Earlier this week, Jalopnik sat down with screenwriter and director Robert Siegel to talk about his upcoming film, Cruise. When we asked him why we were going to love it, his answer was simple: the cars.
Siegel, writer of films like The Wrestler and Turbo and director of Big Fan, noticed something was missing in the world of car movies. “When you think of muscle cars in movies, you think of the 60s—the cool Steve McQueen muscle cars—even in the 70s,” he pointed out to me. “But to my knowledge I can’t think there’s ever been a movie that’s ever focused on the 80s muscle cars which I think are fucking cool.”
It’s something of the nostalgia for the cars he grew up with. Cruise is set in New York City on the border between Queens and Long Island, an area Siegel knew well. On one side was the working class Italian Americans; on the other, the suburban Jewish enclave in which Siegel grew up. In the 80s, the teens would go out cruising on the Francis Lewis Boulevard until it got dark enough and late enough.
Then, they would race.
Cruise was written with a heavy influence from the car world. Siegel admits he’s not a car guy in the sense that he can name every make, model, and engine around—but he delved deep into any car community he could find.
“We put out a call on the social media pages asking for people in the New York area with a cool 70s and 80s car, especially a muscle car, to come help us shoot. I was worried we wouldn’t have enough,” Siegel said. “The problem was, we just got too many.”
If excellent meetups like Radwood have told us anything, it’s that people with cool cars really like to get out and schmooze with other people who have cool cars. Siegel found that out real quick: “Every day, these guys would bring their cars and then they’d just hang out all night. They’d stay until like six in the morning and then ask ‘when do I show up tomorrow?’ Even if I told them we were shooting indoor scenes, they’d still come anyway, just in case.”
It proved to be a blessing in disguise. Much of the dialogue in the movie requires the specific lingo that comes naturally to people who have spent their lives digging around under the hood. “I wanted the dialogue to be accurate and there was no way I was going to do that myself. So I just decided I’d surround myself with these guys and all the dialogue I’d run past them. I didn’t want it to sound off.”
And it was those meetings with the car communities that helped Siegel cast the ideal “co-star”: a 1987 Buick Grand National. He’d been thinking of something flashy and over-the-top—maybe a bright yellow IROC—but they talked him down from it.
Cruise promises to be more than cars. Siegel wanted the movie to speak to more than just a specific subculture. His goal, more than anything, was to write a script that would be a little bit of light in what have been some pretty hectic times filled with heavy-themed movies. Something a little American Graffiti, a little Grease. Kids having fun in badass cars and maybe falling in love with in the process. It hits select theaters on September 28 but will be available on iTunes for those of us out in the boonies.