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The third installment of the Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on November 7th and to celebrate its release, we had a chance to talk to director Brian Fee and producer Kevin Rehar in the city that is the home of NASCAR, Charlotte, NC.
If you’ve been lucky enough to see the film before its home movie release, you’ll know that Cruz Ramirez is an important character in the film and for little girls.
How do you feel about Cruz and Cristela and that character and what she brought to the movie?
Kevin Rehar: “She’s so much fun to work with. She started off as a male character, you know, really early on in the process of this film. While we’re trying to evolve and enrich the story, we eventually realized that we’re missing an opportunity here. I mean, I have two girls at home and I go home every day, and we have a very heavily male-dominated movie – it’s a male dominated sport! And I wanted something for my daughters, o I wanted a character for them to look up to… to identify with because, my daughters, I would see them afraid to do something. If they thought they were gonna be bad at it, they just wouldn’t even try it…”
Brian Fee: “And in that, you know, it’s human nature, but it still breaks your heart as a parent. Everyone’s bad at everything at first… That’s just how it goes! I remember talking with my girls about playing a musical instrument, taking lessons, and I said ‘What about the guitar?’ And they said, ‘Guitar’s for boys’. And I just thought, ‘you’re too young to start assigning these labels.’ [Racing] is a male-dominated sport… everything that happens at home, it gets put in our back pockets and we come to work the next day, we start talking about story.
“Kiel Murray, one of our writers, has girls and he’s feeling the same thing. She was talking about her own experience where animation is also a male-dominated business! We’re trying to get more females interested in animation.”
How Cruise Ramirez got her name and why the character is important
KR: “We fell in love with the name Cruz Ramirez. One of the original writers came up with it, so we have the name Cruz Ramirez, which we found out was actually a male name.”
BF: “The name was held over from the male version of the character [who was latino]. That was helping, even back then, and it continued even with the final film, with the idea that Cruz is a character that does not feel like they belong.”
KR: “An outsider.”
BF: “In addition to being female in a male-dominated sport, you know, there are very few Latinos in racing. In the United States in NASCAR. You know, now we have Daniel Suárez, but…”
KR: “…You have one… representing everybody. You have Danny Suárez. You have Bubba Wallace who is African American, and you have Danica, who’s female. You know. Again, the sport’s changing, and NASCAR would love more female drivers… it’s just hard to attract ’em.”
BF: “We wanted everyone to feel like they can identify with Cruz, or rather through [her] gender. There are a million reasons why probably everybody in this room at some point in their life, if not all the time, feels like a little bit of an outsider, you know. So I think it’s, it’s pretty universal.”
What can you share with us in regards to actors and getting from them what you want us to see in the movie?
KR: “One of the things about the side characters, especially, is when we cast, [we] don’t have enough screen time to tell a back story. To, you know, flesh out a character. When Kerry Washington opens her mouth, you know she’s a smart statistician – you get it right away. Or Paul Dooley or even back in the day, George Carlin as Filmore. You get that he’s a hippy mini-van. So that’s one of the things that we try to do in the casting part of it.”
BF: “My job is to just know the 360 of the circle. A story. I know where we’re going, where we came from. I’ll set the actor up as much as I can, or as much as they’ll tolerate. We’ve done our own scratch recordings at work just to prove out the script and stuff. So I have my own, kinda like how I would do it. But I’m not of good an actor as them, so I don’t want how I would do it. I prefer a professional that’s better than me to show me how it could be even better. That’s my hope. At first, you want to set ’em up, and then just kinda let ’em do their thing, and see where it goes. And hopefully, it goes somewhere better than what was in my head.”
How The Team Finds The Perfect Actors For Cars 3 And The Story Of The One That Got Away
KR: “You know, we got really lucky with this movie. I do the casting along with Natalie Lyon. We watch the reels and then we put together a list of 10 people. And then that gets down to maybe two or three, and then we go to John Lasseter. And usually, the one we like the best is the one John agrees, ‘I think you’re right’. Lea DeLaria, Kerry Washington… but everybody said yes on this one.
“But there’s a famous story – which I won’t give you the guy’s name – we wanted him to be Mr. Incredible. And he said ‘Does it pay well?’ And we [told him] no, you’re just doing it because you want to be in an animated movie for kids. He goes ‘Why would I want to be an animated movie…’ We hired someone else. And in the interim, he dated a younger woman with a child. They went to the Westwood and saw The Incredibles. And we got a call the next Monday saying Mr. So-and-So would love to do anything Pixar.”
BF: “It’s a lot of work, but it’s not a lot of work if you add up the hours. Because what they are is probably around four hour-long sessions. I think Cristela had the most. She probably had 18 or 20 sessions, just because she was the lead and we were rewriting her part. Kerry [Washington] was maybe four or five sessions, and we barely took the four hours.”
The Research Trips That Inspired The Film’s Background Story
KR: “The research trips on Cars 2 I went on were much better. The auto show, Monaco, Nice, Milan… We started Route 99. And then it was Charlotte and Daytona.”
BF: “Yeah. We hung around on race tracks. A lot of the Charlotte area. Daytona a couple times.”
KR: “Abandoned tracks. We went to Wilkesboro, which is North Carolina. And… oh, Kenichi. And that’s how we ended up hearing about the legends of racing. All the legends came out of all that research.”
BF: “So then we spent an equal amount of time talking with drivers… Junior Johnson – people that were there when it was getting started – and hearing their stories. And you’d take all that stuff, and you have kinda put it in your back pocket.”
KR: “Smokey’s Garage, best dang garage in town. It’s actually Smokey Eunic’s Garage, which was the best damn garage in town. But it’s a Disney movie, so… Junior Johnson said, after we talked to him, he says, ‘You went to Occoneechee? Oh, I ended up in the river a couple of times.’ So we ended up with a character named River. And, the African American story of Windel Scott, who was the only African American stock car racer. And his story… if you watch the DVD extras, there’s a terrific featurette on the legends. And his story was amazing.”