Grand Prix (1966) Movie Poster

Trivia for Grand Prix (1966)

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  • In the scene at the reception after Sarti wins at Monaco, Hugo comments that Sarti can now talk to kings. Sarti replies that so can any man, but will the kings listen? Or something to that effect. This is an obvious paraphrase of a famous part of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I, Act III, Scene i, lines 53-55: Welshman Owen Glendower: "I can call spirits from the vasty deep." Harry Hotspur: "Why, so can I, or so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them?"
  • Crowds can be difficult to manage simply because of the effort needed to maintain their concentration. During the filming of Grand Prix (1966) there was a scene where a flaming car is driven into the pits. It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and the director, John Frankenheimer, was disgusted by the crowd's lack of reaction to the dramatic action during the rehearsals. They appeared to be more interested in their tea break. Frankenheimer called his special effects man over and told him to 'blow up the tea van' when given the signal. The unit went for a take. The flaming sports car came into the pits. The crowd looked on. The signal was given and the tea truck exploded. The crowd reacted and Frankenheimer got his shot' This is an extreme example of how to direct crowds. (from "Production Management for Film and Video" by Richard Gates)
  • Steve McQueen was the early choice for the lead role. A first meeting with producer Edward Lewis went very badly and McQueen showed no further public interest in the role. However, privately he was fuming, and he chose not to speak with his friend, and next-door neighbor, who just happened to be James Garner, for the next four years. He later starred in another racing movie, Le Mans (1971).
  • James Garner did all his own driving. During breaks in filming there were several mini races in which Garner either tied or bettered the professional drivers hired for filming.
  • Early in the movie, Yves Montand's helmet design is that of John Surtees, who was driving for Ferrari at the beginning of the 1966 season. But Surtees left Ferrari for Cooper after two races, and therefore footage of the real Ferrari with Surtees driving was no longer available. Mike Parkes replaced him at Ferrari, and Montand's helmet design changes to that of Parkes for the remainder of the movie. No reason is given in the movie for the change.
  • The helmet design that James Garner's character uses is that of then-Grand Prix race driver 'Chris Amon (I)'. The only difference was a silhouette of a Kiwi bird that was normally on the side of Amon's helmet (he was from New Zealand) that was left off of Garner's, as his character was an American.
  • The Formula 3 car's smaller engines could not spin the wider Formula 1 tires realistically on starts, so the tires were wet with gasoline for those shots, which not only allowed them to spin realistically but also caused them to smoke realistically as they spun.
  • The film shows racing taking place on the banked oval section of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy, but in fact the oval section of that racetrack had not been used for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix since 1961. This section of the track was still used, however, for races involving other classes of cars until 1969. The Monza 1,000 Kilometre, for example, reserved for the Sports, Prototype and Grand Touring categories, used the full 10KM course (including the high-speed banked oval section) from 1965 to 1969. Ironically, the tragic fatal accident in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix (which took the life of German driver Wolfgang Von Trips, and 14 spectators) did not occur in the banked oval section but just prior to the "Parabolic" curve, which is part of the Road Course section of Monza. This road course, with modifications for safety and since the retirement of the banked oval section, has comprised the entire circuit at Monza ever since.
  • During filming, Yves Montand spun out and subsequently was terrified to go fast again. The crew modified a racecar that was then towed behind a Ford GT40. This setup would reach speeds of 130 mph. Montand was more comfortable with this setup than with having to drive the car himself.
  • The cars had to be fitted with spark plug radio noise suppression kits similar to the ones used on passenger cars because otherwise the static produced by their engine electrics interfered with the radio-controlled camera mounts on the cars.
  • Swedish actress Harriet Andersson was cast as the female lead and filmed some scenes. James Garner wanted to replace her and Eva Marie Saint got the part instead. No explanation was given.
  • Toshirô Mifune's own voice was heard in his performance as Izo Yamura at the film's premiere, but afterward he was dubbed by Paul Frees in all general release and roadshow prints.
  • Of the 32 professional racing drivers who participated or were seen in the film, five died in racing accidents within two years and another five in the following ten years.
  • John Frankenheimer's first film in colour.
  • The helmet design used by Brian Bedford is that of then second-year driver and future triple World Champion Jackie Stewart. Of the four actors, Bedford is the only one not to do any actual driving, which explains why in all segments where the Scott Stoddard character is shown driving, he has the balaclava up to his goggles.
