On this day in 2008, “Speed Racer,” the big-budget live-action film version of the 1960s Japanese comic book and television series “MachGoGoGo,” makes its debut in U.S. movie theaters.
Warner Brothers, the studio behind “Speed Racer,” brought on Larry and Andy Wachowski, the brothers who created the blockbuster science-fiction hit “The Matrix” and its two sequels, to write and direct the long-awaited movie. Emile Hirsch starred in the title role of Speed, an 18-year-old driver whose family’s business is building race cars. Speed is trying to live up to the memory of his older brother Rex, who died in an accident while competing in a notoriously tough cross-country rally known as the Crucible. Before his death, Rex had appeared to cheat in a race, and Speed yearns to clear the family name. When the Racer family’s rival, Royalton Industries, makes him a rich offer to join the company’s racing team, Speed refuses, infuriating Royalton’s corrupt owner. In order to defeat Royalton and save his family’s business, Speed must team with his onetime rival Racer X and take on not only the Crucible, but also the mighty Grand Prix.
Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon and Matthew Fox co-starred in “Speed Racer” alongside Hirsch. Another key cast member was not an actor but an automobile: the mighty Mach 5, a race car designed and built by Speed’s father, Pops Racer. As in the American version of the comic, the sleek Mach 5 used in the film is white with red accents, bears similarities to an early Ferrari Testarossa and is outfitted with an array of special features, including jacks that automatically boost the car, allowing for easy repair; rotary saws that protrude from the front tires; and a deflector that seals the driver into a crash-proof container. As part of the publicity for the Wachowskis’ “Speed Racer,” the Mach 5 went on display in January 2008 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. As reported in USA Today, however, the car saw little real action on the track. During filming, it was attached to a crane, and most of the effects for the racing scenes were computer generated.