15 Fast Facts About Days of Thunder

Days of Thunder was many people's first exposure to the high-octane, left-turning world of NASCAR. The 1990 Tom Cruise vehicle reunited him with his Top Gun director and producers, and for that reason was nicknamed Top Car during the pre-production stage. It failed to deliver the sizable audience or inspire the fervent devotion that Top Gun had, but Days of Thunder remains a minor cult favorite today among Cruise aficionados and racing enthusiasts. Here are some things you might not have known about everyone's favorite NASCAR movie (non-comedy division). 

1. TOM CRUISE'S CHARACTER, COLE TRICKLE, WAS LOOSELY INSPIRED BY A REAL NASCAR DRIVER—AND IT WASN'T DICK TRICKLE.

It was Tim Richmond, a fiery, hard-partying, ladies' man of a NASCAR driver who died of AIDS in 1989. There was a driver named Dick Trickle, who made his NASCAR debut in 1989 and won the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award at the record-setting age of 48, but apart from the last name, he had nothing in common with Cruise's flashy playboy.

2. THIS IS WHERE TOM CRUISE AND NICOLE KIDMAN MET. 

It was the Aussie actress’ first American film. She and Cruise started dating while the movie was being shot, and were married on Christmas Eve 1990, six months after the film's release.

3. IT'S ALSO WHERE DIRECTOR TONY SCOTT MET HIS WIFE, A "PIT GIRL" ORIGINALLY PICKED UP BY PRODUCER DON SIMPSON.

Among Simpson's many excesses was making screenwriter Robert Towne write in a small role for Simpson's new girlfriend, an actress named Donna Wilson. She had only one line, but it was enough of an excuse for Simpson to bring her to Daytona for the entire shoot. While there, the relationship ended because of Simpson's Herculean drug use, and Wilson ended up with the director. She and Scott married in 1994 and were together until his death in 2012. 

4. THE FILM DIDN'T FINISH SHOOTING UNTIL ABOUT SIX WEEKS BEFORE IT HIT THEATERS.

That's an unusually short post-production schedule for such a big-budget, tech-heavy film, but shooting delays left Paramount with little choice. Producers Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (more on them later) were constantly micromanaging Scott and Towne, and arguing with each other about every little thing. The shoot went more than three months over schedule, finally ending in early May. Its original Memorial Day release, where it would have competed with Back to the Future Part III, had to be pushed back to June 27, where it competed with Ghost Dad

5. THAT MELLO YELLO PRODUCT PLACEMENT WAS FOR REAL. 

NASCAR teams are famous for proudly displaying their sponsors' logos on their cars, so it wouldn't make sense to make a NASCAR film without similar decorations on the fictional drivers' vehicles. Naturally, the studio jumped at the chance to make a movie full of product placements that could be justified by the story. Though Mello Yello is never mentioned by name in the film, its logo appears prominently on Cole Trickle's car, and a TV commercial tying the soda to NASCAR and Days of Thunder aired in summer 1990. The next year, actual NASCAR racer Kyle Petty started driving a Mello Yello car, and did so for four years. As expected, Mello Yello's sales surged in the mid-90s.

6. AS WITH SO MANY THINGS, WE CAN THANK PAUL NEWMAN FOR THE FILM’S EXISTENCE.

The legendary actor and part-time racer shared his enthusiasm for motorsports with Tom Cruise when they made The Color of Money together. The two were then introduced to NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick (the inspiration for Randy Quaid's character), who let budding racing enthusiast Cruise drive a stock car himself. Cruise's reaction after taking a car around the track at 175 mph: “Hey, we gotta make a movie about this!” 

7. THE SCREENPLAY WAS WRITTEN BY AN OSCAR-WINNER, AFTER ANOTHER OSCAR-WINNER TOOK A SWING AT IT.

Robert Towne, author of Chinatown, is whom Cruise eventually recruited to flesh out his basic story idea. Before that though, two other screenwriters attempted it: Warren Skaaren (who'd written Beetlejuice and Batman), and Donald Stewart, a car aficionado who'd won an Academy Award for Missing and would go on to co-write the first three Jack Ryan movies.

