Paramount Pictures, in association with Fireworks Pictures, presents an Alphaville Production and Zucker Production, the event comedy "Rat Race," boasting an all-star comedic ensemble featuring, in alphabetical order, Rowan Atkinson ("Mr. Bean"), Dean Cain ("Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman"), John Cleese ("Fish Called Wanda, a (1988)," "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)"), Academy Award® winner Whoopi Goldberg ("Ghost (1990)," "Sister Act (1992)"), Academy Award® winner cuba gooding Jr. ("Jerry Maguire (1996)," "Men of Honor (2000)"), Seth Green ("Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)"), Wayne Knight ("Seinfeld"), Jon Lovitz ("High School High"), Breckin Meyer ("Road Trip (2000)]"), Kathy Najimy ("Sister Act (1992)"), Paul Rodriguez ("Born in East L. A. "), Amy Smart ("Road Trip (2000) ") and Dave Thomas ("Strange Brew," "SCTV").
The film marks the return of famed comedy director Jerry Zucker to the genre he influenced with such groundbreaking hits as the "Airplane (1980)" and "Naked Gun" series, as well as the Academy Award® nominated blockbuster "Ghost (1990). "
"Rat Race" is produced by Jerry Zucker, Sean Daniel ("Mummy, the (1999)") and Janet Zucker ("First Knight (1995)"). James Jacks ("Mummy, the (1999)") and Richard Vane ("Jingle All the Way (1996)") are the executive producers. The original screenplay is written by Andy Breckman ("Sgt. Bilko (1996)," "I. q. (1994) ").
Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc. , one of the world's largest entertainment and media companies, and a leader in the production, promotion, and distribution of entertainment, news, sports, and music.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The Race Is Under Way
"Rat Race" brings together the talents of some of this country's most gifted comedic actors in an original comedy, under the direction of one of the masters of comedy, director Jerry Zucker.
"Three years ago," recalls screenwriter Andy Breckman, "the wise folks at Paramount decided it was time to revive a long-neglected genre: the big ensemble, event, chase comedy. In the '60s there were quite a few of them, but there hasn't been any in awhile. " Paramount executives made a phone call to Breckman with a simple mandate: to create six characters and have funny and bizarre situations happen to them. "For a comedy writer," Breckman says, "it was like being given a blank check. "
Recalls producer Janet Zucker, "Paramount Pictures loved the script and sent it to me for Jerry. I remember reading the script thinking it was one of the funniest movies I'd ever read. I didn't know, however, if Jerry would want to go back to a big comedy. . He'd been doing strong dramas for the last few years. Jerry knew how funny Andy was, so he picked up the script and read it. I could hear him laughing out loud, appreciating all of its humor. 'Boy, this is something I really want to direct,' Jerry told me. "
The next call Breckman received was from Jerry Zucker. "Jerry called and said he really liked the script and was considering producing and directing it," Breckman remembers. Though Breckman and Zucker have collaborated in the past, "Rat Race" marks the first project to be produced.
Director Jerry Zucker is responsible for some of the most memorable and influential comedies of the last 25 years, from such early films as "Kentucky Fried Movie" and "Airplane (1980)," to the "Naked Gun" films and the Academy Award® nominated "Ghost (1990). "
"Rat Race" marks Zucker's return to comedy directing since 1990's "Ghost (1990)," and reunites him with comedy legend Whoopi Goldberg. In the last ten years, Zucker directed the historical drama "First Knight (1995)," starring Richard Gere and Sean Connery, and produced such films as "Walk in the Clouds, a (1995)" starring Keanu Reeves, "My Life (1993)" starring Michael Keaton, and the smash hit "My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)," starring Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz.
