Lights, Camera, Action! Snake and Mongoo$e Motion Picture Moves Forward
Drag Racing prepares to return to the big screen after a 30-year absence. Not since Heart Like A Wheel has our sport received much cinematic attention.
Rhino Films and newly formed shingle Storywise Productions have acquired life-story rights from legendary drag racing rivals Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoo$e” McEwen, and partnered with NHRA to produce a movie about their years revolutionizing one of the world’s most thrilling sports on and off the track.
Award-winning British commercial director Wayne Holloway will make his feature film directing debut by telling the story of The Snake and The Mongoose’s legendary rivalry, friendship and accomplishments. Not only did the two men make drag racing history as champion drivers and owners of drag racing teams, but they also modernized the sport in 1970 by shrewdly enticing toy giant Mattel, Inc. to make its then-new Hot Wheels line the sport’s first major corporate sponsor. When Mattel put logos on dragsters to make them 200-mph billboards for its toy line and put real-life drivers into its TV commercials, Mattel became the first non-automotive sponsor in a racing sport, and the industry’s first commercial tie-in was born. The Mattel sponsorship money and revenue from other sponsors that immediately followed enabled Prudhomme and McEwen to produce remarkable innovations in their dragsters and Funny Cars and make drag racing a major sport globally.
The movie will be produced by Stephen Nemeth of Rhino Films and Robin Broidy of Storywise Productions, executive produced by Leslie Castanuela Barnes and screenwriter Alan Paradise, co-produced by Charlie Katz, Eddie Michaels and Betsy Stahl. The legends themselves, Prudhomme and McEwen, will also serve as producers. Veteran casting director Ronnie Yeskel (Hope Floats, Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead) is heading up the casting process. The project is the first fully financed feature from Storywise Productions, and the company has others in development that it expects to announce shortly.
Paradise is a longtime automotive industry journalist and broadcast producer who began developing the film after being commissioned by Mattel to work with Prudhomme and McEwen to write and direct a documentary celebrating the 35th anniversary of their historic partnership with Hot Wheels. Holloway joins to helm the project after an acclaimed career directing commercials and videos all over the world for major brands that include Samsung, the NFL, NASCAR, Adidas and many others.
The filmmakers are enthused, to say the least, about bringing the story to the big screen. “My husband has adored race cars his whole life, and I thought it would be fascinating to explore this remarkable period in drag racing history,” said Broidy. “These guys were 20th century gladiators, and I was curious to know what drove them to be the best and how they accomplished it.”
Nemeth adds, “First and foremost, this is a terrific and historical buddy story, regardless of what world it’s set in. That the backdrop happens to be the high octane, globally revered sport of drag racing makes it that much more exciting. I look forward to honoring Don and Tom, and the NHRA, with what we all hope will be a very special film.”
“We are going to make an awesome film about two extraordinary men who battled unflinchingly for supremacy in their sport, and yet supported each other wholeheartedly when tragedy struck,” the director, Holloway, elaborates.
Casting is currently underway, and the film is expected to draw significant promotional tie-in interest and partnership opportunities with the brands that supported Snake and Mongoose during their heyday. Additionally, the NHRA will provide archival footage of key races, which will be incorporated directly into the film.
Principal photography is expected to start by fall 2011, with an anticipated theatrical release target date in 2012 commemorating the 40th anniversary of The Snake and The Mongoose’s partnership with Mattel.
Crew Chief of the Month: Walt Przybyl
At times it seems single-car nitro operations have pretty much become cannon fodder. Big buck teams look past them in preparation for the next round. Not so with Bob Bode and his Walt Przybyl-tuned Funny Car. Walt has shown that intelligence, determination and hard work can guide a racing team with a limited budget to success in this high dollar, multi-car environment.
Walt got an early start in 1970 when he was just barely a teenager. He crewed on the Buffalo, New York-area Super Stocker belonging to Gary Rohauer. By the mid-‘80s, he’d graduated to much quicker rides. Walt began construction of an Altered Roadster to run in Top Alcohol Dragster, but by the time it was completed, Altereds were no longer legal in T/AD, so he installed an F/C body and ran BB/FC.
Through the years, he built, tuned and drove a succession of quicker and faster alky floppers, competing in NHRA and IHRA divisional and national events. Though racing on a limited budget Walt was always competitive.
In 1997 he parked his operation in order to start his own business, PRZ Technologies. Walt’s company has grown to 28,000-sq-ft facility, with 24 employees, 16 CNC machines and additional manual machines and equipment.
In 2003, with his company up and running, Walt returned as car chief for local nitro F/C competitor Vinny Arcadi, the crew chief was veteran tuner Glenn Mikres. Glenn was also working with Bob Bode, and soon Walt began doing double duty. Starting as the bottom end diver, he progressed to cylinder heads and the top of the engine.
Richard Hogan replaced Mikres and Walt continued to absorb vital knowledge. When Hogan departed four years ago Walt stepped up as crew chief and chassis builder. PRZ Tech is responsible for the creation of Bode’s current chassis.
Even though the team is very budget conscious and they face a limited schedule with very little time to test, Walt has made Bode a force to be reckoned with.
Their win at Brainerd last year, plus solid qualifying and going rounds at every national event, has cemented that fact. Walt being the modest chap he is, quickly shares credit with the crew who works flawlessly together, especially car chief Mike Stock.
Every time Przybyl, Bode and the team knock off one of the big boys it proves there’s more to our sport than a fat wallet.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Dennis Taylor, owner of Taylor Motorsports Products, manufacturer and supplier of the highest quality safety-related race car products, is near to debuting his spanking new Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car.
The NHRA event-winning alcohol driver has elected to resurrect a name from the past for his new flyer: Evil, Wicked, Mean and Nasty, made famous by the late Harley Griffith. Harley’s widow Judy was kind enough to sign off on the idea of a tribute car to her husband.
AFT’s Bob Brooks is the tuner, and Taylor’s alky crew guys, Tom Capalbo, Andrew Gude, Bruce Conradson, Keith Hardison, Jerry Crawford and Dean Shirai, have signed on for the project.
Power comes from an Alan Johnson TFX block and heads, SSI blower and Lenco Transmission.
Sponsors include Plumbing Concepts, Accurate Drilling, Taylor Freezers, Lucas Oil, Moroso, Mickey Thompson, Embee Performance and AFT Clutches.
A Man of Many Talents
Cory Lee, Big Show Funny Car driver and tuner/crew chief of Gary Turner’s Pedaler nostalgia flyer and drag racing historian, has authored a new book, Drag Racing Collectibles by Iconografix. Cory has captured the essence of one of the greatest sidelights of drag racing, collecting the collectibles; those literally thousands of items, we race participants and fans had at one time pass through our hands, all of those jewels, some now precious, we kick ourselves for not saving, or curse others (especially parents and spouses) for throwing away. I guarantee as you look through this book, you’ll catch yourself exclaiming, “Man, I had one of those!” or marveling at the collections of others. Each of the 125 pages is awash in color photos. Order now, while they’re still available, through Dragfilms.com and Prestige Hobbies 888.886.5778 or www.Prestige-hobbies.com (http://www NULL.Prestige-hobbies NULL.com).
Name the car owner, driver and year.
Send your entries to:
Drag Racer Magazine Quiz
22840 Savi Ranch Parkway, Suite 200
Yorba Linda, CA 92887
The answer to the Strange Quiz from the May 2011 issue of Drag Racer is:
Owner: Roland Leong, Hawaiian
Driver: Mike Sorokin