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Days of Thunder (1990) Poster

Trivia

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Reportedly, Tom Cruise handpicked Nicole Kidman to be his love interest in the film, after seeing her performance in Dead Calm (1989).
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Production began without a finished script. Scenes were often written the day of filming. During one driving sequence, Tom Cruise actually had to read his lines off cue cards attached to his windshield, which resulted in a minor car accident. For subsequent driving sequences, Cruise was fitted with a special earpiece to have lines fed to him.
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Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall characters are (very) loosely based on former driver Tim Richmond and his crew chief Harry Hyde. Richmond was known as an overnight sensation, and Hyde was the veteran crew chief. The scene where Duvall's character teaches Cruise about tire management is based on an actual incident between Hyde and Richmond, who died of A.I.D.S. complications the year before the film was released.
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Some footage for the movie was shot during the 1990 Daytona 500. Two additional cars, driven by Bobby Hamilton and Tommy Ellis, were added to the rear of the field for the express purpose of shooting them for this film. They were not officially scored, and left the racetrack after one hundred miles (forty laps) were completed. At one point in the race, leader Dale Earnhardt even lapped the movie cars.
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The movie was conceived by Tom Cruise when he and Paul Newman were allowed to test one of Rick Hendrick's race cars. Tom's first lap was in excess of one hundred eighty miles per hour.
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The man who drove for Harry Hogge, prior to Cole, was named Buddy Bretherton. In the movie, they mention he died hitting the wall at Daytona. Harry also mentions that Buddy heard voices while driving. Buddy Bretherton is probably based on NASCAR driver Bobby Isaac, who drove for crew chief Harry Hyde. Issac claimed to have heard voices telling him to get out of the race car or he would die. So he pulled the car off the track and quit. Isaac died several years later from a heart attack, while driving in a 1977 Late Model Sportsman race at Hickory Motor Speedway with twenty-five laps left.
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The scene where Cole leaves the pits after a race, to hit Russ Wheeler, is based on an actual event during the 1987 All-Star race at Charlotte, North Carolina, between drivers Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt.
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Real-life Hendrick Motorsports pit crew member Mike Slattery served as an extra for Cole's crew. After hearing what the stuntmen's pay would be, he asked for the opportunity to do some of the stunts. However, when he saw how close the car came to the stuntmen, he changed his mind saying, "They can have it!"
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All cars used in the movie for the races had to pass inspection and qualify. Bobby Hamilton qualified one of the movie cars in the top ten. They removed the cameras, and he was allowed to enter the race.
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NASCAR driver Greg Sacks did most of Tom Cruise's stunt driving. Cruise wanted to do his own stunt driving, but wasn't allowed to for insurance reasons. The Chevrolets were prepared by Rick Hendrick's racing team, which later used some of the movie cars in real races. Thirty-five cars were wrecked during filming.
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In an effort to give a more realistic atmosphere, professional racing broadcasters were brought in to play the broadcast reporters and track announcers. Key among these were members of ESPN's racing crew, including Booth Announcer Bob Jenkins, and Pit Reporter Dr. Jerry Punch.
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Tom Cruise wanted Kurt Russell for the role of Rowdy Burns. It was through Cruise that Russell became aware of Backdraft (1991).
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Quentin Tarantino said the film was his favorite big budget racing movie: "Yeah, yeah, you laugh, but seriously, I'm a big fan. To me Days of Thunder is the movie Grand Prix (1966) and Le Mans (1971) should have been. Sure, it had a big budget, big stars and a big director in Tony Scott, but it had the fun of those early AIP movies. I just don't think it works if you take the whole thing too seriously."
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The scene where Harry tells Cole to go out and hit the pace car, is based on a real-life situation with driver Buddy Baker and his crew chief at the time, Harry Hyde, on whom Harry Hogge is based.
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Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, and sometimes Robert Towne, often started their days on-set having arguments with Tony Scott over how to shoot scenes. Meanwhile, the crew sat around getting paid, sometimes for twenty hours a day. Some later said that they had made so much overtime on the film, that they could have gone on vacation for four full months after the wrap date.