Zucker says he is thrilled to be back doing comedy. "I made this movie because it has such a strong script that I thought could keep an audience laughing for two hours," Zucker says. "It's extraordinarily funny. It's very visual and there are lots of big visual stunts - kind of a James Bond comedy in a way because there are so many stunts as opposed to just funny lines which, of course, it has a fair amount of too. "
Say Janet Zucker, "He felt that he needed to do something to make him and the world laugh. Comedy is not usually treated as important, but in some ways it's the greatest gift we can give an audience to help them forget their problems. Jerry also loves to work with big canvases. The notion of doing a big physical comedy with big stunts was very appealing to him. "
For eight months, Breckman and Zucker convened together in a conference room and, using multicolored index cards, outlined the wild parallel story lines of each of the racers, trying to make each sequence as funny as it could be. "We had every color of the rainbow," Breckman recalls. "It was the prettiest outline in film history. "
Producer Sean Daniel, a partner in the Paramount-based production company Alphaville, and one of Hollywood's most successful producers, was sent the script. "Paramount wanted me to read what was one of their funniest scripts," Daniel remembers. "I took it home and just sat there and laughed. The characters were just hilariously inventive and found themselves in the funniest situations that you didn't think could get more complicated…but they did. "
"The fun of the movie is that these are ordinary folks that find themselves involved in the most embarrassing, surreal and outrageous situations," says Breckman. "But they still plug along gamely. "
Jerry Zucker notes that the racers are all just pawns in a larger scheme. "It's a cast of underdogs," he says. "I think that gives it a twist that plays nicely throughout the movie. They all have their own little problems and similarities, and they all go through hell hoping that something goes right. There are a lot of elements going on at once, but it has its own original plot and twist. It's different than anything we've seen. "
"One of my favorite things about the movie is that it has great values," says Daniel. "Greed is celebrated, but put in its proper place. The movie lives out its values in the best way, which is through comedy, and in characters that, in the midst of their hijinx, you come to care about, root for, and in some cases, develop crushes on. "
With a script ready to begin filming, a diverse and eclectic cast of comedic actors was brought together, including some movie milestones:
"Initially we thought that we wanted to get the biggest comedy stars. Once we started dealing with the logistics of it and the ensemble nature of the cast, we realized that what we really needed to do was find great comedians. "
With John Cleese, Jon Lovitz and Dave Thomas, "Rat Race" features cast members from three of the most revered comedy troupes in television history: "Monty Python," "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV. "
With the casting of Whoopi Goldberg and cuba gooding Jr. , "Rat Race" marks the first time two African-American Academy Award®-winning actors have ever appeared in a film together.
This also marks the reunion of Goldberg with Jerry Zucker, who directed her Academy Award®-winning performance in 1990's "Ghost (1990). " "I think that Jerry wanted to work with Whoopi again, and she certainly wanted to work with Jerry again. We felt that she would bring a great deal of warmth and comedy to the role and to the movie," comments Janet Zucker.
"We had always wanted Cuba for the role. We imagined that Cuba would be perfect. Initially, everyone felt that he would be too expensive. As a producer, whenever someone tells me something is not possible I want to investigate it further. I was at a meeting at CAA and decided I wanted to meet with Cuba's agent, Josh Lieberman. Josh was a fan of the script and thought it was something Cuba should do. We called his manager and decided to send it to Cuba. Cuba read the script and laughed so hard that he called Jerry directly, before even telling his agent, telling him he wanted to do the picture. "
The casting of Rowan Atkinson proved somewhat of a challenge. "Rowan had not been in a picture since 'Bean (1997). ' We always imagined Pollini as a very European character, and we wanted to cast someone who is not American," says Janet Zucker. "Jerry is a huge fan of Mr. Bean. We thought it was a real long shot to get Rowan Atkinson. We called his agent at William Morris and she thought it was a great idea. We started a long process of speaking with his manager in England and then sent the script to Rowan to read. No one was incredibly encouraging. Other American directors had not been successful in enticing him into their movies. Rowan loved the script and the character. There were phone conversations between Jerry & Rowan that lasted over six weeks of time. They found each other to be kindred spirits and decided that working together would be great for the both of them.
"We got really, really lucky," says jerry Zucker about the cast. "I have my first choice cast, and they're all perfect for their role. "
With an ensemble of comic actors on set each day, were the producers worried about someone overshadowing another? "Everybody steals this film," exclaims Sean Daniel. "That's just what we wanted. They play off each other so great. Everybody is so unique and incredibly comedic in his or her own right, and it gets to a whole new level when they're thrown together. It's just a living, breathing, monster of a cast. "
The dynamics of working with an ensemble cast did present producer Janet Zucker with a daunting challenge - scheduling all the actors. Everyone had his or her own unique issues to work around. Every time we moved one actor's schedule it affected everyone else's schedule. It was a never-ending jigsaw puzzle. "
With the logistics worked, Jerry Zucker began working his comedic magic in directing the film.
