Death Race: Anderson’s Reimagining of Corman’s Picture

“Death Race” is set in Terminal Island, in the very near future.

The world’s hunger for extreme sports and reality competitions has grown into reality TV bloodlust. Now, the most extreme racing competition has emerged and its contestants are murderous prisoners. Tricked-out cars, caged thugs and smoking-hot navigators combine to create a juggernaut series with bigger ratings than the Super Bowl.

The rules of the Death Race are simple: Win five events, and you’re set free. Lose and you’re road kill splashed across the Internet.

JASON STATHAM (“The Transporter” series, “Bank Job”) leads the action-thrillers cast as three time speedway champion Jensen Ames, an ex-con framed for a gruesome murder. Forced to don the mask of the mythical driver Frankenstein, a Death Race crowd favorite who seems impossible to kill, Ames is given an easy choice by Terminal Islands ruthless Warden Hennessey (JOAN ALLEN of Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum): Suit up and drive or never see his little girl again.

His face hidden by a hideous mask, one convict will enter an insane three-day challenge in order to gain freedom. But to claim the prize, Ames must survive a gauntlet of the most vicious criminals, including nemesis Machine Gun Joe (TYRESE GIBSON of Transformers), in the countrys toughest prison. Trained by his coach (IAN MCSHANE of Deadwood) to drive a monster Mustang V8 Fastback outfitted with 2 mounted mini-guns, flamethrowers and napalm, an innocent man will destroy everything in his path to win the most twisted spectator sport on Earth.

Director-producer PAUL W.S. ANDERSON (Resident Evil series, AVP: Alien Vs. Predator) reimagines ROGER CORMAN’s classic Death Race 2000 for the screen. On the production, he is joined for Death Race by producers PAULA WAGNER (Mission: Impossible series, War of the Worlds) and JEREMY BOLT (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Extinction).

It is not surprising that British filmmaking partners Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt were fans of executive producer Roger Cormans Death Race 2000. Considering the duo first gained notoriety for Shoppinga dark tale about joyriding youth set in the near future–it seems only natural the world created by producer Corman
and director Paul Bartel in 1975 would inspire their choices.

Recalls Anderson of his memories of the original: “I was a big fan of the Corman movie. I saw it on video when I was still living in England as a teenager. It was the movie your parents didnt want you to see, because it was just packed with senseless violence and unmotivated nudity. So, of course, I just loved it.”

At a screening for Shopping at the 7th Annual Tokyo International Film Festival, producer Bolt and Anderson first met Corman and discussed the idea of reworking Death Race 2000 for a new audience. At the time, Anderson and Bolt were about to make Event Horizon for Paramount, the studio where they first met Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise. The production partners had just launched C/W Productions and expressed interest in developing the project.

Bolt recounts: “I met with Paula at the Dorchester Hotel in London, and she thought it was a fantastic idea. They came aboard, optioned the material under their deal with Paramount and started to develop it. At that point, the idea was a movie similar in spirit to Roger’s film. In other words, it was slightly satirical.”

More than a decade would pass before the project would finally gel. Taking their cue from societys current obsession with reality TV, Anderson and the producers decided to set the film in a dystopian near future. There, they would incorporate the most extreme of reality TV and turn the drivers into prisoners fighting a gladiatorial battle.

Anderson, who had written and directed successful actioners such as Resident Evil and AVP: Alien vs. Predator, took over writing duties, and the project found a home at Universal. Of the Earth he imagined, he explains, “Its a slightly rougher world than we live in now, but still very much recognizable. The explosion in crime rates and the fact that reality television is big have led to the Death Race. It’s the ultimate in reality television: nine racers who race to the death on this sealed course. They’re the gladiators of our time, and the racetrack is their coliseum.”

While this action-thriller is quite different from Corman’s classic, one thing would not change. The fans are just as zealous in their passion for favorite drivers to massacre competitors. The more blood shed, the happier these Romans.