Days of Thunder

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For the NASCAR-style racing series in Europe which used the name "Days of Thunder" from 2003-04, see Stock Car Speed Association.
Days of Thunder
Days of thunder.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Scott
Produced by Don Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenplay by Robert Towne
Story by Robert Towne
Tom Cruise
Starring Tom Cruise
Robert Duvall
Randy Quaid
Nicole Kidman
Cary Elwes
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Ward Russell
Edited by Chris Lebenzon
Billy Weber
Production
company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 27, 1990 (1990-06-27)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$ 60 million[1]
Box office $157,920,733

Days of Thunder is a 1990 American auto racing film released by Paramount Pictures, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Tony Scott. The cast includes Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes, Caroline Williams, and Michael Rooker. The film also features appearances by real life NASCAR racers, such as Rusty Wallace, Neil Bonnett, and Harry Gant. Commentator Dr. Jerry Punch, of ESPN, has a cameo appearance, as does co-producer Don Simpson.

This is the first of three films to star both Cruise and Kidman (the other two being Far and Away and Eyes Wide Shut).

Plot[edit]

Cole Trickle is a young racer from Glendale, California with years of experience in open-wheel racing winning championships in Sprint car racing. His goal was to win the Indianapolis 500 but realises that "You can't win at Indy without a great car and my name isn't Andretti or Unser". He is recruited by Chevrolet dealership tycoon Tim Daland to race for his team in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Daland also convinces former crew chief and car builder Harry Hogge to come out of retirement and lead Cole's pit crew. After Trickle set a quick time in a private test at Charlotte, Hogge builds him a new Chevrolet Lumina to drive in the Winston Cup, though the season has already started.

During his first few races, Cole has difficulty adjusting to the larger NASCAR stock cars and communicating with his crew while being intimidated on the track by Winston Cup Champion Rowdy Burns; this results in Cole not finishing the races, mostly due to crashes or blown engines. After discovering that Cole does not understand the common terminology used by NASCAR teams, Harry puts him in a series of rigorous training. This pays off at the Darlington race, when Cole uses a slingshot maneuver from the outside line (something real life NASCAR drivers rarely did coming out of turn 4 on the tracks old configuration (now turn 2) as most ended up out of control and into the wall) to overtake Rowdy and win his first race.

The rivalry between Cole and Rowdy intensifies throughout the season until tragedy strikes. At the Firecracker 400 in Daytona, both drivers are seriously injured after their cars are destroyed by "The Big One". While recovering from his injuries in Daytona Beach, Cole develops a romantic relationship with Dr. Claire Lewicki, a Neurosurgeon at the Daytona Memorial Hospital who was senior doctor on duty when he was brought in after his crash and who was attending to his health. At the same time, Cole and Rowdy change from bitter rivals to close friends.

As Cole is still undergoing therapy, Daland hires hot shot rookie Russ Wheeler to take over his spot. Weeks later, Cole returns to active duty, with Daland now fielding two teams – the second car driven by Russ. Though Cole shows signs of his old self, he finds himself intimidated by his own team mate. Then, at North Wilkesboro, Russ gets dirty on pit road and spins Cole out to win the race. In retaliation, Cole crashes his car into Russ's car following the race, resulting in Cole and Harry's team being fired by Daland.

When Rowdy discovers that he has to undergo brain surgery to fix a broken blood vessel, he asks Cole to drive his car at the Daytona 500 so his sponsors will pay for the year. Cole reluctantly agrees and convinces Harry to be his crew chief again. Hours prior to the race, Harry discovers metal in the oil pan, a sign of engine failure, so he manages to have Daland provide him a new engine. During the race, Cole's car suffers a malfunctioning transmission after being spun out by Russ, but the combined efforts of his pit crew, as well as those working for Daland, manage to fix the problem and get him back on the lead lap. This sets the tone for a final showdown between Cole and Russ. On the final lap, Russ predicts that Cole will attempt his signature slingshot maneuver from outside, but Cole tricks him with a crossover, overtaking him from the inside to win his first Daytona 500.

Cole drives into victory lane, where he and Claire kiss passionately while they celebrate with his pit-crew. As he looks around to see where Harry is, he spots him sitting alone on a concrete barrier near the teams pit stall. Cole walks up to Harry and challenges him to a foot race to victory lane.

