The movie presumably starts in Wichita, Kansas, where June Havens, the tomboy auto restorer Ms. Diaz portrays, is on her way home to Boston with a rolling suitcase full of rare engine parts for a 1966 Pontiac GTO.
Why was she in Wichita? Because several major auto recyclers and classic car parts specialists operate out of there; it’s a logical place to look for those increasingly hard-to-find parts for historic Pontiacs. Wichita also has a large, active GTO owners club, and is in fact host of the 2010 GTO Association of America’s 31st annual national convention (June 30-July 4). Trivia tidbit: The whole movie, in fact, is something of a paean to Pontiacs.
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas…” …because we’re not. Funny thing, the filmmakers never shot a single frame in Wichita or any other part of Kansas. The airport scenes? Boston’s Logan and a regional airport in Worcester, Mass. Disappointed? Really, is one airport any different than another these days?
2. “Wa, wa, Little GTO” Yes, the Pontiac GTO in the movie is a direct descendant of the model immortalized in the 1964 song by Ronny and the Daytonas, a faux “surf band”. (They were actually from Nashville, Tenn.) Remember the lyrics? “Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine. Three deuces and a 4-speed, and a 389…” There is some debate about the year of the car in the movie. Mr. Cruise has said in interviews it was a ’65. But picture car coordinator Gary Duncan, of LongShadow Productions, corrected me when I asked him to confirm that: “The GTO is a 1966, numbers matching.” Hmmm. Wasn’t the movie car Capri Gold with a gold interior, that was only offered in ’65? No. “Color code for the 1966 GTO is T,” Mr. Duncan continued. “The color Martinique Bronze. The interior code is #224. The color is Parchment.” The movie’s GTO, owned by a private collector, he added, “is preserved as ordered new in 1966.”
Actually, there appear to have been two ’66 GTOs used in the movie – one for the night time stunts, the other for scenes in Ms. Diaz’ garage, and on the beach at the movie’s end. The stunt car was something of a junkyard dog, assembled by the production crew (see in comments below), and painted to resemble a Martinique Bronze GTO. But the paint came out looking more like Capri Gold – no wonder it was so confusing in this movie (This car may have subsequently been used in the movies “Faster” and “Drive”). The gold paint showed up better in night shots; the interior of that car was also cobbled together, and different from the correct interior in the beach scene GTO. That perfect GTO was rented for a week’s worth of final shooting in January 2010.
Anyway, there’s no confusion about the Tri-Power carburetor option that Ms. Diaz refers to in the script; it’s the real deal for GTO lovers, and highly valued by collectors; it raised horsepower output to 360 @ 5,200 r.p.m.
(The rest of the song’s words? Mostly “Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa…” Try getting that out of your head, once you start.)
What was the significance, if any, of the 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix owned by the guy who played Mr. Cruise’s father in the movie? In Pontiac history, that was a significant year in the ultimately long-running Grand Prix line, as it was advertised as “the most perfect Pontiac” ever. It offered a Quadrajet carburetor system instead of the elegantly engineered TriPower (which was now discontinued), hideaway headlights, turn signals and wipers, and for ’67 only – a convertible. The popularity of larger Pontiacs, such as the gargantuan Grand Prix, probably heralded the demise of the little GTO and hastened its 1968 reincarnation as a much brawnier muscle car. (For more on the movie’s 1966 Pontiac GTO, see my New York Times article.)
3. “Take her out to Pomona…” Yes, that really was Ms. Diaz behind the wheel, doing some of her own stunt driving. Mr. Duncan and Gregg Smrz, the stunt coordinator, coached her how to do 180s (which basically involves yanking on the handle controlling the rear brakes, and cranking the steering wheel all the way in the opposite direction of which way you want the car’s rear end to twirl around), and she reportedly pulled off the stunt with a minimum of takes. (The GTO was not damaged in any of the stunts, Mr. Duncan emphasized.)
4. “Cruise Control” Mr. Cruise is a noted motorcycle enthusiast, collector and a devotee of ultra-expensive Italian-made Ducati motorcycles.
He’s been to the factory in Bologna, Italy, and in 2008 he was the first to take delivery of a then-new Desmosedici RR.
