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posted: 3/14/2014 5:45 AM

Classic car chases film better with classic cars

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  • Actors Aaron Paul, left, and Scott Mescudi in a scene from "Need for Speed." A Ford Mustang has a starring role in the film, much like 1968's classic "Bullitt," director Scott Waugh said.

      Actors Aaron Paul, left, and Scott Mescudi in a scene from "Need for Speed." A Ford Mustang has a starring role in the film, much like 1968's classic "Bullitt," director Scott Waugh said.
    DreamWorks II/Associated Press

  • The Mustang plays a pivotal part in many "Need for Speed" chase scenes.

      The Mustang plays a pivotal part in many "Need for Speed" chase scenes.
    DreamWorks II/Associated Press

  • Actress Jessica Szohr arrives at the U.S. premiere of "Need for Speed" last week in Los Angeles.

      Actress Jessica Szohr arrives at the U.S. premiere of "Need for Speed" last week in Los Angeles.
    Associated Press

  • Scott Waugh

      Scott Waugh

  • Like the "Need for Speed" video game series, a few cars get banged up in the movie, which opens Friday.

      Like the "Need for Speed" video game series, a few cars get banged up in the movie, which opens Friday.
    DreamWorks II/Associated Press

 
 

For the past two decades, "Need for Speed" has made a successful name for itself in the digital world on computer and TV screens. For 2014, the video game has been completely overhauled and brought to life on the big screen.

But making a successful jump from pixels to pavement is a daunting task. Real, full-size performance cars behave completely different from their computer-generated counterparts. After viewing the high-octane film and talking with its director, Scott Waugh, we're confident he was the right man for the job.

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Waugh is a full-fledged car buff who is passionate about iconic car movies, high-horsepower vehicles and honoring the American tradition of performance motoring.

"Need for Speed" races into theaters Friday.

Q. How did you select which cars to include in the film?

Waugh. We looked at the last three years of the (video) games and the high-end cars that were in them. That was my casting sheet.

Q. A major scene involves a classic car race. Were those vehicles from the game series as well?

A. In some of the older games, yes. For me, it was just being a car buff. I drive a '70 Chevelle. I love classics and I thought, well, I need to have a classic race in the middle of all this fun.

Q. To get the cars to do what you wanted them to do on camera, what kinds of modifications where made?

A. With the classics, we basically performed ground-up restorations. We put in brand new LS3 motors, better e-brakes so the cars can grip and turn. For the main car, the Mustang, we built eight. But they weren't too modified. That car has tons of power so we didn't have to do much at all.

With the supercars, we never touched the real ones in terms of modifying them. They're worth millions and don't need upgrades! We did build kit cars of each for the scenes where they were damaged or wrecked.

Q. At any point in the film where you able to use any of the actual production vehicles (of the exotics)?

A. We had all of the real cars in the movie, except for the P1 -- we couldn't get the McLaren. We used all the real cars for a lot of the driving. When it came time for wrecking scenes, we used the replicas.

Q. How did you go about capturing all the great car sounds in the film?

A. Sound is really complicated to get fully on the fly because of the wind. We would get the real sound on the set but then sweeten them with alternate ideas and designs to make sure they sound accurate. The wind noise interferes with that frequency and distorts the real sound bites.

Q. What was the inspiration for the central car -- the Carroll Shelby Mustang?

A. If you go back and look at the greatest car movie of all time, it's "Bullitt" (starring Steve McQueen). It's such an iconic car chase with the '68 Mustang in a movie made in 1968. The Mustang has been one of the quintessential car vehicles in cinema.

I thought, "We're making a movie that is a throwback to the best car movies ever -- "Vantage Point," "French Connection," "Smokey & the Bandit." There's nothing better than a modern Mustang in a modern movie.

Q. What's your background with cars?

A. I've always loved cars. My first car was a Honda Civic and it got me through high school. But then I got a '65 Lincoln Continental convertible. I've had trucks, cars and now I drive a '70 Chevelle. I just love old modern muscle.

Q. What's the back story on your Chevelle?

A. I wanted to make an every day driver. I live in L.A. and drive 120 miles a day. It's one of the sleeper cars; it looks pretty stock from the outside but has a brand new LS3 engine, transmission, power windows, locks, A/C, heater. It's like a modern car in an old shell.

Q. Did you do the restoration work yourself?

A. I did about half of it. I don't have the time anymore that I want to spend working in the garage, as much as I love it; it's therapeutic. I have kids and a full-time job.

Q. A major scene in the movie happens in Detroit. Was that intentional?

A. If you're going to make a movie about the American culture of cars, you better film in Detroit. So we did.

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