Cast[edit]

#46 City Chevrolet used by Cole Trickle.

Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, and Dr. Jerry Punch all appear in cameo roles as themselves.

Production[edit]

Principal photography took place in early 1990 in and around Charlotte and Daytona. It was plagued with delays due to frequent arguments on set between Simpson and Bruckheimer, Scott, and sometimes Towne over how to set up a shot. Crew members sat idle for long hours; some later said they had accumulated enough overtime pay to go on vacation for a full four months after filming was completed. The completion date was pushed back many times, with filming being completed in early May,[5] three months later than it had originally been scheduled. At one point, following the third revision of the shooting schedule in a single day, the unit production manager, who represents the studio on the set or location, confronted Simpson and Bruckheimer and was told bluntly that the schedule no longer mattered.[6]

In Daytona, Simpson and Bruckheimer spent $400,000 to have a vacant storefront in their hotel converted into their private gym, with a large neon sign reading "Days of Thunder." Simpson also kept a closet full of Donna Karan dresses to offer the attractive women his assistants found on the beach, and held private parties with friends like rapper Tone Lōc.[7] Towne also played a role in the film's increasing cost by scrapping more barn scenes when he didn't like either of two barns built to his specifications. The film's original budget of $35 million ($63.2 million in modern dollars[8]) nearly doubled; at that level it would have had to make at least $100 million, a rare gross at that time, to break even.[6] Despite the budget overruns and delays, reportedly it was only after shooting was finished that the filmmakers discovered they had neglected to film Cole Trickle's car crossing the finish line at Daytona.[7]

The cars used as those of Cole Trickle, Rowdy Burns and Russ Wheeler were provided by Hendrick Motorsports, with racers Greg Sacks, Bobby Hamilton and Hut Stricklin as the stunt drivers. These cars actually raced during the 1989 Winston Cup Season at Phoenix, where stunt driver Bobby Hamilton officially qualified 5th and led a lap while other cars were pitting before retiring from the race, and the 1990 Winston Cup season at Daytona, Darlington. The cars were officially scored for the Phoenix race in 1989, but were not for the 1990 races, likely because of Hamilton's strong run the year before.[9] Cole's first car in the film is sponsored by City Chevrolet, a real-life car dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina, owned by Rick Hendrick.[10]

Music[edit]

Coverdale at the Monsters of Rock festival in 1990.

The score for Days of Thunder was composed by Hans Zimmer, with Jeff Beck making a guest appearance on guitar. This was the first of an on-going list of films in which Zimmer would compose the score for a Jerry Bruckheimer production. An official score album was not released until 2013, by La-La Land Records.[11]

The song film's theme song "Last Note of Freedom" was sung by David Coverdale of the band Whitesnake at the request of Tom Cruise himself. Coverdale's vocal parts were recorded in 1990 in Los Angeles during a day off of the Whitesnake Slip of the Tongue Liquor and Poker world tour.[12]

Real-life references[edit]

While the movie was neither based on a true story, nor a biographical film, the main character Cole Trickle was very loosely based on the career of Tim Richmond,[13][14] and several scenes reenacted or referenced real-life stories and personalities from NASCAR history.[13]

The scene where Big John tells Cole and Rowdy they will drive to dinner together is based on an actual meeting Bill France, Sr. had in the 1980s between Dale Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine.[13] One scene in which Cole deliberately blows his engine by over-revving it reflects upon an incident in which Tim Richmond was said to have done so at Michigan in 1987.[15]

In another scene, Trickle is told he can not pit because the crew is too busy eating ice cream. This incident actually occurred at the 1987 Southern 500 involving the Hendrick Motorsports #35 team with crew chief Harry Hyde and Richmond's replacement driver Benny Parsons.[16]

The scene where Cole and Rowdy destroy a pair of rental cars by racing them through the city streets loosely referenced early 1950's NASCAR superstars Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner, each of whom were known to rent cars, race, and crash them with abandon.[17][18]

Release[edit]

Days of Thunder was released on Wednesday, June 27, 1990.[5] The film was a financial success grossing $157,920,733.[19][20]

Home media[edit]

The film was more successful on home video.[21] It grossed $40,000,000 in rentals.[22]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 2013 Subway Firecracker 250 driver Kurt Busch had his #1 Phoenix Racing Chevy painted identical to Cole Trickle's #46 City Chevy car.[23]

The fictional Mello Yello sponsorship depicted on Trickle's car during film was followed by a real-life sponsorship arrangement the following year. The car of Kyle Petty at SABCO Racing carried the livery from 1991-1994. Mello Yello also sponsored the fall race at Charlotte from 1990-1994.

Reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics who mostly shrugged off the sometimes over-the-top special effects and plot in many ways resembling the earlier Bruckheimer, Simpson, Scott and Cruise vehicle Top Gun (some calling it "Top Gun on wheels" or "Top Gun in Race Cars!"), which had been a huge success four years earlier.[24][25] Halliwell's Film Guide dismissed Days of Thunder as "An over familiar story rendered no more interestingly than usual",[26] while the Monthly Film Bulletin described it as "simply a flashy, noisy star vehicle for Tom Cruise, one which - like the stock car he drives - goes around in circles getting nowhere".[26]

The film currently holds a rating of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 57 reviews with the consensus: "Days of Thunder has Tom Cruise and plenty of flash going for it, but they aren't enough to compensate for the stock plot, two-dimensional characters, and poorly written dialogue."[27]

In a positive review, film critic Roger Ebert noted:

Days of Thunder is an entertaining example of what we might as well call the Tom Cruise Picture, since it assembles most of the same elements that worked in Top Gun, The Color of Money and Cocktail and runs them through the formula once again. Parts of the plot are beginning to wear out their welcome, but the key ingredients are still effective. They include:
1. The Cruise character, invariably a young and naive but naturally talented kid who could be the best, if ever he could tame his rambunctious spirit.
2. The Mentor, an older man who has done it himself and has been there before and knows talent when he sees it, and who has faith in the kid even when the kid screws up because his free spirit has gotten the best of him.
3. The Superior Woman, usually older, taller and more mature than the Cruise character, who functions as a Mentor for his spirit, while the male Mentor supervises his craft.
4. The Craft, which the gifted young man must master.
5. The Arena, in which the young man is tested.
6. The Arcana, consisting of the specialized knowledge and lore that the movie knows all about, and we get to learn.
7. The Arc, a journey to visit the principal places where the masters of the craft test one another.
8. The Proto-Villain, the bad guy in the opening reels of the movie, who provides the hero with an opponent to practice on. At first the Cruise character and the Proto-Enemy dislike each other, but eventually through a baptism of fire they learn to love one another.
9. The Villain, a real bad guy who turns up in the closing reels to provide the hero with a test of his skill, his learning ability, his love, his craft and his knowledge of the Arena and the Arcana.[28]

In an 1990 Siskel and Ebert special on Cruise, Ebert added one more ingredient to the formula, the "Dying Friend", referencing how in almost all the Cruise formula films, his friend/colleague had almost ended up sick or dying in the course of the film to present an emotional challenge for the Cruise character.[29]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound (Charles M. Wilborn, Donald O. Mitchell, Rick Kline and Kevin O'Connell).[30]

Legacy[edit]

Following Scott's death in 2012, film critic Stephen Metcalf argued that the film marked an important turning point in the history of the American film industry. "The best film he made may well have been Crimson Tide," he wrote in Slate, "but the most important film he made was Days of Thunder." The excesses of its production and its failure to equal Top Gun's magnitude of box-office success, he argues, helped end the era that had followed the failure of Heaven's Gate ten years earlier. The studio's willingness to indulge director Michael Cimino on that film, as other studios had been doing up to that point, led to a backlash where studios favored producers like Simpson and Bruckheimer whose films bore far more of their imprint than any director who worked for them. Crimson Tide, made several years after Days of Thunder, was the critical and commercial success it was, Metcalf says, because after similar excesses on the producers' part like those that occurred on Thunder directors were allowed to reassert themselves.[7]

The short film Days of London premiered on the video-sharing website Dailymotion in November 2012. It used extracts of the film's soundtrack, covered by Mark Ayres, to tell the story of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the torch relays, opening and closing ceremonies and every British Gold Medal winner. The film was dedicated to the memory of Tony Scott.

