Denice Halicki and Michael Leone Talk Gone in 60 Seconds, on Blu-ray now!
"They don't make 'em like that anymore!" Its an age-old adage that could apply to both H.B. Halicki's car chase classic Gone in 60 Seconds, as well as his leading lady Eleanor, the first and only car to receive a credit in a film. Both the Mustang and the movie are a reminder of a dangerous era in stunt filmmaking that is as breathtaking as it is thrilling to watch. They simply don't make 'em like this anymore: Real cars doing real stunts, with real people behind the wheel.
Gone in 60 Seconds has, arguably, the greatest car chase scene ever commited to celluloid. It lasts for 40 straight minutes, there is no CGI, and it is jaw dropping. No matter how many times you've seen it, it never grows old. And now, it will live on in Hi-Def as this action classic gets released on Blu-ray for the first time, packed with plenty of exciting extras.
We love the movie. We love Eleanor. And we love this fully restored Blu-ray so much, we called up Denice Halicki, wife of H.B. Halicki, and producer Micheal Leone, to chat about its release, and the new generation of fans that is sure to follow. If you've only ever seen the remake, you need to drop everything and go get this fantastic disc right this second.
Don't believe me? Just read our conversation...
I remember my dad showing me this film a long, long time ago. And I've seen it so many times since, I could watch it bounced off an old inner tube, and it would still be entertaining. So, it's strange to see it now, on Blu-ray...
Michael Leone: We wanted to do this, because we wanted to make it look like Toby just shot it...
Denice Halicki: Toby's whole thing was raw, maverick, independent filmmaking. Even to the point where he taught five different city police departments to work with him and play the police. And the firemen to play the firemen. And the mayor to play the mayor. While the police were sleeping in on Sundays, he was out, doing various things. It was very independent, maverick filmmaking. (Laughs) So, I think that rawness comes through whether you are watching it on Blu-ray or not. What I think the Blu-ray does for the film itself, is that it allows you to actually enjoy the chase scene, and those other things he was doing, that were so innovative, even further. Because they are crisper, you can really see all the details. Here, you feel like you are right there more than ever.
Michael Leone: What I felt, was that a lot of us saw it at a young age. My uncle and my dad showed it to me, too. I was a big fan. But the younger generation, when they turn thirteen, they get introduced to this. So we are able to get a lot of new fans with this Blu-ray, because there is no CGI in this...
You bring up CGI. Truth be told, we've been such longtime fans, we were a little disappointed when the Nicolas Cage remake came out. We're not sure how you feel about it...
Michael Leone: You know, we produced that with Jerry Bruckheimer. It was really a great vision for Jerry. Its not Toby's vision. But it's actually a nice vision.
Denice Halicki: This is how I look at it. Its like kids. Each kid has to grow up how they grow up. It was quite an honor to have people like Jerry Bruckheimer, Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and a host of people, and a host of stunt drivers, come in and do this with passion. And they did. Nicolas Cage is a big car fan.
The remake came out more than a decade ago, but it's remained popular throughout the years. I look at it as a commercial or a gateway to the original...
Michael Leone: You're probably right.
You sent out the Blu-ray, and we sat down to watch it with some younger kids the other night, and they'd seen the remake, but they had no idea it was based on this film. And this film, literally, blew their minds...
Michael Leone: Even though it's been available for a while, and it's sold so many copies at Wal-Mart, there are so many new fans that are just learning about it.
Denice Halicki: There are so many movies out there, and sometime, you don't realize that some of them are remakes. So, its fun. The Blu-ray is capturing that marketplace that wasn't aware that it was a remake back in 2000. I love that.
Some people may grab this, thinking they are grabbing the Nicolas Cage version...
Michael Leone: They will be very surprised, won't they?
If they sit down and watch it, I don't think they will have any complaints or take it back for a refund. Even if they did buy it just to watch some vintage pre-Brad Pitt Angelina Jolie.
Michael Leone: You got the Blu-ray they sent you, correct?
Yeah, I have it sitting here...
Michael Leone: It says it's the original. It says its Toby's movie. No where does it say Jerry Bruckheimer. I think people will know that it is the original film right away. The packaging is great. Toby is on the back of it, walking by all the cars. It really has a nice little package. People that watch this, that wanted to see the original, will get to learn all about Toby and his car collection, and what he did in all of these other movies.
Denice Halicki: We make a point of putting on there that it is the original. Like I said, its two different kids. We let them have their own lives. They both have an amazing life around the world. I have never had one fan say, "I bought this, and I thought I was buying the other."
Michael Leone: We have always sold this ourselves, independently, as the original. The remake was distributed by Disney. We've always kept this independently put out. We have always kept Toby's spirit.
I don't think you've ever heard any complaints about someone grabbing the wrong movie, because from the moment you put this in, it immediately captures your imagination. I can't imagine anyone would complain about grabbing this one instead of the other one. Maybe if that were vice versa...
Michael Leone: You know what is great? When that first credit comes up, it says, "Starring Eleanor." It is the only car in history that has gotten starring credit in a movie.
Where is Eleanor?
Denice Halicki: The original Eleanor is with me.
Michael Leone: And the remake Eleanor. They live together.
Do you take them out and show them off? Or do they just stay at home with you?
Denice Halicki: No! You have to share them. So, we will take them to car shows. There are other events that I bring them to. And they love it. The Eleanors love to come out and play with everybody. They do have fun.
Michael Leone: What I have noticed is that when we bring them out to a car show, kids gravitate to the original Eleanor so fast. They always want a picture with it. They rub her, and all the dents, and everything.
Cars really do have a personality that people can sense. I believe that...
Denice Halicki: Yes. The thing is, when I bring out the Eleanors, they can't sit still. They want to do stunts. They think they are still good to go. They love going out, I have to tell you.
How did you come into possession of the remake Eleanor? Was it a gift?
Michael Leone: Yes. She produced the movie. She made the movie with Jerry Bruckheimer.
Denice Halicki: When Toby passed away, my determination was to finish what he started, for his sake. It took me ten years, and I got the remake out. On the Anniversary of his passing, I was on the set with Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, and Eleanor. In fact, the interview with me on the Blu-ray was from that day, when E! Entertainment came out. They did a special interview with us. And then it continued from there with the Eleanor merchandise, with both the remake and the original. We also have other exciting things coming down the pipe.
Let's go back to the aspect that there is no CGI in this movie. It is so amazing to see these real cars being driven by real people. Why don't we ever see movies made like this anymore? Can a movie like Gone in 60 Seconds be made in this day and age?
Denice Halicki: Part of it is, even when we were remastering the original movie, you could see that it was all very dangerous, what they were doing. Nowadays, because of insurance, someone stubs their toe, and they are suing somebody. You can't have what they were doing back then. The pedestrians were real pedestrians. They were probably running for their lives. The policemen are the policemen. The firemen are the firemen, and the mayor is the mayor. Here they are doing chases and crashes on the bridges in Long Beach. It was very dangerous stuff. There was a lot of real crashes during the shooting, he just couldn't help it. But today, just because of insurance, and so many other reasons, they are not able to do that. But I am a big fan of the rawness. And of not having the special effects. And being able to feel what they were doing. It has a different feel to it, because of that. That is what I love about the Blu-ray. It takes what Toby did back then, and it intensifies this for the viewer. So they can really feel it. You can really see the crispness of it. Now, you can really enjoy that forty-minute chase scene. Like never before, which is wonderful.
Michael Leone: I wanted it to look like he just shot it. That is the way I look at it. Its like, "Wow! He just shot this. Its so new!"
Aside from the car chase, the thing I love about it, is that it's a real snapshot and time capsule of Long Beach at that particular moment in time. We really get to see the town back in the day. That aspect is preserved as well...
Michael Leone: He was a really smart filmmaker. He was innovative. He made up the whole airport scene. That is just a side street. He wasn't even at the airport. And if you watch, people are standing at the point of the meters, so that you can't see them. The warehouse? That was just a locked door in a building, where he wanted to get the Queen Mary in that shot. He was smart. Now, they would have just thrown money at it. He was inventive. He was always thinking. He woke up on a Sunday, he was reading his newspaper, and a train tipped over. The next thing you know, he had the crew out there, writing the opening scene you see in the movie. That is smart.
