SYLVESTER STALLONE: Yeah, it was really difficult. First of all, there is a tremendous amount of scheduling, you know, trying to -- well, the basic thing was no one wanted to make it. It was considered a high risk or different, and it's exactly what I went through about 24 years ago. I said, boy, nothing really changes; nobody wants to make a boxing film and nobody was really worried about doing this. So it was one of those kinds of things where you are walking around with the script under your arm and you are telling the story hundreds of times at every party, everything, just trying to elicit interest and people come in and it becomes a love story and: Oh, we are going to do it. Next day you get a call, they have lost your number, and so on, so forth. Studio, they balk or one thing -- and regimes change, so it has been -- and then we were dealing with the European equivalent Formula 1 and that kind of fell apart but, you know, I am really glad it did. I think things happen for a reason. I really don't believe there is many coincidences on this planet, I really don't. The mere fact that this did not come to fruition opened up much more access and, to me, and I really like Formula 1 and I admire the drivers, but I think this particular sport is a lot more complex because they have to race in ovals and shorter tracks and super speedways, so they just don't have to face one road course. Their cars go much, much faster. They are more powerful, and it is a little bit more international, you know what I mean, there is more countries involved. Whereas, F-I is very nationalistic. This is more internationalistic, just keeps going around. So it was extremely difficult. When I came across Elie - and I have known Elie since he was born - actually I raised him. And he finally paid me back. I appreciate it. He lived in my closet for years, and -- no, I have known him for many, many years. He is just one of those kinds of men that works from instinct and his gut which is what Hollywood used to be, was at one time that we would take a chance and it is very, very hard to do that now. All the numbers have changed; all the players have changed, but he is kind of old school, and I think he was the perfect -- again, I don't believe in coincidence, so maybe all those other things did not go so I'd eventually end up with a gentleman like that who is on the same wavelength as myself.

Q. Burt, can you tell us how got involved in the film?

BURT REYNOLDS: Burgess Meredith is dead.

SYLVESTER STALLONE: He is? I didn't know that.

BURT REYNOLDS: Cheap joke and I went for it. I am sorry.


BURT REYNOLDS: He happened to be a wonderful friend of my and I loved him very much, and so did Sly and I can't tell that story that we know about him. Somebody asked me once why I didn't want to make Smokey and the Bandit 3. I said because I would be on a walker and I won't be fast enough. I always wanted to work with Sly. We have been friends a long, long, long time. Very few guys around who I felt -- McQueen, if you handed him a gun, a car, whatever, he'd just -- it fit. There is an awful lot of actors around who it doesn't work, just doesn't work. It works with this man. So I always wanted to work with him. I always thought that he'd be in the Gable part; I would be in the Tracy part. I didn't know I would be playing the Lionel Barrymore part, but I don't care. I am thrilled to death to be on the screen with him and I am just terrified to be on the screen with you. No, it came about because Sly said to me a long, long, long time ago, actually he was on his way up here to do Rambo - we would have to work together sometime and it has taken this long and hopefully I can come through for him.

SYLVESTER STALLONE: You will, man, I am so lucky to have Burt Reynolds because I really admire this man. He is a one-off, he is truly a rare breed in a day when breeds are getting really rare to find and I am just telling you, I think it is going to be some explosive acting, something that is going to be unexpected because it is just really unusual when you know you are working with someone who is going to push you to the very end and I am ready to get shoved.

RENNY HARLIN: I am really scared because I am working with two giant movies stars who have both directed movies themselves.

Q. Welcome to Toronto (inaudible). I am a radio reporter in the movie. I shot my scene last weekend, so I am a real reporter. I want to know why you selected Toronto as such a primary location to shoot a film?

RENNY HARLIN: I should probably have a dual citizenship or something because I have done now four pictures, my fourth picture in Toronto and I love working here. It is no secret that it is more economical to shoot in Canada than in Hollywood, and people here are great. Crews are fantastically professional. The climate is good except when I was here last time, it was the coldest winter in 60 years. But all those things, plus a good restaurant and all that, is a great draw. I always say Toronto is kind of like a cleaned up version of New York, and obviously the race itself that takes place here this weekend is one reason also why it offers a fantastic backdrop for us and we get a giant amount of free production value, thousands and thousands of people and beautiful architecture, all that.

Q. There is a rumor already that you are planning a sequel, going to focus more on the female reporter that was in that scene last weekend; is that true?

RENNY HARLIN: I think Sly is working on a script.


Q. I don't think you really touched on the risk involved in this film. We watched the incredible the number of crashes we saw per minute there, what kind of risks are all the actors involved in making this film?

RENNY HARLIN: That is a very good question and also has to do with the crew. There is one shot there which I shot in Japan and there the shot you can see a car hits the wall two feet from where I was standing. So it is an aspect that we have to be very careful with and take into account for the cast and the crew that we are dealing with something very, very dangerous. As long as the cars are on the track and everything goes right, it is safe, but if something goes wrong, we have to have the precautions to make it safe for everybody. Obviously for the racing sequence that is involved, a recreated accident or something like that, we have real race car drivers who really know how to handle these cars in extremely high speeds and then we will also use computer technology to create some situations that physically would be almost impossible to do to safely for real. But it is a huge concern for me and always when making an action picture the challenges that the audience wants to see more, they want to experience something that they haven't seen before and at the same time, when you are pushing that envelope, you want to know that you are pushing it with a group of people who know what they are doing; whether it is race car instructors, student coordinators, special events people, and so on, it has to be done so that nobody gets hurt.

Q. Gina, your role in the film and who you portray and the character's role in the film?

GINA GERSHON: I play Cathy who used to be married to Sly's character Joe and they had one of those tumultuous relationships. At first I thought it is a race car driving movie, why am I doing this unless I get to drive it. All the cute boys get to do that. But when I got to the part of Cathy and Joe it just really disturbed me and touched me because it is such a tragic situation what happens when people are either meant for each other or not, but they just can't seem to get it together and their egos get in the way. Obviously they have a lot of passion towards each other and this is a woman who has kind of held on to the past even though she married a fellow driver that is just because he loved her. You know, so there is a lot of unresolved issues there that I found just human dramas going, human issues; I thought it was pretty interesting because sadly they happen a lot. So that is why I decided to do it. Working with this guy is pretty great too.

Q. Sly, I wanted to find out why did you decide to write this now and it sounds like from what little you said, that you also drew a lot on your highs and lows in your personal, professional life?

SYLVESTER STALLONE: Well, you know, very much. I think the timing was just absolutely perfect. Let us just say that it had gone down two years earlier and everything worked out, I just don't think -- first of all, this cast most likely would not have been available. Estella wasn't born for one thing and things like that, and so I really believed that in -- also coming over and doing it in this part of the world, I think worked out a little bit better. And it is somewhat biographical. The situation basically -- especially between myself and Gina and between myself and Chip, is a generational thing and it is like passing the mantel, but in passing the mantel you realize that you are basically out of the picture; you are saying that, you know, you are replaceable; you are an obsolete part and it is very hard to do that, so it becomes a father and son generational thing and it is like the old Champion; new Champion, young bull; old bull, but that part, I really thought I could draw on just what has happened in the past five years just been rather interesting just like in Rocky. I mean, basically Rocky was my story of just trying to get discovered or a chance whatever, but I thought, you know, a struggling actor story is not that identifiable or, you know, like oh, instead of running up the steps of the museum, he is fighting his way through his agent's office; it just doesn't quite have the same impact. But this is all -- it is somewhat semi-biographical in a sense because I think that is the only way you can really -- to me, if you don't know or having lived it, it is tough to sell it, it really is. Really.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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