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The scene where Cole and Rowdy race rental cars on the beach shows birds scattering out of the way. The birds were lured onto the beach by birdseed, and in the first take, most of them were run over.
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Most of the cars used in this film were actually Chevrolets outfitted with special fiberglass bodies made to resemble stock cars. The vehicles routinely broke down from the strain of the racing, or had their bodies greatly damaged. At one point, half of the fleet was in the repair shop.
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Despite the budget overruns and delays, reportedly, it was only after shooting was finished, that the filmmakers discovered they had neglected to film Cole Trickle's car crossing the finish line at Daytona.
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The film's disappointing box-office performance was responsible for destroying the relationship between Paramount and superproducers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. After the film under-performed in the summer of 1990, the studio angrily responded in two ways. They insisted on an impossible lowball budget for a planned third edition of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, and asked Simpson and Bruckheimer to give Paramount nine million dollars of their earnings for this movie back to defray losses. The producers responded by telling Paramount they were done working there, and the studio terminated their contract, which led to them taking a new production deal with Disney via Hollywood Studios.
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In another scene, Trickle is told he can not pit because the crew is too busy eating ice cream. This incident actually occurred at the 1987 Southern 500 involving the Hendrick Motorsports #35 team with crew chief Harry Hyde and Richmond's replacement driver Benny Parsons.
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Nicole Kidman wanted to study neurosurgery for her part, but the producers told her it would be a waste of time.
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Tom Cruise's character, Cole Trickle, was a salute to Dick Trickle. Trickle died May 16, 2013, from an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound.
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According to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tom Cruise had a meeting with Dale Earnhardt, Sr. prior to the production of the film. It was rumored that Earnhardt was offered the role of Rowdy Burns, but he turned it down because he did not want to play the bad guy.
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The scene where Cole and Rowdy destroy a pair of rental cars by racing them through the city streets loosely referenced early 1950s NASCAR superstars Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner, each of whom were known to rent cars, race, and crash them with abandon.
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Tom Cruise received a speeding ticket for doing 85 in a 55 mile-per-hour zone while working on this movie.
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City Chevrolet, a sponsor for Cole early in the movie, is a real-life Charlotte area dealership that is owned by Rick Hendrick, who prepared most of the cars in the movie.
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The scene where Big John tells Cole and Rowdy they will drive to dinner together is based on an actual meeting Bill France, Sr. had in the 1980s between Dale Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine.
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When Cole tells Harry "when it comes to the car, I'll take your word", he is referring to a line from a deleted scene where he states, "I'll take your word for what a car can do, but I'm not taking anybody's word for what I can do." The line can still be heard in the trailer.
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Many real-life NASCAR drivers (including Rusty Wallace) appear in the film.
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Robin Wright was first suggested for the role of Claire Lewicki, but was unavailable.
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In Daytona, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer spent four hundred thousand dollars to have a vacant storefront in their hotel converted into their private gym, with a large neon sign reading "Days of Thunder". Simpson also kept a closet full of Donna Karan dresses to offer the attractive women his assistants found on the beach, and held private parties with friends like rapper Tone Loc. They threw a special welcome party for the crew at a local nightclub with minimal food and drink, and no music, but plenty of hookers they flew in, most of whom they limited to a roped-off VIP area with themselves and Tom Cruise.
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During the Darlington race in which the two movie cars appeared in, Neil Bonnett, one of the drivers interviewed at Daytona before the race, was nearly killed in a serious accident. Ironically, Bonnett was killed in a crash during a practice at Daytona in 1994.
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Cars designed specifically for the movie officially raced at Phoenix and Darlington, with Greg Sacks driving Cole Trickle's City Chevrolet in both races. Bobby Hamilton drove Rowdy Burns' Exxon car at Phoenix, while Hut Stricklin drove it at Darlington. None of the cars finished their races, but Hamilton did lead his race for five laps before an engine failure.
