So it helps if the head thief is played by a big-time movie star like Cage, who won a best-actor Oscar for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, and whose real-life passion for cars is well-known and whose rumored $20 million paycheck should let him snap up a few more classics for his collection. The film, Cage said, "has kind of a glorified '70s B-movie aura," evoking such drive-in classics as Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.
Joining Cage in the cast are two more Oscar winners, Duvall (best actor in 1983 for Tender Mercies) as a veteran thief and Jolie (best supporting actress for 1999's Girl, Interrupted) as Cage's love interest, a specialist in Ferrari thefts. Supporting them are veterans Delroy Lindo (Ransom, Get Shorty) as the cop who pursues Cage and a whole flock of youngsters ranging from Vinnie Jones of Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels to James Duval of last year's Go as members of Cage's gang.
Although the makers of the new movie haven't taken a lot from the old one, the plot does generally follow the old one. It's still about a gang of Los Angeles car thieves who try to steal 50 cars in one night, and they still give each of those cars a feminine code name. Why exactly they need to accomplish that task is as murky as the cinematography in the original, but in the new movie it's to save the Cage character's little brother (played by Giovanni Ribisi of Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room, but perhaps best known as Phoebe's brother on the NBC-TV hit Friends) from the wrath of a crime-syndicate boss after a caper goes haywire.
Fine. But what about the cars?
"What we wanted to do was come up with the perfect blend of classic American and import and super-carish kind of stuff," said production designer and on-call car nut Jeff Mann, about choosing the gang's 50 rolling targets. "Stuff that people are going to be interested in seeing stolen. But I also didn't want everything to be, like, the '57 Chevy; the most predictable thing you could think of. There was a McLaren F1 on the list for a while, but that one proved to be fairly impossible to acquire. But we did manage to find a Jaguar XJ220. We have a Hemi 'Cuda, which plays a big role. It was a long, ongoing process till we hit on the 50 cars." That list includes exotics such as the Lamborghini Countach and a passel of Ferraris ranging from a '67 275GTB/4 to a new 550 Maranello rented for the movie from a stuntman who happened to own one.
Compared with the original, whose climactic chase fills 40 of the film's 105 minutes and in which a supposed 93 cars were destroyed, the automotive body count in the new film is relatively light. "This movie is not so much about crashes like the other movie was. It's more about high speed, near misses, all that," said Johnny Martin, a stunt coordinator. Delroy Lindo accidentally totaled a new BMW 540i his cop character drove, and a Porsche 911 sustained $15,000 worth of damage jumping through a window, but the Ferraris were unscathed.