Richard Blake, left, will play Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen and Jesse Williams Don “the Snake” Prudhomme in the upcoming major motion picture chronicling the lives of the drag racing legends. (Cliff Kramer, Nathanson’s Photography)
By Gary P Jackson
If you were a kid growing up in the early 1970’s chances are you played with Hot Wheels cars. And if you played with Hot Wheels you more than likely had replicas of the Top Fuel and Funny Car entries of Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen.
Both Prudhomme and McEwen have carers that date back to the early 1960’s, but part of what makes them so special is the fact they teamed up to bring the first major non-automotive sponsor into professional drag racing. Mattel and their Hot Wheels brand sponsored the two drivers who had quite the on track rivalry going on. This success brought other non-automotive sponsors into the sport, and helped make professional racing what it is today.
This is a great story and we’re glad it’s finally going to be told.
Snake & Mongoose film producers Robin Broidy and Stephen Nemeth have announced the casting of Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy, Brooklyn’s Finest, The Cabin In The Woods) as drag racing icon Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and newcomer Richard Blake (Dragonball: Evolution) as fellow legend Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen. Award-winning British commercial director Wayne Holloway will make his feature-film directing debut on the project, which he wrote with Alan Paradise. The story details the friendship, rivalry, personal tragedies, triumphs, and business successes of “the Snake” and “the Mongoose.”
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 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 nonautomotive 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 to make racing a major sport globally.
The filmmakers have partnered with NHRA, which will be an important marketing ally, utilizing the organization’s extensive reach to millions of fans around the world.
The actors first met the drag racing legends they will play at a get-together last year at the home of producer Robin Broidy.
The movie is produced by Nemeth’s Rhino Films and Broidy’s Entertainment Universe, which will also finance. Paradise, Prudhomme, and McEwen are executive producers, and co-producers are Betsy Stahl, Edward Michaels, and Williams.
Screenwriter 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 was tapped to helm the project after an acclaimed career directing commercials and videos all over the world for major brands that include Samsung, NFL, NASCAR, Adidas, and many others.
Broidy commented, “Jesse Williams has always been our first choice. He immediately embraced the story and dove headlong into its development. Jesse has spent personal time with Don and the material, understanding his passion and motivation.”
She continued, “Richard Blake is that very talented young actor who quietly works for years until the ideal role comes along. During the casting process, we discovered him and ultimately decided he was the right actor to portray the wonderfully complex Tom McEwen.”
Nemeth added, “It’s very exciting to be a part of a broadly appealing, groundbreaking action sports film that has a lot of heart and presents a fierce rivalry that’s factually true and compelling.”
Holloway said, “I am fascinated by this high-octane world and how it is reflected in the relationship between these two great men and rivals. Set against the backdrop of a revolution in a great American motorsport, the drama and intensity is inescapable.”
We look forward to this movie. Been a huge fan of both Snake and McEwen for years. Though McEwen retired from driving a while back, as did Prudhomme, Snake became a very successful team owner winning yet another championship with Larry Dixon. Besides that, Prudhomme has always been the very definition of cool!
Check out Snake’s website for more info on both of these famed drivers and the rivalry that changed racing forever.
H/T: Competition Plus