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Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall worked together again many years later in "Jack Reacher" (2012).
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Due to internal conflicts, the said wrap date kept getting pushed back. At one point, the production schedule was revised three times in a single day, leading the Unit Production Manager (the studio's on-set financial liaison) to confront Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. In response, they told him "Screw the schedule". It went from February 1990 to the end of May, severely jeopardizing its chances of making its expected summer release date (it came out a month later). Unsurprisingly, the budget almost doubled over this wasted time too, requiring that the movie make a then-astronomical one hundred million dollars merely to break even.
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Donna W. Scott was cast by Don Simpson when he was casting roles for the film. They began dating afterwards, leading to Donna getting a small role as a "pit girl" in the film and spending almost two months on-set. After she broke up with Simpson, she began dating Tony Scott. They would eventually get married and have two children before he died in 2012.
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In the beginning of the film, the announcer introduces driver Aldo Bennedetti from Reading, Pennsylvania. This character is most likely a reference to real-life driver Mario Andretti. Both are of Italian descent, Mario's brother is named Aldo, and Mario is from Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
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First feature film of Margo Martindale.
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Robert Towne had a barn built to his specifications while the production was filming outside Charlotte. He didn't like it, and they didn't use it. When the crew moved down to Daytona for scenes there, another barn was built. Towne didn't like it either, and most of the barn scenes he had envisioned were thus dropped from the script.
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One scene in which Cole deliberately blows his engine, by over-revving it, reflects upon an incident in which Tim Richmond was said to have done so at Michigan in 1987.
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When Cole wins at Darlington, the track announcer says third place goes to Geoffrey Bodine. Tim Daland, Cole's car owner, is based on owner Rick Hendrick, whose first driver was Bodine.
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On July 3, 2013, NASCAR driver Kurt Busch ran a City Chevrolet inspired paint scheme at Daytona International Speedway. That same year, the original car and Kurt's paint scheme, were added to the NASCAR Hall Of Fame for the Lights Camera NASCAR exhibit in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Harold Faltermeyer turned down scoring duties on the film. He recommended fellow German Composer Hans Zimmer to the producers. Zimmer was also recommended to Tony Scott by his brother Ridley Scott and Tom Cruise.
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Robert Towne compared the challenge of the film's racing sequences to how Ben-Hur (1959) made the chariot races exciting and suspenseful even when it was clear that Judah Ben Hur would win them, and said that ultimately this movie failed, because they weren't able to overcome the predictability of Trickle being victorious at the end.
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The cars used as those of Cole Trickle, Rowdy Burns, and Russ Wheeler were provided by Hendrick Motorsports, with racers Greg Sacks, Bobby Hamilton, and Hut Stricklin as the stand-in drivers. In order to provide authentic race footage involving the cars, these cars were actually raced on three occasions. In late 1989, Hamilton and Sacks raced at Phoenix. Bobby Hamilton officially qualified fifth, and led a lap before his engine blew. In 1990, the cars were raced again at Daytona and Darlington. Greg Sacks drove a car during the Busch Clash, while Sacks and Hamilton drove unscored entries in the Daytona 500. At Darlington, Hut Stricklin and Greg Sacks drove two of the cars, but both were pulled from the race early, after Sacks broke a crankshaft.
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The film's theme song "Last Note of Freedom" was sung by David Coverdale of the band Whitesnake at the request of Tom Cruise himself. Coverdale's vocal parts were recorded in 1990 in Los Angeles during a day off of the Whitesnake Slip of the Tongue Liquor and Poker world tour.
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Pickup shots for the film were being done less than a week before the release prints were scheduled to be made.
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In the "Making of" documentary, Rowdy's Winston Cup Championship trophy is for 1984. The real-life champion for that year was Terry Labonte.
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Even though this is the first collaboration between Tony Scott and Hans Zimmer, it could have been their second, and maybe even third movie. Scott wanted Zimmer to score his previous films Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and Revenge (1990), but since Zimmer was more or less an unknown in Hollywood at that time, the producers instead went with more known composers.
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Don Simpson was excited to be cast as a rival race car driver named Aldo, and worked hard for the role. The problem was, he had no acting ability and his scenes were awful, so a plan to have Aldo as a major supporting character was nixed and Simpson ended up having only one brief scene. Speculation afterwards held that Tony Scott shot the earlier, longer scenes featuring Simpson badly on purpose so they would be able to eliminate or greatly reduce his acting efforts.
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This was the first of an ongoing list of films in which Hans Zimmer would compose the score for a Jerry Bruckheimer production. An official score album was not released until 2013, by La-La Land Records.
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Cole Trickle Pit Crew member Buck Bretherton is played by John C. Reilly. 16 years after this movie, Reilly would play Pit Crew member turned NASCAR Driver alongside Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006).
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After the first few days of the editorial crew looking for "Tony", Tony Scott gave Apprentice Editor Tony Ciccone the nickname "T.C." to avoid further confusion. He's still known by it.
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When Cole Trickle and Claire arrive at the hotel, shortly after the incident at the racetrack, involving Cole hitting the other race car on the victory lap, they are in a 1991 Chevrolet Caprice. The car was supplied by Hendrick Chevrolet. Since this film was released in June 1990, The scene was probably filmed during post-production. The 1991 model year was not available for sale until late October. Dealerships receive next model year vehicles starting in May. But they are not offered for sale until October. That's how they're in a car that's not for sale yet.
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Tom Cruise and John C. Reilly later starred in Magnolia (1999) and Aimee Mann: Save Me (1999).
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For nearly three decades, this was the last of Jerry Bruckheimer's films to be distributed by Paramount Pictures. His relationship with Paramount began under the leadership of Michael Eisner, who later left Paramount for Disney. Therefore, with very few exceptions, Bruckheimer's film were distributed by Disney.
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This is the first rated PG-13 movie Tom Cruise stars in.
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The actor that plays Dr. Wilhaire (seen briefly in the scene when Rowdy is in the hospital) is the same one who plays Tom Cruise's adversary, Dr. Bruner, in Rain Man (1988).
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Development of the movie started in 1987, first with writer Warren Skaaren, then Donald E. Stewart, and then Warren Skaaren again. Finally, producers decided to hire Robert Towne, who wrote the final version of the script.
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Film debut of Nick Searcy.
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Nicole Kidman and Robert Duvall; and three Oscar nominees: Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, and Randy Quaid.
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Cole's first car in the film is sponsored by City Chevrolet, a real-life car dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina, owned by Rick Hendrick.
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First feature film for Leilani Sarelle.
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Tom Sizemore was considered for the role of Tim Daland.
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Don Simpson originally intended to take a supporting role, as a fellow driver in this film, but his role was reduced to only one line.
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Juvenile actor-turned-race driver/instructor Brian Forster (best known as "Chris" from "The Partridge Family") called this movie "very fake and phony." He once treated a girlfriend, who also happened to be one of his racing students, to see the film; Forster admits to "pointing out flubs right and left."
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John C. Reilly later appeared in the parody of this film, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006).
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John C. Reilly and Robert Duvall have both played Dr. John Watson, in Holmes & Watson (2018) and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
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The races were presented in a order that was not the real schedule order for the NASCAR Winston Cup series in either 1989 or 1990.
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Cole Trickle drives four different stock cars. Rowdy Burns #51 Exxon car, the #46 City Chevrolet car, the Superflo #46 and the #51 Mello Yello car. ( Which technically is Rowdy Burns car with a different sponsor)
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Margo Martindale and Robert Duvall had previously appeared together in Lonesome Dove (1989).
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John C. Reilly and Michael Rooker who are in the film, would go on 24 years later to play in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) as a Nova Corp and Yondu.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Upon seeing the film "the King" Richard Petty (so named because he holds the record for most wins in NASCAR Grand National history) said of the movie, "the only thing they got right was the numbers on the side of the cars
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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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