QUENTIN TARANTINO: MY FAVOURITE RACING MOVIES

Set for UK release on September 13, Lauda vs Hunt movie Rush is eagerly anticipated by racing fans and multiplex thrill-seekers alike. A lucky handful of us have already seen it. Until its release I’ve promised not to review it, except to say it will not disappoint.

In the next week or so I will post an interview I did recently with director Ron Howard. But in the meantime I’ve gone an found a little gem from my archive…

My colleague Will Buxton has blogged here about his top ten racing movies of all time, and Rush makes a very worthy appearance. Rather than post my own list, though, I thought I’d reprint an interview I did a few years back with one of my most trusted arbiters of all things cinema, Quentin Tarantino.

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Quentin Tarantino and F1-SD

I asked QT what his favourite racing movies are, and were he to make a racing movie how he would approach it. He just talked, and talked, and talked… The man knows his racing movies.

“People say the greatest racing movies are Grand Prix and Le Mans, but those are a couple of the ones I don’t care for. Grand Prix should be great, but it’s not. It gets way too caught up in the soap opera. Shit, who cares about that? Le Mans sounds like it should be fantastic, but to be honest I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to watch it through till the end without blacking out. It’s very pretentious, and pretty boring. And Paul Newman’s Winning is even worse. I’d rather saw my fingers off than sit through that again…

“My favourite racing movies are the B-movie genre ones. I’m a big fan of some of the racing movies that came out of American International Pictures in the Sixties. Like Roger Corman’s The Young Racers – I’m a big fan of that one, where this supposed bad ass driver takes bedding women as seriously as he does winning races. Action flick meets romantic drama, but nicely balanced.

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“Thunder Alley is another good one. Richard Rush is a terrific director and stunt man and I actually used part of the score from this film in the big car chase scene in my movie Death Proof. It’s a real Sixties hard-driving piece of music with bongos and a cintar. That’s really cool.

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“There are some fun Southern ones too. Rory Calhoun did a movie called Thunder in Carolina where a driver teaches his mechanic how to race. There’s also this amazing film that no one’s ever seen – I’ve only seen it once and I’d love to see it again – this really good Seventies backtrack exploitation movie which I think if memory serves me correctly is called Fury on Wheels. It’s hilarious and very satirical. I remember really liking that.

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“Formula One is pretty new to me, and I love it. Most of my experience though, living in America and originally hailing from Tennessee, is of NASCAR. I’ve got a friend who works in the series and so I’ve been to quite a few races with her. I like stock car movies. There’s one from the Seventies about the king of stock car drivers in his early days, Junior Johnson, called The Last American Hero, staring Jeff Bridges. It’s also known as Hard Driver, that’s a terrific film. Jeff’s performance, as a young kid from the sticks trying to make it to the big time, is right on the money.

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“But I guess my favourite racing film is in the same AIP vain; a terrific picture called The Wild Racers. It’s with Fabian and Mimsy Farmer and directed by a guy named Daniel Haller. In it Fabian plays a famous stock car hotshot who comes across to Europe to make it as a Formula One driver. It’s shot like an Antonioni movie, with very little dialogue, most of which is voice-over. And no shot in the movie lasts more than twenty seconds. The quick edits keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s very avant-garde, but it still delivers a proper racing movie. Classy.

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“If I were to direct a racing movie I would look to mimic a lot of that Sixties AIP flavour. I would probably draw inspiration from Howard Hawks’ Red Line 7000, which was made in 1965 and starred James Caan. It’s not pretentious, like Grand Prix and stuff, but the story isn’t dissimilar. It’s got soap opera with everyone trying to sleep with everyone else, but it’s done in a fun way. It actually plays like a really great Elvis Presley movie. Elvis’ racing movies were good but not this good. I like the way that Red Line 7000 has a community of characters all staying in this Holiday Inn together and hanging out. That’s a cool platform.

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“Though I’m really interested in these low budget B-movies I also have to say I’m a fan of the big budget ones too. Hands down my favourite is Days of Thunder. Yeah, yeah, you laugh but seriously I’m a big fan. To me Days of Thunder is the movie Grand Prix and Le Mans should have been. Sure, it had a big budget, big stars and a big director in Tony Scott, but it had the fun of those early AIP movies. I just don’t think it works if you take the whole thing too seriously.”

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I also asked Tarantino about his own car collection, and it turns out he owns the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill! Imagine that, you’re walking along  and Quentin Tarantino pulls up IN THE PUSSY WAGON! Legend.

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“I’ve never felt the need to have a cool car. I’ve never been an aficionado. Yet for some reason my driveway has gone from being barren and hopeless to looking like the set of Gone in Sixty Seconds.

“Actually, I’ve always liked driving a piece of shit, because you have an incredible amount of freedom with a piece of shit. You scrape a pillar in a parking lot, who cares? You leave it parked on the side of the street no one’s going to steal it. If someone scratches it I don’t give a fuck.

“But I’ve actually started to get some nice cars. I bought the Pussy Wagon when I finished Kill Bill. I mean, what was I going to do, give it to somebody else? No! Then I bought a new Mustang and got it painted in the Kill Bill colours – yellow with a black stripe. Then I got the new Cadillac Escalade with the V8 Supercharger. That’s a lot of fun. And then, when I finished Death Proof, I thought: “Hey, these are my cars. I’m not gonna let anyone else have ‘em” – so I bought the Dodge Challenger and the Charger. For a guy who’s not really into cars, I’ve got a pretty cool garage.”

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