Quentin Tarantino said the film was his favorite big budget racing movie:

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.[31]

Video games[edit]

Days of Thunder (1990)[edit]

In 1990, Mindscape released a video game adaptation of the film for multiple platforms such as the PC, NES and Amiga. A Game Boy version was released in 1992. The game is currently available for the PlayStation Network and iOS.

Days of Thunder (2011)[edit]

Paramount Digital Entertainment releases a new video game based on the film for the iOS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PlayStation Portable. iOS version was released in 2009 and other versions were released in 2011. The game will include 12 NASCAR sanctioned tracks—including Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway—and the film characters Cole Trickle, Rowdy Burns, and Russ Wheeler. The PS3 version, labeled Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition will have more than 12 select NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, including Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Citron, Alan; Easton, Nina J. (1990-11-16). "2 of Paramount's Costliest Top Guns Lose Their Jobs". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  2. ^ Rees, Ryan (1990-06-27). "Alan Kulwicki's View From the Cockpit". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  3. ^ Mathews, Jack (1990-07-07). "Hollywood Knows Fakin', Not Racin'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  4. ^ Loud, Lance (1990-01-06). "Going for the 'Glory'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  5. ^ a b Van Gelder, Lawrence (June 26, 1990). "'Days of Thunder' Set for Wednesday Release". The Spokesman-Review. The New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Brady, Celia (August 1990). "Fast Cars, Fast Women, Slow Producers: Days of Thunder". Spy: 40. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Metcalf, Stephen (August 24, 2012). "How Days of Thunder Changed Hollywood". Slate. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  8. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  9. ^ Glick, Shav (1990-02-17). "Motor Racing Daytona 500". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  10. ^ Citron, Alan (1990-07-17). "Lumina Hopes to Hitch a Ride With Tom Cruise". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  11. ^ Days of Thunder at La-La Land Records
  12. ^ [1][dead link] "It was a personal request from Mr Cruise...& when I discovered the producer was Trevor Horn, I didn’t hesitate to get involved...I recorded the song in LA during a 2 or 3 day break on the Slip Of The Tongue US tour...( or the Liquor & Poker Tour...ahem )..."
  13. ^ a b c "The Summer That Nascar Received Its Close-Up". AP (The New York Times). 2010-06-26. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  14. ^ Hinton, Ed (2009-08-17). "More than Tim Richmond died in 1989". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  15. ^ Poole, David (2005): TIM RICHMOND: The Fast Life And Remarkable Times Of NASCAR's Top Gun (Sports Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL), pp. 155–8
  16. ^ Parsons, Benny (2009). "NASCAR Scrapbook: NASCAR Legend Benny Parson Reveals Some of His Most Poignant Racing Memories". Pause that Refreshed (Circle Track Magazine). Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  17. ^ "Curtis Turner Story Challenges Hollywood". Sarasota Journal. 1966-06-19. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  18. ^ "Joe Weatherly". 2012-08-00. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  19. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-07-10). "Die Hard 2 Mows Down the Competition". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  20. ^ Mathews, Jack (1990-07-02). "Thunder Sputters in Box-Office Race". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  21. ^ Hunt, Dennis (1991-02-21). "VIDEO RENTALS : Three New Players Enter the Top Five". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  22. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099371/business
  23. ^ Caraviello, David (2013-07-04). "Kurt Busch brings 'Thunder' back to Daytona". NASCAR. Retrieved 2013-07-07. 
  24. ^ Maslin, Janet (1990-06-27). "Review/Film; Tom Cruise and Cars, and a Lot of Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  25. ^ Maslin, Janet (1990-06-27). "Review/Film; Tom Cruise and Cars, and a Lot of Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  26. ^ a b Halliwell's Film Guide, Halliwell's Film Guide Leslie Halliwell, John Walker. HarperPerennial, 1996 (p. 288).
  27. ^ Rotten Tomatoes – Days of Thunder
  28. ^ "Days Of Thunder". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  29. ^ Ebert, Gene; Siskel. Siskel & Ebert – Tom Cruise: The Star Next Door (Television production). WLS-TV Studios in Chicago, Illinois: Disney-ABC Domestic Television. 
  30. ^ "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  31. ^ "QUENTIN TARANTINO: MY FAVOURITE RACING MOVIES" F1 Social Diary 21 August, 2013 accessed 5 July 2014

External links[edit]