The government-owned General Motors may soon be partnering with Hollywood to encourage speeding, drunk driving, and general mayhem. Insiders tell Vulture that the world's second-largest carmaker is in discussions about backing an update of The Cannonball Run in a deal that would be much larger than your average product placement. With this deal, a new Run could double as a big, two-hour demonstration of GM's new cars.
Producer Al Ruddy (The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby) is producing the project, and the Fox-based Shawn Levy (Real Steel) has expressed interest, wanting it anchored by his Night at the Museum star, Ben Stiller. However, we’re told that that Levy is second in line to Warner Bros.’ go-to action-comedy director Guy Ritchie, who is considering taking it on and envisions it with Brad Pitt starring with some of his Ocean’s 11 confreres. (It’s easy to see why Warner Bros. has the edge here: Ritchie and Pitt are both clients of the powerful Creative Artists Agency, which also just happens to represent GM as a corporate client. Reps at CAA declined comment.)
In this still-evolving deal, GM wants to be more involved than just committing to the usual “soft” marketing support (the usual spray of TV commercials hyping a film packed with GM cars, like Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise). They're thinking of taking an actual hard-dollar, equity stake in a Cannonball production, which we’re told Ritchie would like to shoot at least partly in Europe. (One has to imagine that setting the film at least partly on the speed-limit-free German autobahn must be hugely appealing to audiences, and particularly to GM and studio lawyers concerned about liability.) With more involvement, they could use the road-race film as a way to introduce and spotlight their 2014 car lineup for two hours, maybe giving this new Corvette the lead. If the GM deal comes through, it’ll show just how far product placement has come. Back in 1981, the besotted priests Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin drove director Hal Needham’s own red Ferrari 308 to save on production costs.
Despite being derided as “Government Motors” by some conservative news outlets, the carmaker — in which the U.S. government holds a 27 percent stake, and the Canadian government 12 percent — is nonetheless actually being towed back from the junk bond yard. Last month, Standard & Poor’s lifted GM's bond rating by two steps, (to BB+), a hair below investment grade; Moody’s hinted it may follow suit. It remains to be seen if getting “two thumbs up” from film critics will prove just as beneficial.