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The Cannonball Run (1981) Poster

Trivia

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The ambulance used in the movie is the actual ambulance that Hal Needham and Brock Yates souped up and raced in the real Cannonball Run. It had been modified with a HEMI engine that made it go up to 145 mph and was equipped with four gas filler holes so that the required 90 gallons could be pumped quickly. Needham and Yates didn't actually win the race (the transmission blew in Palm Springs) so Needham kept it in storage for several years until the time came to make this film. After the movie, he gave it to a church charity which raised a good deal of money auctioning it off.
Jackie Chan makes one of his first US film appearances. Inspired by Hal Needham's notion of including bloopers during the closing credits, Chan begins a tradition of doing the same in most of his movies from this point onward.
The movie was originally planned as an action film starring Steve McQueen. After McQueen's death, the lead went to Burt Reynolds and the film became a comedy.
Roger Moore has a different girlfriend every time we see him in this movie and they are all voiced by June Foray (uncredited).
Burt Reynolds became the highest paid actor in cinema history up to that point for this movie, making $5M for four weeks work.
Jackie Chan, who played a small role in this movie, was very upset when he learned his character was Japanese since he himself is Chinese.
The producers asked the governor of Georgia if the crew could shut down the center of a small town so that a plane could land in the middle of it. The police blocked off the section that the plane was to land in and a barrier can be seen in the background.
Victor (Dom DeLuise) tells J.J. (Burt Reynolds) that it is a good thing they have a doctor on board in case someone gets "swamp fever". This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) where Dom played a doctor Burt picks up. He was treating a patient for swamp fever.
The bulk of the stars in this film only worked for two or three days.
This movie was based on a series of real races started by Brock Yates of "Car & Driver" magazine. The fifth and final race was in 1979. Yates and Hal Needham actually entered the ambulance seen in the film. They had a doctor on board and Yates' wife Pamela as a patient. It blew its transmission in Palm Springs, California, and arrived in Long Beach on the back of a flatbed truck. A lot of the other vehicles were actual entries in that race.
The first highway patrolman that pulls over Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman was Burt Reynolds' stand-in (note the resemblance).
To get material for this movie, Brock Yates ran the final Cannonball in 1978. The move cost him his editorial position at Car and Driver magazine which has since been reinstated.
The short sequence in the beginning of the film which involves two animated cars wrecking the 20th Century Fox logo was created by Hal Needham, who did a similar one for another studio when releasing Smokey and the Bandit (1977). At first, Fox didn't appreciate the notion of wrecking their logo, but soon found it would be appealing to audiences if it were left in.
At the end of the movie, during the big race to the finish, a black Trans Am appears. The driver of the car is seen in the foot race scene and Captain Chaos's dressing down scene. The driver is wearing the Bandit's jacket worn by Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).
There are numerous James Bond references throughout the film, resulting in a rumor that Albert R. Broccoli had Roger Moore sign a contract which forbid him to spoof or make references to the James Bond character in any other non-Bond film. However, in September 2014 during an audience Q&A in Torquay (as part of his book tour), Moore stated there was no such contract but that he had promised Broccoli that he would never do anything that would hurt the James Bond character. When Hal Needham went to meet the Bond producers about the possibility of directing a Bond film, the first thing they said was "Perhaps we should think about suing you for Cannonball".
Burt Reynolds said of the film, "I did that film for all the wrong reasons. I never liked it. I did it to help out a friend of mine, Hal Needham. And I also felt it was immoral to turn down that kind of money. I suppose I sold out so I couldn't really object to what people wrote about me."
The Ferrari 308 used in the movie belonged to director Hal Needham.
The license plate number of the 1964 silver birch Aston Martin DB5 driven by Roger Moore in the film was 6633PP. The car was made famous by the Sean Connery James Bond movies Goldfinger (1964) and then Thunderball (1965) with later models appearing in subsequent Bond pictures. However, Roger Moore who played James Bond seven times never drove an Aston Martin in a Bond film and this is his only on-screen appearance with the most famous of all James Bond cars.
Filmed in 36 days.
Legendary odds-maker Jimmy the Greek had a cameo in this movie where he did a scene with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Jimmy the Greek and Martin both grew up in Steubenville, Ohio and were friends since childhood.
Director Hal Needham and producer Albert S. Ruddy liked the chemistry of Terry Bradshaw and Mel Tillis so much that after this film they tried to sell a pilot to ABC featuring their characters. The head of the network loved the idea but the day before the meeting was to be held to discuss it, the head of the network was fired and the project was canceled.
Director Hal Needham shows up in the film four times. First as the EMT in the back of the ambulance, then as the voice of the cop in the speed trap ("Remember when we use to chase speeders"), then as the truck driver who calls Roger Moore on the CB and finally at the very end of the bloopers.
Don Rickles was originally cast as Fenderbaum before the part went to Sammy Davis Jr..
In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, Burt Reynolds's character says "Could get a black Trans Am", and then answers himself, "Naw, that's been done." This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in the 1980 sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).
Bert Convy's final feature film.
Ron Rice, owner of Hawaiian Tropic, loaned his black Lamborghini to his buddies Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. The same Lamborghini can be briefly seen in the background at the party of Big and Little Enos Burdette near the end of Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983).
The front shots of the ambulance driving down the road were some of the last to be filmed. In what Hal Needham referred to as "poorman's process" they were filmed in a garage with crewmen rocking the vehicle back and forth. The scene in the rain was filmed by simply spraying water on the windshield.
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The Hawaiian Tropic NASCAR racer is apparently inspired by the very real "Fire-Am" entered in the real race by F Gregory and P Brennan. The Fire-Am had previously been run at the Daytona 24 hour race and the owner had just stripped the numbers off the doors and loaned it to the cannonballers in full race drag. As Gregory put it: "one look at the Fire-Am and any cop would know we were up to no good".
