Days of Thunder
||This article may contain original research. (March 2009)|
|Days of Thunder|
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Produced by||Don Simpson
|Screenplay by||Robert Towne|
|Story by||Robert Towne
John C. Reilly
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Editing by||Chris Lebenzon
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||108 minutes|
|Budget||US$ 60 million|
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 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.
Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) is a young racer with years of experience in open-wheel racing. He is recruited by car dealership tycoon Tim Daland (Randy Quaid) to race for his team in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Daland also convinces former crew chief and car builder Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) to come out of retirement and lead Cole's pit crew. 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 (Michael Rooker); this results in Cole not finishing the races, mostly due to crashes or engine blowouts. 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 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 (Nicole Kidman), the neurosurgeon 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 (Cary Elwes) 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 teammate. 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 during the victory lap, 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. 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 celebrates with Claire and his pit-crew. As he looks around to see where Harry is, he spots him sitting alone on a concrete barrier near the pit stop. Cole walks up to Harry and challenges him to a foot race to victory lane.
- Tom Cruise as Cole Trickle, a young race car driver out to make a name for himself in NASCAR. The character was patterned after the late Tim Richmond, while his name is a nod to veteran racer Dick Trickle.
- Nicole Kidman as Dr. Claire Lewicki, a neurosurgeon who develops a relationship with Cole.
- Robert Duvall as Harry Hogge, Cole's crew chief (patterned after Harry Hyde).
- Michael Rooker as Rowdy Burns, the current Winston Cup Champion and Cole's first rival. He drives the #51 Exxon Chevrolet (patterned after Dale Earnhardt).
- Cary Elwes as Russ Wheeler, a rookie driver who fills in for Cole, but later on becomes his teammate and bitter rival. He drives the #18 Hardee's Chevrolet (patterned after Rusty Wallace).
- Randy Quaid as Tim Daland, a wealthy car dealership and race team owner who first recruits Cole into NASCAR (patterned after Rick Hendrick).
- Fred Thompson as Big John, president of NASCAR (patterned after "Big Bill" France).
- John C. Reilly as Buck Bretherton, Cole's car chief. Reilly also starred in Talladega Nights.
- J. C. Quinn as Waddell, Rowdy's crew chief. The name is likely a reference to Waddell Wilson.
- Caroline Williams as Jeannie Burns, Rowdy's wife.
- Leilani Sarelle as a Female Highway Patrol Officer who is actually a stripper hired by Harry as a prank on Cole.
- Chris Ellis as Harlem Hoogerhyde, Cole's gas man (patterned after Danny "Chocolate" Myers).
- Don Simpson in a cameo as Aldo Bennedetti (patterned after Mario Andretti).
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. Crewmembers 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, 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.
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. 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 ($61.5 million in modern dollars) nearby doubled; at that level it would have had to make at least $100 million, a rare gross at that time, to break even. 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.
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. 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.
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. While a score album was never officially released, a bootleg version was later made available.
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.
Real-life references 
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, and several scenes reenacted or referenced real-life stories and personalities from NASCAR history.
In another scene, Trickle is told he can not pit because the crew is too busy eating ice cream. This incident took place with crew chief Harry Hyde and driver Benny Parsons at the 1987 Southern 500.
The scene where Cole and Rowdy destroy a pair of rental cars by racing them through the city streets loosely referenced a real-life account. Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner were known to rent cars, race, and crash them with abandon.
Home media 
Critical response 
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. The film currently holds a rating of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. 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 Trail, a journey to visit the principal places where the masters of the craft test one another.
- 8. The Proto-Enemy, 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 Eventual Enemy, 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.
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.
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.
Video games 
Days of Thunder (1990) 
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) 
Paramount Digital Entertainment releases a new video game based on the film for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. 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.
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- Days of Thunder (1990) at Hans-Zimmer.com
- David Coverdale. [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 )..."
- "The Summer That Nascar Received Its Close-Up". AP (The New York Times). 2010-06-26. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
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-  at IMDB
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- Rotten Tomatoes – Days of Thunder
- "Days Of Thunder". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Ebert, Gene; Siskel. Siskel & Ebert – Tom Cruise: The Star Next Door (Television production). WLS-TV Studios in Chicago, Illinois: Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
- "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Days of Thunder (film)|
- Days of Thunder at the Internet Movie Database
- Days of Thunder at AllRovi
- Days of Thunder at Rotten Tomatoes
- Days of Thunder at Box Office Mojo
- Days of Thunder at Metacritic
- Movie stills