  • Filming required the use of all existing Panavision 65mm cameras.
  • Yves Montand's character, Sarti, tells how he no longer slows down when he sees an accident. He uses the exact words of the real life driver Phil Hill, as quoted by Robert Daley in his book "The Cruel Sport".
  • The cars that were used in the film, supposedly Formula 1 cars, were in fact Formula 3 cars made up to look like Formula 1's. Footage of real Formula 1 cars, shot during the actual Grand Prix races of 1966, was used as well.
  • Average Shot Length = ~5.4 seconds. Median Shot Length = ~4.7 seconds.
  • John Frankenheimer refused to film cars moving slowly, then speed the film up. He felt the average moviegoer would be able to notice the difference.
  • While all the male leads went through race car driving training, this was a special challenge for Brian Bedford and Antonio Sabato who had never driven any car before.
  • James Garner was actually too tall for Formula One racing. In order to fit in the cars, the seats had to be removed and Garner sat on the frame with just a towel or a mat protecting his posterior. Additionally, the roll bars needed to be removed and fitted with taller bars, so they would look realistic and not be noticeably shorter than the top of his helmet.
  • According to John Frankenheimer, the character played by Jessica Walter was based on Louise Collins, an actress who married British racing driver Peter Collins, who was killed on the track in 1958, only one year after their wedding.
  • Paul Newman was considered to star. He also had a passion for motor racing.
  • Monica Vitti turned down the role of Louise Frederickson.
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo turned down the role of Nino Barlini.
  • When first announced in 1964, Lewis John Carlino was handling the scriptwriting duties.
  • While speaking about the war, Toshirô Mifune mentions he was a fighter pilot. James Garner comments he missed the war by a year. Garner was born in 1928, so he did not turn 18 until 1946, the year after the war ended, while Mifune was born in 1920 in China to Japanese parents. Mifune did serve in the Japanese Air Force during the war, but not as a fighter pilot- he worked in the aerial photography unit.
  • The first film to win both the Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Oscars, the precursors of the Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing awards respectively.
  • The first film not nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, to be nominated for at least three Oscars and win in all its categories.
  • Brian Bedford had signed to do "The Happening" for director Elliot Silverstein but his disagreements with the director led to a parting of the ways and allowed the actor to join the "Grand Prix" cast.
  • The personal car James Garner is driving in France at the start of the film is a 1966 Shelby Mustang GT 350. More specifically it is a Hertz Edition. Built in a collaboration between Ford, Shelby and Hertz Rent A Car. Most of these Shelby Mustangs were painted in Hertz corporate color black and gold like the one in the film.
  • His major role as Izo Yamura (a fictional version of Soichiro Honda) made this Toshiro Mifune's first Hollywood film.
  • The opening sequence with all the closeups of the car parts and the multi-image montages was shot and edited by Saul Bass.
  • Toshiro Mifune reportedly turned down a role in the British James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" (1967) to portray the Honda-like character in this film.
  • The main drivers in the film were given names and helmets that were purposely close to real drivers so that footage from actual races could be used, with the hope that audiences wouldn't notice (since the drivers' names were quite prominently written on the cars at the time) - Aron/Chris Amon, Sarti/John Surtees, Barlini/Lorenzo Bandini, Stoddart/Jackie Stewart.
  • After Pete Aron signs with the Yamura F1 race team, in the three races he was shown in the car, the first car was No. 24, the second car was No. 14, the third and final car he finished the season at Monza in was No. 32. This is highly unusual since it is almost always the case a driver keeps one number assigned to him and the car for the year of competition.
  • Being a film from the mid-sixties it suffered from the extremely common problem of featuring dance music that didn't resemble any popular music of the day and was so far out of date that teens of the day thought it was ridiculous. One of the benefits of the boomer generation was that they eventually reached the age of influence that film scores would begin to better reflect reality.
  • This film was released two years after the Beatles exploded onto the scene via their appearance on the The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) and by the time of filming they were a global phenomenon. At the dance club one of the male dancers is wearing a "Beatle haircut" which was a reflection of the first appearance of long hair in popular music.


  • When Sarti crashes through the banked track's guardrail at Monza, he is seen to be thrown from the car into the trees below, from where the track workers recover his dying body. This would not have been unusual, as Formula 1 cars of the period - incredibly - did not have seat belts or shoulder harnesses.
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