8. BUT IT WASN'T WRITTEN IN A TIMELY MANNER, AND TOWNE PROBABLY WOULD NOT HOLD IT UP AS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF HIS CRAFTSMANSHIP.

In addition to all the other production problems, Cruise was consistently unhappy with the script, which 1) wasn't done yet when they started shooting, and 2) kept needing rewrites. Actors would be given new pages of dialogue immediately before filming—or even during. According to Don Simpson's biographer Charles Fleming, “For a while, Cruise read new lines off the dashboard of his speeding stock car, until keeping his eyes off the road caused him to crash. After that, Cruise listened to new lines as Towne dictated through a headset.” 

9. THE PRODUCERS TURNED THE DAYTONA, FLORIDA SET INTO THEIR OWN SPRING BREAK PARTY.

Allegedly. Allegedly. The production delays caused by Simpson and Bruckheimer's incessant creative involvement (to be fair, there were weather issues, too) meant everyone had a lot of downtime. According to one crew member, the producers’ “main concern [was] getting laid.” They—mostly Simpson, a notorious party animal—spent studio money to build a private gym at the hotel where they were staying, with a neon sign alerting nearby beachgoers to the movie’s (and thus Tom Cruise’s) presence. They bought out a local club for a party for the cast and crew, who were mostly men, and invited beach girls and hookers to fill out the ranks. By most accounts, Bruckheimer was the one who got the work done, while Simpson partied, slept, and caroused.

10. SIMPSON THE PRODUCER WANTED TO BE SIMPSON THE MOVIE STAR, AND MADE TOWNE WRITE A PART FOR HIM IN THE MOVIE.

Simpson fancied himself an actor, and even went around telling people he had uncredited cameos in his and Bruckheimer's movies, which was untrue. He made it happen in Days of Thunder though, getting Towne to write a four-page scene where Simpson, as a driver named Aldo Bennedetti (think Mario Andretti), would interact with Cruise and Robert Duvall. Film editor Billy Weber, who was on-set the whole time, said Simpson's acting was “painful.”  “It was clear to Tony [Scott] and to Towne and to Don that his scenes just weren't working … It was unusable." Another on-set source said it was Cruise who objected to the scene, which was unnecessary and would only exacerbate the film's schedule problems. Eventually Simpson's part was whittled down to one line, Aldo telling an ESPN reporter, “I'm glad he's well enough to come back, and I hope I beat him, at the same time.”

11. THE FILM (AND ITS DISAPPOINTING BOX OFFICE) HELPED USHER IN A NEW ERA OF FISCAL RESTRAINT IN HOLLYWOOD.

The '80s were marked by studios giving producers a lot of money to crank out whatever populist entertainment they could. By the end of the decade, production costs were spiraling upward at an alarming rate. When Days of Thunder's budget ballooned from about $35 million to something like $70 million (reports vary, and Hollywood accounting is notoriously secretive and unreliable), execs at Paramount got nervous. When the film's box office barely covered its production, marketing, and distribution costs, they got serious, severing the five-year deal with Simpson and Bruckheimer that they'd inked less than a year earlier. (The duo's previous films, including Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, and Top Gun, had been cash cows, but enough was enough.) The producers landed on their feet elsewhere and went on to make The Ref, Bad Boys, Crimson Tide, Dangerous Minds, and The Rock before Simpson's death in 1996.

12. AS YOU'D EXPECT, THE RACING SCENES WERE FILMED WITH THE CARS GOING MUCH SLOWER THAN THEY USUALLY WOULD: ONLY 120 MPH.

That's down from the 200 miles per hour those cars would do in a real race. And still, even at a reduced speed, the work was dangerous. Tony Scott told The New York Times, "There's a major crash in the middle of the movie at speeds of 120 to 140 miles an hour manned by stunt drivers. Things happen to metal at 140 miles an hour that don't happen at 60 miles an hour." Despite that, Scott boasted that the total on-set injuries for the entire production only added up to 13 stitches.

