shadows features Drive fast and never slow down
Keeping up with Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Kick Gurry and Joel Silver • Page 1 of 2
go speed go at the london premiere
At the world premiere: Gurry, Hirsch, Ricci, Sarandon and Goodman
speed racer

hirsch and ricci sarandon and goodman silver and gurry

B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
speed racer In the late-1960s, Japanese anime arrived in America in the form of a TV series unlike anything we'd ever seen. Speed Racer didn't bother with the straightforward plot formulae we were used to, and the animation style was so vivid and trippy that we weren't quite sure what we were watching. The stories certainly didn't exist in any recognisable universe, and that made them especially magical.

It turns out that the Wachowski brothers, who made The Matrix trilogy, were fans of the series. And now they've turned it into a summer blockbuster with an A-list cast, state-of-the-art effects and the full-on Warner Bros machine of product tie-ins and promotional splashes. The film itself is an swirl of primary colours, a corny plot and kinetic, videogame-style action that will only make sense from the back of the cinema (those sitting in the front emerged with a headache; I remembered feeling dizzy watching the trailer from the front).

For the film's world premiere in Leicester Square, the studio flew in the entire cast (except Matthew Fox, who's lost on a Pacific island), and let them meet literally hundreds of journalists during an epic junket at the Dorchester. The main ballroom was festooned with lurid colours and big video screens, plus a gigantic backlit billboard and even Wii stations. Finally we took our seats as the guests paraded in, introduced by host Colin Murray, the BBC Radio One DJ.

Frankly, they all looked a little stunned from a combination of jet lag and press action. But once in their seats, the room revved to life. Papa bear Joel Silver, looking relaxed and engaged, with a big smile on his face, is clearly proud of this film. He says he wanted to make "something exciting and fun for the whole family", and believes the Wachowski brothers achieved their goal of making a big-budget, live-action anime that keeps its focus firmly on the family at the centre of the story.

Yeah, sure. What we wanted to know was what Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon was doing in this film. "Well, The Matrix was such a big thing in my family," she says, looking decades younger than her 61 years. "I decided to do this project because I wanted them to think I was cool. And it worked."

I decided to do this project because I wanted my family to think I was cool. And it worked.

John Goodman, enormous and fairly immobile, pipes up in his gravelly, sardonic voice: "I was just trying to buy my daughter's love."

To which Kick Gurry quickly adds, "And I was just trying to buy John's daughter's love." Kick seems just happy to be here in the company of this cast, clearly relishing the whole experience.

As for the laid back and somewhat mischievous Emile Hirsch, he comments that he was a huge fan of the anime series as a child, and was also obsessed with The Matrix movies, so putting the two together seemed like a dream come true. "Although after The Matrix, I was expecting this to be pretty dark," he says. But when he saw the pre-visualisation the Wachowskis showed the cast when they were trying to get them on board, he knew this was something very different. "The colours just popped off the screen. And the final film is even brighter than you thought was possible!"

Lurid colours infuse everything from the sets to the costumes, which is something that drew Christina Ricci to the project. She may look a bit unsettling with her tiny body and large forehead, but she flashes cheeky exuberance when she talks about her character. "Trixie is a lot better at some things than I am," she notes. "I can't fly a helicopter, for example. And I'm not a good driver! But she's also a great role model for girls, because she's kind of the feminist ideal, smart and tough but not a tomboy. And of course, I was also excited about all of the costume changes. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to take home the awesome outfits. They made everything to fit, right down to the pink underwear. And I did get to keep that."

I was excited about all of the costume changes. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take home the awesome outfits.

"I thought I was the only one with pink underwear," Emile says with a guilty smile.

The cast also included actors from all over the world, including the Korean pop sensation Rain (in town for the premiere but absent from the press conference), and acclaimed actors from Germany (Benno Fuhrmann and Moritz Bleibtreu), France (Melvil Poupaud), Japan (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Britain (Roger Allam). Silver notes that this eclectic mix was intentional from the beginning. "We wanted to make a big international movie with a cast from all kinds of countries," he says. "And we filmed it, of course, in Berlin."

Although it could have been anywhere, really. As the cast performed all the scenes in front of green screens.

"I find it very frustrating working on a green screen," says Emile. "So it was lucky we had such a good cast and we got along so well."

"We spent, what, ten days shooting that ride through Royalton's headquarters on that little car. We really got to know each other well," says Susan. " And of course the chimp," she adds with an eye roll that's echoed by groans from the entire cast.


© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall