Meet The Speed Racers

The stars of the Wachowski Brothers’ sci-fi eye-popper feel the need for speed...

What made you want to do Speed Racer?
Emile Hirsh: Even when I was six years old, I used to watch the Speed Racer show every morning. And The Matrix was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in a cinema, so I just thought put those two elements together and this would make a fantastic film.

Susan Sarandon: I was hoping my kids would think I was cool if I made this film. I think it worked. I’m a little bit cool!

John Goodman: I was just hoping to buy my daughter’s love.

Kick Gurry: I was trying to buy John’s daughter’s love, too.

This is the Wachowskis' first film as directors since The Matrix trilogy. What’s like being directed by them?
Goodman: It’s like being a polygamist. You get yelled from both sides. No, they’re one great mind, they share a common vision and they’re funny as hell.

Hirsh: And they do everything together.

Goodman: Yeah, we’ll do a take for Larry and then Andy will jump in with another suggestion.

Sarandon: They’re very close to each other, so I think that focus on the idea of the family is never lost amid the colour and the action. They really wanted to protect the humanity of the piece.

How did you find working with the green screen?
Christina Ricci: The Wachowskis were so good that I sort of forgot we were surrounded by nothing. I just remember it being fun and easy and not as difficult as you’d imagine.

Hirsh: I wish I could agree that it was all good times on green screen, but I find it very frustrating. So it was great that we all got along so well, because there are parts of the process of working on green screen that are just downright maddening.

Sarandon: Well, you were doing it much longer than we were.

Emile: Yeah, being with the cast was like a vacation. Because there’s this thing called the gimble. Which is what we did all the car scenes in. And you’re basically locked in this chamber by yourself. They then shake you around really violently and give you borderline whiplash. And I spent 20 days alone in this thing. It was kinda like solitary confinement. When I’d get out, it was like, ‘Heeey everybody, I’m back!’

Sarandon: It’s weird. When you’re doing a regular movie, you’re pretend that the things that are there are not there. And with green screen, you have to imagine things are there.

No real driving practice required then?
Hirsh: The cars are so fantastical that any kind of real driving wouldn’t even apply. So I played a lot of videogames, like simulators, and I got really good at those. And then I got hooked up with this NASCAR driver Jimmy Johnson and he showed me the way these cars are put together and I was in the pit during a race. It was really wild.

Were you surprised how crazy and epileptic the movie turned out to be?
Hirsh: When I read the script, I imagined it being in the same frame as The Matrix. You know, you just go to what you know. But the tone of the script was quite different to The Matrix so I had no idea how it would actually look. It wasn’t until the Brothers showed me the test footage they’d created to get the movie made that I realised just how different it was. It was only three or four minutes, but it really just blew me away. It was something I’d never seen before.

Sarandon: I never read directions in scripts. So there was an awful lot of stuff in the script that I couldn’t read because it was just direction, direction, direction. But when they called me to explain what they were trying to do, I was like, ‘I don’t understand a thing you’re talking about...’ So you just have to surrender. If you liken it to a drug trip, it kind of kicked in when we saw the film. I don’t think anybody can imagine what’s going on in the Wachowskis’ brains.

Are you car enthusiasts?
Gurry: I wouldn’t say car enthusiast. But I like driving fast. When I got my licence when I was 18 in Australia, I think I lost it in four days.

Sarandon: I have to admit, I’m a bit of a racist. Because cars all look alike to me.