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Trivia / Days of Thunder

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  • Breakaway Pop Hit: Maria McKee's "Show Me Heaven" reached No. 2 in the UK pop charts, despite NASCAR being more obscure outside Americanote . This pop ballad became a Black Sheep Hit for the usually hard country influenced rocking McKee.
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  • Fake American: Cary Elwes (British) as Russ Wheeler, Nicole Kidman (Australian) as Dr. Claire Lewicki.
  • Genre-Killer: Film journalist Stephen Metcalf argues that the wretched production excesses mentioned below, and their attendant impact on the film's profits, killed the kind of blatantly commercial "triumph" movies that producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer had made so much money for Paramount with during the 1980s, films that were sort of a backlash against the auteur-era movies that had prevailed before Heaven's Gate. Afterwards, studios would let directors assert themselves creatively again, and it's no coincidence that Days director Tony Scott's critical reputation improved over the course of the '90s.
  • Inspiration for the Work: 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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  • Romance on the Set: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman met on the set of this film and got married after its release later that year. They would eventually divorce in 2001.
  • Troubled Production: Per this old ''Spy'' article. Everyone thought getting the producers of Top Gun (Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer), its director (the late Tony Scott) and star (Tom Cruise) together, with a script by the legendary Robert Towne about a trendy sport (stock-car racing) couldn't miss. It was a commercial success indeed, despite bad reviews, but none of them ever worked all together again, because:
    • Simpson, Bruckheimer and sometimes Towne (a sometime director himself) often started their days on set having arguments with Scott (sometimes ganging up on him, sometimes three-way) over how to shoot scenes. Meanwhile, the crew sat around getting paid, sometimes for 20 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.
    • However, the effect of all that sitting around watching the producers, director and writer fight with each other was that 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 have a "What the Hell, Producers?" moment with Simpson and 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 $100 million merely to break even.
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    • Robert Towne (the writer, mind you) 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.
    • The cars being assembled in a barn were just one of many inaccurate depictions of NASCAR in the film. Why this happened given the official cooperation of NASCAR and several racing teams, Tom Cruise's personal interest in racing as a hobby and the research he and Towne did is a matter of some artistic license, almost lampshaded in the movie itself by Cole Trickle's constant expressions of surprise that he's gotten this far in the sport despite limited experience. But it seemed on the set as if Scott and a lot of the actual crew just didn't care. So much so that, reportedly, only after principal photography wrapped did someone review the footage and find that they had neglected to shoot Cole Trickle's car crossing the finish line ... only the climactic shot of the entire movie.
    • One reason why Simpson and Bruckheimer may not have cared about the accuracy (as if they ever did): they were too busy realizing the potential of the movie to get chicks. They spent $400,000 of the studio's money having an empty storefront in their hotel building converted into their private gym. And then putting up a huge eight-foot-high neon sign with the name of the movie in the window. 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 Cruise.
  • Underage Casting: Then-23 year old Nicole Kidman played a full-fledged neurosurgeon. At that age, she would be at most only halfway through medical school. Even coming from a country that doesn't require a college degree before entering medical school, she would still only be fresh out of school.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: As seen in the scenes where the drivers entered pit road, a sign board man would stand holding the pit road sign while the cars would attempt to rush in and out of pit road with as little time lost as possible. In 1991, as a reaction to a tragedy during the season-ending 1990 Atlanta Journal 500 when Ricky Rudd lost control of his car, which struck and killed Mike Ritch, a member of Bill Elliott's pit crew, NASCAR made a series of changes, including replacing the pit board men in favor of having someone dangling a large sign that was known as a lollipop, requiring pit road to be closed when the caution flag is first displayed and (after a brief period of allowing only odd or even numbered cars to pit for tires on the second {if an odd number} or third {if even} lap after the restart) adopting pit road speed limits.
  • What Could Have Been:
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: 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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