With a fanbase in the trillions – at least that’s what it seems like – the sport of NASCAR is barely present in the history of cinema outside of a few obvious examples, especially when compared to movies about major league baseball and other sports organizations. And with Ron Howard’s Formula 1 –centered Rush recently gaining much critical acclaim (not to mention tons of money at the foreign box office), it’s no surprise that NASCAR is now getting behind its own origin story, Spitfire, which was recently acquired by Lionsgate and OddLot Entertainment, who is also behind Ivan Reitman’s upcoming NFL comedy Draft Day.
Based on a pitch from actor/writer Grant Thompson, Deadline reports Spitfire will cover the strong female presence in the early years of NASCAR, which was created after World War II by Florida businessman Bill France Sr. The film will follow Louise Smith, often called "the first lady of racing," and her merry band of "barnstormers and former bootleggers as they crisscrossed the country to raise interest in this fledging professional racing tour." Smith became an icon at the time, and it only took another 90 years for Danica Patrick to join NASCAR and remind people that yes, women are pretty prevalent on the racetracks.
The last movie NASCAR, which will serve as executive producer, put their name to was Adam McKay’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby with Will Ferrell, but most people just picture Tony Scott’s Days of Thunder when they think of a stock cars on film. I’m not sure if Spitfire will replace it, given things weren’t quite as fast and hectic back in those days... well, compared to the sport today anyway. I’m sure the audiences at the time were blown away by the speeds they saw.
OddLot and Lionsgate recently teamed up on Ender’s Game, which hasn’t performed nearly as well as either studio hoped, so it’s quite interesting that their next bet is a female-driven film about a sport where a majority of the drivers and a good number of the viewers are men. I like that kind of risk.
It’s too bad we don’t really have any idea what kind of a writer Thompson is, as his only feature so far is Niki Caro’s McFarland, another sport film currently filming with Maria Bello and Kevin Costner, though he did sell yet another sports drama, Start, to Gran Via Production. So maybe 2015 is going to be full of his films. It’s going to take some deft scripting to get a non-NASCAR fan like me interested, but I’m keeping an open mind, given it’s about the history of the sport.
If you’d like to get your facts straight and without Hollywood’s whitewashing, check out the documentary below.