Independent film “Snake & Mongoo$e” roared to life in packed theaters during its Indianapolis premiere Thursday night, synching with the opening of the world’s most prestigious drag race, the 59th annual Chevrolet Performance National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
“Snake & Mongoo$e” depicts the fierce rivalry between legendary drag racers Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoo$e” McEwen, who through the years became close friends and great rivals. Set in the heyday of drag racing and featuring historic footage of races, “Snake & Mongoo$e” brings to life the complex characters and legendary races that defined those exciting times.
When the lights went up at the close of the film, the audience came out exhilarated and inspired.
“It was awesome,” Prudhomme said. “What makes me happy is that the drag racing fans liked it. If they like it, I like it.”
For McEwen, watching the film brought back memories. “It turned out really nice,” McEwen said. “I’ve been here 50-some times for this race, so there are a lot of memories here in Indianapolis for me, and a lot of friends.”
“Snake & Mongoo$e” also portrays the personal hardships the men endured, which were not so publicized, as they worked to balance family life with their passion for racing. Proceeds from the Indy premiere benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in memory of Jamie, McEwen’s son, who died of leukemia just weeks before McEwen won the 1978 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
“I was there in Indy when Tom lost his son and I know how emotional Prudhomme was; we all were,” said NHRA drag racer John Force, owner of John Force Racing and one of the most dominant figures in drag racing with 133 career victories. “I wasn’t 10 minutes into the movie and I believed it – they even looked like them. They really pulled it off; it was just a great job.”
Force’s daughter, Courtney Force, Funny Car driver for her father’s team, John Force Racing, agreed.
“I loved the movie,” she said. “I grew up hearing stories about Snake and Mongoo$e, and my dad was out there racing with them. The film was touching, too. I didn’t expect some of the parts. It was really amazing.”
Prudhomme’s and McEwen’s talent and high-profile rivalry helped rivet the nation’s attention to the sport of drag racing, while a groundbreaking sponsorship deal they made with Mattel’s Hot Wheels Division helped revolutionize entertainment sports marketing.
The Indy premiere kicked off with a red carpet event, in which Hollywood met the racing world, melding glamor with athletic allure, as actors, filmmakers, professional drivers and NHRA members all graced the red carpet.
Indy-born Ashley Hinshaw, who portrays Prudhomme’s wife, Lynn Prudhomme, and Richard Blake, who plays McEwen, posed for photos and greeted fans.
“It’s very special to be here and I’m excited to be here for the weekend to watch the real thing,” Blake said. “What a journey this is. It’s history and I’m very proud to be part of it.”
Billy Gibbons took time away from ZZ Top’s latest tour to support “Snake & Mongoo$e,” and attend the premiere with his wife, Gilligan Gibbons, who also appears in the movie.
“It got me accelerated,” Gibbons said. “It’s such a well-done picture I think it’s going to go places. It already has.”
Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, who had a cameo in the film and is competing in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, also appeared on the carpet. In attendance with DeJoria were her husband, Jesse James of West Coast Choppers fame, and her father, John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of the Paul Mitchell hair care products line and the Patrón Spirits Company.
Filmmakers at the premiere included “Snake & Mongoo$e” Producer and President of Entertainment Universe Robin Broidy, and her husband, Executive Producer Elliott Broidy. Prudhomme and McEwen served as executive producers and on-set consultants, ensuring the film was as true-to-life as possible.
Parked outside the Regal were the iconic yellow and red haulers and the ‘Cuda and Duster Funny Cars Prudhomme and McEwen drove, which will be crossing the auction block at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in January 2014.
In a surprise finale, the film delighted the audience with an incredible piece of footage featuring Prudhomme and Force competing in the 1989 Bud Shootout. Prudhomme wins, Force congratulates him and Prudhomme’s Funny Car career comes to an end.
“Snake & Mongoo$e” opens in select theaters around the country September 6, with a DVD release date in time for the holidays. Directed by Wayne Holloway, “Snake & Mongoo$e” features Jesse Williams, Richard Blake, Ashley Hinshaw, Kim Shaw, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Fred Dryer, John Heard, Julie Mond, Leonardo Nam, Ian Ziering, Tim Blake Nelson and Noah Wyle. The film was produced in association with Rhino Films and the NHRA. For more information, visit www.snakeandmongoosemovie.com.