I greatly enjoyed Andrew Frankel’s ‘Silver Screen Racer’ in January’s issue, but having co-written with John Frankenheimer the sequel to Grand Prix in 1988 (the story of a man and woman teaming up at Le Mans titled Endurance, but never produced after Cannon films went broke and the dreadful Days of Thunder killed motorsports pictures in Hollywood for years thereafter) I think I can add a few historical footnotes to the story.
Let me preface this by saying I think Jim Gamer is a wonderful guy and a fine actor, but he was not the first choice for the role. A relative unknown named Robert Redford turned it down, for reasons I don’t know. Enzo Ferrari initially refused to co-operate with the picture until John showed him 20 minutes of wild racing footage that convinced the Commendatore that Frankenheimer knew what he was doing. Ferrari’s only proviso: he didn’t care if his drivers lived or died, so long as his cars did not break down on the track.
Sadly, Frankenheimer and his star did not get along, a not uncommon situation in the business. This may or may not have prompted Frankenheimer to remark to me, “There was only one thing wrong with the picture. Yves Montand was our most sympathetic character. We killed the wrong man.”
John and I remain proud of Endurance, which holds up today (despite the obsolescence of the Porsche 962, which our stars drove). However it will probably never be produced, leaving my film-writing résumé to include only the hokey but wildly successful Smokey and the Bandit II and Cannonball Run flicks. The latter might have been quite a good adventure comedy had its original star; Steve McQueen, not taken ill and been replaced by the egregious Burt Reynolds. But that’s another story for another time. Hooray for Hollywood.
Congratulations on producing the most elegant and erudite motor racing publication in the world.
I am yours, etc.,
Brock Yates, Editor-at-Large, ‘Car and Driver’, Wyoming, New York, USA