In the movie that really is Cruise stunt-riding – on what appears to be new Ducati, the just-released Hypermotard. Actually, it is an Aprilia SVX disguised as the Hypermotard. Why the subterfuge? The lighter Aprilia was needed for the 100-foot jump (by a stuntman) through an archway. Still, Mr. Cruise performed many of the lesser stunts with the bike.
“If he wasn’t Tom Cruise, the movie star, he would be the best stuntman in the business,” Ms. Diaz told reporters. “He’s phenomenal. What he does is, like, crazy.” (Ironically, Mr. Cruise was slightly injured in March 2010, before shooting for the movie wrapped, when an SUV crashed into his Ducati on a Los Angeles street.)
5. The movie’s biggest chase scene was filmed mostly in Seville, Spain, near Seville’s spectacular Cathedral at Plaza Virgen de los Reyes. What were those cars pursuing Mr. Cruise? A BMW Z4 was the lead pursuer, followed by several Smart Roadsters. Of course, there was also a motley collection of police cars.
6. Beantown D-Derby: The big chase in the greater metro Boston area was filmed in September 2009, using sections of Interstate 93, the Ted Williams Tunnel, and the Fellsway.
The Fells Connector Parkways are a group of historic roads that have often been used for filming; Ms. Diaz filmed part of her stunt driving stint there.
The filmmakers wrecked dozens of vehicles, including a Mercury Grand Marquis that Mr. Cruise memorably drops from the sky onto, several large Chevrolet and Ford S.U.V.s, and an unfortunate Kawasaki KZ-1000 police motorcycle that winds up in a canal.
7. “Moonlighting in Spain” What was the lovely city with the fortress on the hill, where they shot the scene on the hotel balcony?
It was Cadiz, one of the crown jewels of Andalucia (Seville is another). The narrow, winding, cobblestone streets of Cadiz’ Old Town made a perfect setting for the scene where Mr. Cruise meets a seductive representative (Gal Gadot) of an arms dealer. The port of Cadiz was also used for the finish of the car chase (and a villain’s memorable denouement in a seaplane – yet another example of why you should stow your electronic devices during taxi and takeoff!). Sharp-eyed moviegoers will note the chase sequence began in Seville (some 80 miles away).
8. “No bull!” Not sure what the filmmakers had in mind with the running of the bulls scene. Yes, that happens during the Festival of San Fermin. But, it happens in Pamplona, not Seville or Cadiz. Actually, the filmmakers staged a re-creation of Pamplona’s running of the bulls – in Cadiz! The scene ends at Seville’s famous bullring, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. When the scene’s filming was done in November 2009, seven of the bulls escaped and ran rampant through the streets of Cadiz, injuring two women. Later, the bulls were corralled on a beach. The production was briefly shut down as a result.
9. Gunfight at the Seville Corral. What was that lovely tile building, where the big gunfight scene was filmed? At least part of it looked like the 5-star Hotel Alfonso XIII, which is now a Starwood property. The 147-room hotel, which opened in 1928 and was named for a much-beloved King of Spain who ruled until 1931, is a Seville landmark. It is a combination of Moorish and Castillian styles. The rooms are as exquisite as the public areas – at least they were when I stayed there – and feature heavy antique furniture, high ceilings with intricate mosaic tiles, and deep soaking tubs (and exquisite black bars of soap – a signature feature of the hotel). The entire hotel was rented by the cast and crew for the international premiere of the movie, which took place June 16 at the Lope de Vega theater in Seville.
10. Malibu Redux? Most of the shooting for the movie was done in early fall 2009. However, revisions, rewrites and re-shoots were scheduled again for January 2010, and yet again as late as early May 2010 – just seven weeks before this much-delayed movie’s scheduled release. The version released June 23 was even said to be different than the one aired in a June 19 sneak preview.
So, when and where were the movie’s final scenes shot?
In January 2010, months after shooting originally wrapped, along Pacific Coast Highway, just south of the Mugu Lagoon to me, between there and Paradise Cove, north of Malibu. In fact the final scene of the GTO at the beach was shot at Point Dume State Beach – near the fictional location of Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s computer-generated mansion.
June 21, 2010