Every movie director and casting agent spend weeks, months, maybe years picking the right actors to play the important roles in the movies or TV shows. There are other characters in these same productions you may not other characters in these same productions you may not even notice but the same painstaking time goes in to casting that character as well. You may think it is just chance that the main characters in Grimm, shot here in Portland, drive a Chrysler police car or that Diane Lane drove a Saab in Untraceable that was shot here a few years ago. The new James Bond will use the Aston Martin DB10 upcoming film with Daniel Craig because any real James Bond drives an Aston Martin. It’s character development and helps establish the character.
There is at least one person on every project who works with the director to find the perfect vehicle for the character on the screen. A picture car coordinator, whose credit at the end of the film is below that of the catering department, serve a very important part of the process. Besides finding the right car forMiss Daisy to ride in, he or she also has to fill in all the background vehicles, support cars and “vehicle extras.” It’s never just by chance. Even seemingly random scenes like a “bad guy” driving up to a scene in Leverage, just the right vehicle had to be found to establish his character. A black H2 Hummer had to be sourced locally, rented from the owner for a week and on screen for all of 15 seconds.
One local company that works with all the productions that come to town is Picture Car Source (PCS) owned by Joel Krebs. PCS has a fleet of at least 11 vehicles (mostly police cars, ambulances and background cars). They have provided and sourced vehicles for TV shows like Grimm, Leverage, The Librarians; movies like Gone as well as commercials shot here for X Box, Adidas, NBA.com and even recent political ads. When the director decides that he or she want a specific car and color combination, it’s best to just go find it as it is much easier than changing a director’s mind. Krebs said his most adventurous source was for Adidas when he had to find a specific DeLorean which he rented from an owner out of Seattle.
That conversation is always interesting when a company such as PCS or the picture car coordinator finds a car on Craigslist or sees it in a parking lot and contacts the owner and says, “How’d you like to rent your car to me to be in a movie.” It’s generally met with more skepticism than anything else. Once they realize it’s for real and they can make some money and see their car on TV or in a movie, they get pretty excited. One local owner had his baby blue 1957 Thunderbird Convertible featured as the “star car” in an Oregon Lottery commercial that ran quite a bit. After a while people would recognize the car and approach him as if HE was the star of the commercial.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Who can forget Clark Griswold aka Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation, going to pick up his new “sports wagon” only to be forced to accept the Wagon Queen Family Truckster with amazing wood paneling. It was created just for this film and was based on a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire which was equally embarrassing to drive. And, to add insult to injury, Clark had to try and be cool in this car when Christie Brinkely drove by in her Ferrari 308GTS.
This may not really be underrated as a picture car but because Mel Gibson soared to stardom after this film, it’s easy to forget the machine that helped make it happen. The 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon was simply, bad ass. This car never made it to the U.S. and was featured in the Australian film with a few modifications. The regular XB GT had a 351-cid V8, but for Mad Max the car creators fattened up the tires, gave it a new front nose and flares, and added a supercharger that stuck out of the hood. Despite the fact that the supercharger wasn’t real, it doesn’t diminish the cool factor.
Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 homage to the classic ‘70’s exploitation movies and muscle cars was modestly received, but for car geeks and car chase fans, it was awesome. Stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russell, drove two classic movie cars in his psychopathic attempt to rid the roads of all hot women. His “death proof” cars were a 1971 Chevrolet Nova SS 396 that Rose McGowan’s character found out wasn’t “death proof” for the passenger. After he dispatched the first batch of women, he finds his next car, a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 500. Unfortunately for Stuntman Mike, he was no match for the “Vanishing Point” 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T.
This 1976 movie was the inspiration to other coast to coast racing movies like Cannonball and Cannonball Run. Don’t hold that against it. This film featured some great fun, great cars and the tagline for every boy racer that summer, “GUMBALL.” Michael Sarrazin played a rich, bored businessman. He sends word to his fellow racers via a gumball that the race is on from New York to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The movie featured a young, funny Rau’l Julia who was the professional Ferrari driver and uttered the perfect car racer line as he rips off the rear view mirror, “what is behind me is not important.” Some of the beautiful cars making the cross country trip were an AC Cobra, Ferrari Daytona and Gary Busey behind the wheel in a Camaro Z-28.
Larry Brown was the West Coast PR manager for VW/Porsche Audi in the early 80’s when a director came to him with a great script idea and wanted to use a Porsche for his movie Risky Business. Brown read the script and then thought about his conservative German bosses and how they would react to a high school kid running a brothel out of his parent’s home when they were out of town. And, oh by the way, dumping a 928 into Lake Michigan. He said he had to pass. Fortunately for us and Porsche, the director had only the Porsche 928 in mind for the star car and found one of his own. Tom Cruise, who had never driven a stick, learned to drive on the Porsche. While the 928 now ranks as one of the least interesting Porsches made, this film made it cool for a while. Who can forget Joel, Lana and Miles escaping from Guido the Killer Pimp and puling up to the curb and Cruise uttering the great Porsche marketing slogan, “Porsche, there is no substitute.” That is probably only matched when, after the cars swim in the lake, the car door is opened at the dealership and the shop manager asks, “so, who’s the U Boat commander” This was perfect proof that the right car can help make a movie.
To Live And Die In LA
William Friedkin’s 1985 stylish drama with young William Petersen and Willam Dafoe showcased a chase scene on and off the freeways of LA and rivals that of Bullitt. The car Petersen drove to escape his pursuers was a 1973 Chevy Impala F41. It had been rented directly from the LAPD. The car sequence was shot in six weeks and apparently, Fridkin wasn’t so sure of its success and shot it last so that if anything happened to the actors, the balance of the movie was in the can.
The repetitious saying, “what happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” didn’t prove true for the beautiful 1965 Mercedes Benz 220SE Convertible that Bradley Cooper and crew take to Vegas in the first, and best, Hangover film. This was the perfect choice for classic cars for the screws ups to take on their bender weekend. During the making of the film, three convertibles were used to make the film and a couple of coupes were cut up and pieced together to look like the classic Mercedes so no fears on its destruction. It was just movie magic.