A few years ago, I made my first visit to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach when they held the junket for Sylvester Stallone’s racing movie, “Driven,” at the Renaissance Hotel right next to the track. 

Well, this past weekend, Warner Brothers conducted their junket for another car racing movie, “Speed Racer,” at the Long Beach Grand Prix, which meant once again it sounded like the actors we interviewed were surrounded by a horde of angry, buzzing bees, thanks to the very, very loud race cars driving by the Convention Center where we were set up.

Still, the actors were in good spirits. Emile Hirsch, who plays the title character, is on the verge of a huge career breakthrough, but didn’t seem too worried about what’s coming as far as his popularity.

Producer Joel Silver, who produced my two favorite movies, “Die Hard” and “The Matrix,” was after Emile. I asked him if he was keeping one of the Mach 5’s they built for the film for himself. Joel revealed that he wasn’t planning on it, considering that the cars they made for the film lacked a very important component… an engine! So I guess we won’t be seeing anyone driving to the grocery store in a Mach 5 anytime soon.

Joel also defended the length of the movie, which clocks in at over 2 hours. Joel pointed out that when he was a kid, he saw the 8 hour Broadway production of “Nicholas Nickelby” and loved it, so he thought children could easily make it through “Speed Racer.”

Next up were John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, who play Speed’s parents. John seemed very happy when I complimented him on his grunting in the film, which is about all I remember about the character of Pops Racer from the cartoon. John commented that no matter what line he said in the movie, the Wichowski Brothers who directed the film would have him add a grunt or two for emphasis!

Christina Ricci, who plays Speed’s girfriend Trixie, related the problems she had with the chimp that was used in the film. In their very first scene together, the chimp grabbed her breast and refused to let go, creating a very painful memory for Christina!

Of course, I was most excited by the appearance of our final interview subject, Matthew Fox, who just 12 hours before had been on the beach in Oahu filming a scene for “Lost.” The publicists weren’t sure Matthew, who plays Racer X, would be able to make it to Long Beach in time, but I brought my “Lost: Season One” DVD set just in case, and I’m glad I did, because he autographed it for me.

I asked Matthew about his tattoos, which “Lost” devoted a whole episode to explaining. Matthew admitted that his tattoos may not be that esthetically pleasing, but each one has a meaning to him and symbolizes either an important idea or event in his life. He added that he just hopes ten years from now, the ideas they exemplify will still seem as important as they did the day he got them applied!

As Matthew was leaving, I suggested that he check out a character named Jack Reacher, the star of a great series of thriller novels by author Lee Child. I think Matthew would make a great choice to play this character, adding another great Jack portrayal to the one he plays on “Lost”!

After the interviews, I walked around the Grand Prix track, which is actually made up of closed off streets. I was very impressed by the restaurants in that area of Long Beach. By this time, the practice session featuring the open wheel Grand Prix cars had ended, and the contestants in the next day’s celebrity race had taken to the track for a qualifying round. I found a spot beside a curve and was rewarded with the sight of Drew Lachey’s car nudging a pile of tires that were stacked in front of a wall as a safety precaution. I also saw another unidentified celeb trying to drive with the hood of their car standing straight up in the air.

Finally I left as still another class of car took to the streets for a practice session, hearing the vrooms fade into the distance as I headed for the train to go back home. Because who wants to watch a day of racing and then be stuck on the freeway?



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