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Emile Hirsch on Speed Racer

Published May 12, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Bros
Speed Racer Speed Racer

Emile Hirsch lost 40 pounds for the film Into the Wild, to show Chris McCandless at his most extreme. Speed Racer was a big studio film shot entirely on green screen, so you'd think it would be physically easier. Actually, Hirsch would rather beat himself up.

Emile Hirsch Acts Out Speed Racer


"You know what's crazy is in a weird way, it was almost emotionally more difficult to make Speed Racer because you're on the green screen and it's just so taxing and you're doing a lot more takes and it's so technical," said Hirsch. "So a lot of the things that you think would be easier, you're on the safety of the green screen and you've got a big budget and you've got the nice catering. In a weird way, it's still harder on you mentally. Into the Wild, I'm like climbing mountains in a kayak and everything is so raw and you're just like, 'Aw, this is so great.' You're rejuvenated at the end of every day whereas a lot of the times when you shoot on green screen, even if you're having a great time and stuff, it's still is taking from you versus giving to you. I kind of felt that a little bit but luckily we had a really great cast that really stuck together, great support system and we were doing fun stuff. Good people."

Even the green screen beat Hirsch up, to simulate the film's futuristic auto racing. "It was very, very challenging being on this thing called the gimbal. It would throw you around, give you whiplash and they'd tie you down and it would be hot and you would sit in it for a couple hours and wet your pants and all that. No, you wouldn't wet your pants but you're literally strapped into this thing and it is just thrashing you about. You know, you use it so all those scenes in the movie where I'm like angry or really determined, I'm genuinely angry. I'm just upset at being in it. I'm claustrophobic in it. I'm just ready to rip something apart. I'm just like GRRRRRR. Whereas if I was having an amazing experience in a gimbal that was really comfortable, I'd be like smiling, it's like, 'Action, grrr.' Wouldn't be as convincing. So luckily, I was actually able to use the extreme discomfort of the gimbal."



Looking at the final product, Hirsch saw a vision that expanded even his own comprehension of the green screen work. "It was so much more because when you're on the green screen, you have to substitute. You have to substitute it with your imagination. The Wachowski Brothers just have that much crazier of an imagination than I do. Maybe they have that particular visual crazy gift. So the wildest thing I could imagine pales in comparison to what they had already imagined and managed to put on screen which is kind of part of their genius that they just are able to do that. So many people have these wild visuals and stuff but the Wachowskis are able to create them in a real way and put them on screen in a way that engages people. The climax at the Gran Prix for me was one of the most intense sequences that I've seen in a long time."

Hirsch had some guidance, but it was still rough. "You ground yourself by constantly looking at the images of what the background is going to be. That was really one of the most helpful parts. I'd go up to John Gaeta, the special effects expert and he'd open up his laptop and he'd be like, 'Okay, this is you're environment.' I'd go, 'Okay, perfect.' So then when I'm out there looking at the green screen, I'm like pretending cars are coming. And there's a couple seconds where you're like, 'God, this is a little weird. This is kind of crazy.' Then I'm like, 'Well, that's what this is.'"

Speed Racer is out in theaters now.

For the trailers, stills, poster and more information on the film, go to the Speed Racer Movie Page.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Warner Bros
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