Denice Halicki: Toby was always very aware of where he had cameras. What the angle was. He took what he knew best, which is cars. He was, from a little boy, when he was too young to reach the pedal, always learning how to drive. He was learning to drive, because his family was in the tow truck business, back in New York. He learned all about cars and learned to drive before he could barely reach the pedal. He had a fascination and love for not only mint condition cars, but also wrecked cars. He had a lot of pictures of himself standing in front of wrecked cars. He learned, as a little boy, about these crashes, being in that business. And the limits to which you could take a car. He actually knew how far you could take it. Sometimes there would be a stunt driver who would say, "We can take this car, and maybe we can do this." But they weren't sure if the car could make it. He would say, "It can!" And then he would jump in the car and literally go do it. He was a real visionary. He knew and loved cars, and he had a real passion for it. He knew how far he could take them. He would take them much further...People usually only did this stuff with special effects. There is many a scene in this movie, like the crashes on the bridge, where Toby was actually driving, with a wig on, or a hat on. Because he knew how to drive. He did that whole forty-minute chase scene himself, with Eleanor. He loved the car so much, he took two hundred and fifty man hours of his own hours, peeled her skin back, built her a whole NASCAR roll cage, a special seatbelt, and everything else, not just so she could withstand the famous chase scene, but also that famous jump that she did. When they were restoring her, you could see it...It was scary. If you watch it in slow motion, you can see in that jump where Eleanor just about went over. Because they are actually doing that stunt. Which is amazing.
Michael Leone: He was really smart to let Eleanor have her voice. If you notice, when the car chase first starts, Toby only has that one line, "I should have looked at my Horoscope." For the next forty minutes, Eleanor is doing all of the talking, aside from the cops. He never says another word until the very end, when he pulls into the car lot. He never says a word. Eleanor was allowed to talk, and show what she could do. I think that captures everyone's imagination. Nowadays, filmmakers are always a little scared. They always have to have the star or the actor who is driving the car say this thing, or that thing. If you watch this movie, you can see that Toby is letting the car speak for itself. That is a very neat quality that Toby had. That he loved cars so much.
What did you do new for this release that wasn't on the DVD release from way back in the day?
Michael Leone: There is a documentary, which was on the 25th anniversary DVD that we put out back in 2000. Nicolas Cage is in there, all of these other actors, and the people that worked with Toby. We show how the film got made. There is a featurette, called "Cut to the Chase". Where we tell the story with just the chase scene. We thought that was fun for the fans. We thought it would be great.
Denice Halicki: The documentary is phenomenal, it is 45 minutes long. Speed Channel did it with us. It is called "The Life and Times of H.B. Halicki". Everyone is in there. Its really neat, it gives you a good history of the movie. And the audio commentary is just amazing. It was done live. Then you have Lee Iacocca, who is the inventor of the Mustang, and a dear friend, and he talks about Eleanor and the history of the Mustang. Then you have my interview from E! Entertainment. They don't always do this, but for me, they said we could release this with the DVD. Its when I was sitting, doing the remake, on the tenth anniversary of Toby's death. We try to always do extras that give you some great history. The documentary is phenomenal, so that really is a treat.
I have the Blu-ray here in front of me. I don't see an audio commentary listed on the back...
Michael Leone: You know what? That's the only thing it doesn't say. But it's on there!
It's good to know that. I know a lot of fans might pick up this release just to hear that.
Michael Leone: It was a little typo. We didn't get it on there. But yes, let the fans know it is actually on the Blu-ray!
H.B. Halicki's Original Gone in 60 Seconds Blu-ray is available in stores now!
Gone in 60 Seconds was released July 28th, 1974 and stars H.B. Halicki, Marion Busia, Jerry Daugirda, James McIntyre, George Cole, Ronald Halicki, Markos Kotsikos, Butch Stockton. The film is directed by H.B. Halicki.