Says Janet Zucker, "Jerry brings an impeccable sense of comic timing, of knowing where the comedy is, of walking a balance between funny and over-the-top. He has a great visual eye and style, and even though this is a comedy he wants it to look beautiful and interesting to the viewer. He wanted all the characters to be real people. No farcical characters, or characters that were unbelievable. These are real people in unbelievable situations. Though we did push the envelope a few times. In all of Jerry's pictures, the people that inhabit them have a real warmth, so even if what they're doing is shifty, underhanded or mean, you still like them and want to spend time with them
In mounting such an extravagant road comedy, Sean Daniel gives all the credit to Jerry Zucker, a director he's wanted to work with his entire career. "It's all about Jerry's vision," says Daniel. "Directing and creating a comedy is the hardest thing of all, and to do it with heart and style, all the while maintaining the hilarity, is a real testament to a director. Only someone with enormous talent, and enormous reservoirs of patience and fortitude can pull it off. "
Jerry Zucker sums up his feelings: "This movie has been great because first of all, the cast is so wonderful, we're doing silly things - rocket cars, monster trucks - just strange physical things, or sometimes we have something so simple that's really funny. I'm grateful that this script came along. It's been a real blast. "
The Race Is On
Principal photography on "Rat Race" began August 9, 2000 in Calgary, in the western Canadian province of Alberta, just north of Montana. The first two weeks of filming took place in a variety of locations in and around Calgary, primarily on Calgary's scenic highways which doubled for the three states that compose the racers' journey: Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.
"We shot the desert scenes in a place called Drumheller. It was a perfect match for the terrain of Las Vegas and Silver City, Nevada. We also shot out and about in the rolling hills at the foot of the Canadian Rockies for the scenes of Cuba and the Lucy's," explains Janet Zucker.
For four weeks the production continued in Calgary at the Currie Barracks, a former Canadian Forces military base that now serves the local film, television and commercial production community. Utilizing two aircraft hangars that have been converted in to soundstages, as well as the army gymnasium, the crew filmed many of the interior scenes such as the Venetian Hotel suites and conference room, as well as numerous driving scenes filmed using green screen and rear screen projection techniques.
In late September, the production traveled back to the States and set up in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a few days of filming at Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport, the crew relocated to The Venetian Hotel-Resort-Casino, one of the grandest hotels on the Vegas Strip, which recreates the intricacies of Venice, Italy's architecture and decorative arts. In "Rat Race," fictional casino tycoon Donald Sinclair, portrayed by John Cleese, owns the Venetian. The crew utilized most of the interiors and exteriors of the luxurious resort including its lobby area, the 120,000-square-foot casino, the Grand Canal Shoppes retail area and the extravagant exteriors, all which pulsate with the vigor and excitement of life in Renaissance Venice.
"Jerry liked the look of a couple of hotels, but The Venetian was the most accommodating," says Janet Zucker. "They let us film in the daytime in the casino, in prime hours, which is pretty rare for Las Vegas. It's a beautiful hotel and their staff was incredibly helpful and accommodating. "
Following two weeks in Las Vegas, the production traveled five hours north to the small mining town of Ely, Nevada. Ely, an active gold and copper mining town, is also home to the Ely Depot, a historic turn-of-the-century train station in the center of town.
The Ely Depot, operated by the Nevada Northern Railway Historical Operating Museum, portrays the fictional Silver City train station, the conclusion to the racers' quest and where the $2 million is stashed in a station locker.
"We picked Ely Nevada because Jerry loved the train station there. It had an old-fashioned feel. The road leading up to the train station was also very cinematic," notes Janet Zucker.
Location manager David Israel concurs, "We looked all over Los Angeles, Southern California, Utah and New Mexico for the perfect train station. We found it in Ely. It has hills for viewing and a scenic water tower right behind it. It looks like a postcard. It was also very important that Ely had an appropriate infrastructure to house and support our cast and crew. "
"Not only was it the sweetest little train station," adds Jerry Zucker, but it was located at the end of this long main street which made it perfect. "
300 Ely citizens were brought in as extras through a local casting call, to fill the streets and train station for the week of filming.
Following Ely, production moved to Southern California where the final six weeks of production occurred primarily in the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, in cities such as Palmdale, Rosamond, Acton, Santa Clarita and Newhall. Additional sites included Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley and El Mirage Dry Lake. These scenes included much of the exterior race portions of the film.