13. TOM CRUISE'S INEXPERIENCE WITH STOCK CARS DESTROYED A $100,000 CAMERA.

Early in the shoot, NASCAR driver Hut Stricklin, hired as a consultant and stunt driver, told Cruise that stock cars are built to turn left. "He didn't really know what I was talking about," Stricklin later recalled. Cruise figured it out soon enough when he turned left without trouble, then tried going back to the right and spun out. The car grazed a track wall, destroying an expensive camera that had been attached to the right side of the vehicle. "[He] understood then," Stricklin said. "Too bad he had to kill a $100,000 camera." (By the way, Stricklin said he got paid more for the Days of Thunder job—for which he was a contractor, not even mentioned in the credits—than he “ever thought about making driving.”)

14. IT WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT NASCAR'S SUPPORT.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing truly has national popularity now, but in 1990, it was mostly a regional thing, big in the Southeast quadrant of the U.S. and small everywhere else. Simpson and Bruckheimer needed NASCAR's full cooperation if the film was to be authentic, and the association's president, Bill France Jr., was noncommittal at first. He got onboard when Simpson convinced him that the film would show the public that NASCAR was a high-tech, professional sport. From then on, NASCAR's support was full and unconditional, even allowing producers to enter movie cars in the real Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup Series) races, including the 1990 Daytona 500.

15. THE SCENE WHERE NASCAR BOSS BIG JOHN THREATENS TO FIRE TRICKLE AND BURNS IF THEY BUMP EACH OTHER ON THE TRACK AGAIN—THEN FORCES THEM TO DRIVE TO DINNER TOGETHER—WAS BASED ON A REAL INCIDENT WITH GEOFF BODINE AND DALE EARNHARDT. 

Bodine and Earnhardt did not, however, destroy two rental cars in the process. But such shenanigans were attributed to 1950s racers Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly, who were the Cole Trickles of their day.

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Why an Ex-FBI Agent Recommends Wrapping Your Keys in Tinfoil Whenever You Leave Your Car
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A car thief doesn't need to get their hands on your keys to break into your vehicle. If you use a wireless, keyless system, or fob, to unlock your car, all they need to do is steal the signal it emits. Luckily there's a tool you can use to protect your fob from hackers that you may already have in your kitchen at home: tinfoil.

Speaking with USA Today, retired FBI agent Holly Hubert said that wrapping car fobs in a layer of foil is the cheapest way to block their sensitive information from anyone who may be trying to access it. Hackers can easily infiltrate your car by using a device to amplify the fob signal or by copying the code it uses. And they don't even need to be in the same room as you to do it: They can hack the fob inside your pocket from the street outside your house or office.

Electronic car theft is a growing problem for automobile manufacturers. Ideally fobs made in the future will come with cyber protection built-in, but until then the best way to keep your car safe is to carry your fob in an electromagnetic field-blocking shield when you go out. Bags made specifically to protect your key fob work better than foil, but they can cost more than $50. If tinfoil is all you can afford, it's better than nothing.

At home, make sure to store your keys in a spot where they will continue to get protection. Dropping them in a metal coffee can is a lot smarter than leaving them out in the open on your kitchen counter.

[h/t USA Today]

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Low on Gas? You Can Now Get It Delivered to You
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If you live in a major city, there’s virtually nothing you can’t get delivered straight to your house. Forget groceries and takeout; you don’t even have to get yourself to the gas station anymore. As Lifehacker reports, there’s a service that will fill up your tank for you while your car is parked in your driveway.

Yoshi, an app-based service that brings car care to you, is currently available in more than 10 different cities across the U.S. It not only sells fuel-ups on demand, but also offers oil changes, car washes, repairs, tire checks, and other basics of car maintenance.

To fuel up, you plug in your car’s location on the Yoshi app and set up a delivery. Then, all you need to do is make sure that your car is in the right place and the door to the gas tank is open, and Yoshi will swoop in and fill ‘er up.

Yoshi sells its gas based on AAA price averages in your area, so the service isn’t as pricey as you might think, though you definitely do have to pay for the convenience. If you’re just looking to occasionally buy gas, Yoshi charges a $7 delivery fee. If you plan to use the service regularly, membership costs $20 a month and includes free fuel delivery every week.

The service is certainly a luxury, but if it’s difficult for you to get to a gas station regularly, that $7 delivery fee could be the difference between a smooth ride and running out of gas.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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