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The actual correct full name of the real Cannonball Run race was the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Besides The Cannonball Run, it was also known as the Cannonball Baker.
Vehicles used in the film:
  • J.J. and Victor are driving a 1978 Dodge Sportsman.
  • Seymour is driving a 1964 Aston Martin DB5.
  • Blake and Fenderbaum are driving a 1977 Ferrari 308 GTS.
  • Terry and Mel are driving a 1976 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna.
  • Marcie and Jill are driving a 1980 Lamborghini Countach LP 400S.
  • The Japanese team is driving a 1980 Subaru DL.
  • The Sheik is driving a 1976 Rolls-Royce Shadow 1.
  • Mad Dog and Batman are driving a 1980 GMC C-35 Pickup.
  • Brad (Bert Convey) and Shakey (Warren Berlinger) are driving a Harley Davidson Sportster.
  • When Mr. Foyt shows up at the hotel, he's driving a 1972 Volvo 142.
  • At the opening, Victor is driving a 1973 Honda Civic.
  • The plane that J.J. and Victor are flying is a Maule M 5-235 Lunar Rocket.
  • During the first appearance of Captain Chaos, he and J.J. are driving a 1969 Porsche 911.
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This was the sixth most popular 1981 movie at the U.S.A. and Canada box office.
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Hal Needham showed dailies to the cast and crew every night at the end of a day's shooting.
Dom DeLuise's character, Victor Prinzi, is named after Vic Prinzi, a friend and former college football teammate of Burt Reynolds at Florida State University. Reynolds played halfback at FSU before an injury forced him out of football, and Prinzi was the quarterback.
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Theatrical film debut of Rick Aviles.
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In this movie the ejector seat of the DB5 driven by Roger Moore, is activated by pressing the cigarette lighter. But in the actual James Bond DB5, it is activated by a red button hidden in the gear leaver.
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Seymour was originally a man who thinks he's James Bond. For legal reasons, this was changed to a man who thinks he's Roger Moore.
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George Furth's character (Arthur J. Foyt) was named as an tribute to IndyCar and NASCAR legend Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. (a.k.a. A.J. Foyt).
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The opening scene shows a black Lamborghini with the air wing attached to the front of the vehicle. The remainder of the movie it is on the back of the car. This is most likely because the opening scene is the car actually being drivin on public roads and legally required to have the wing on the front by law during the time of filming this movie. The remainder was filmed with it on the rear and off public roads, most likely with permission and not exceeding any speed limits.
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Peter Fonda's cameo as a Hell's Angel is a reference to The Wild Angels (1966).
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In June 1980, 24-year-old stuntwoman Heidi Von Beltz was critically injured in a car crash during production of the film. Von Beltz was a world-class skier with no previous stunt driving experience. As the original stunt person scheduled to perform the stunt had an emergency family illness and left the production, the stunt coordinator under Hal Needham and then her fiancee, Bobby Bass, called her to the set for a stunt that he described was to be "a piece of cake" and in which she would operate a smoke machine from the passenger seat. Von Beltz did the stunt because the production was running seriously behind schedule. Her car was struck by a van that made the wrong move, and she was not wearing restraints because seat belts had been removed from her vehicle prior to the accident. The proper safety parts had not been delivered to the set. Because of the schedule demands, filming resumed with the car not in safe condition. She survived, but was left a quadriplegic. When it became clear that Von Beltz's personal injury lawsuit would exceed all available primary insurance coverage, the production's excess insurer, Interstate Fire (a subsidiary of Hollywood's favorite insurer, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company) sued Von Beltz and her employer, Stuntman Inc., for a declaratory judgment that Von Beltz's lawsuit was not covered under its policy. In 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that there was a duty to defend, and that there was also a duty to indemnify to the extent that Von Beltz was seeking recovery for mental injuries (the exclusion for bodily injuries was ruled to be enforceable).
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Jackie Chan and Michael Hui reunite in a film together 25 years after - Bo bui gai wak (2006).
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Jimmy the Greek's car is a Ferrari 308 GTS 1979, same as the models used in Magnum, P.I. (1980).
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Before the race, J.J. tells Victor Prinsi, "Get me Dr. Kildare. Get me Dr. Livingston. Get me Dr. Frankenstein. Just get me a doctor!". The Doctor he finds is played by Jack Elam who played "Frank", the Frankenstein Monster in the short lived TV show, Struck by Lightning (1979).
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The characters of Jill and Marcy are never mentioned in this film. In the sequel both actors are replaced and are called Jill and Marcy, which has been a matter of debate for many years as to if Jill and Marcy from the second Cannonball are even supposed to be the same characters from the first movie, or if it's just to give the original two characters a name for crediting on movie media sites?
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The Porn video which Michael Hui was watching was Behind the Green Door starring Marilyn Chambers.
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Burt Reynolds can be seen wearing an FSU hat. Reynolds attended Florida State University from 1954-1957 and even played football. Conversely, his co-star Dom DeLuise had the character name of Victor Prinzim, and the Quarterback at FSU from 1954-1958 was a man by the name of Victor Prinzi. More than likely Reynolds was involved with Dom's character's name.
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The Lamborghini driving characters named Jill and Marcy are not heard anywhere during the movie or found in the closing credits. They are infact the names of the two Lamborghini drivers in the sequel Cannonball Run II, played by different actors.
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'Burt Reynolds' and 'Dom DeLuise' are co-stars of 'All Dogs Go to Heaven' (1989), respectively.
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Cameo 

Brock Yates: the film's writer appears as the organizer of the race.
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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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