Independent film "Snake & Mongoo$e" roared to life in packed theaters during its Indianapolis premiere this week, synching with the opening of the world's most prestigious drag race, the 59th annual Chevrolet Performance National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
"Snake & Mongoo$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$e" also portrays the personal hardships the men endured, which were not so publicized, as they worked to balance family life with their passion for racing. Proceeds from the Indy premiere benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in memory of Jamie, McEwen's son, who died of leukemia just weeks before McEwen won the 1978 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
"I was there in Indy when Tom lost his son and I know how emotional Prudhomme was; we all were," said NHRA drag racer John Force, owner of John Force Racing and one of the most dominant figures in drag racing with 133 career victories. "I wasn't 10 minutes into the movie and I believed it—they even looked like them. They really pulled it off; it was just a great job."
Prudhomme's and McEwen's talent and high-profile rivalry helped rivet the nation's attention to the sport of drag racing, while a groundbreaking sponsorship deal they made with Mattel's Hot Wheels Division helped revolutionize entertainment sports marketing.
The Indy premiere kicked off with a red carpet event, in which Hollywood met the racing world, melding glamor with athletic allure, as actors, filmmakers, professional drivers and NHRA members all graced the red carpet. Indy-born Ashley Hinshaw, who portrays Prudhomme's wife, Lynn Prudhomme, and Richard Blake, who plays McEwen, posed for photos and greeted fans.
Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, who had a cameo in the film and is competing in the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals, also appeared on the carpet. In attendance with DeJoria were her husband, Jesse James of West Coast Choppers fame, and her father, John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of the Paul Mitchell hair care products line and the Patrón Spirits Company.
Filmmakers at the premiere included "Snake & Mongoo$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.
"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.