Jim McCormick Story
crew to recreate
Madison's magic moment
MADISON, Ind. -- Madison means many things to many people, but to Mike
McCormick, Madison means memories.
Lots of beautiful memories.
by Don Ward
Williams cruises down the Ohio
River in the vintage look-alike Miss
Madison during last month's Madison
Regatta as part of filming for a
movie based on the boat's
1971 Gold Cup victory.
It's not the architecture or the antiques or the scenic
beauty that attracts him.
It's the river. For it was here on the Ohio River that his father, the
late Jim McCormick, won the 1971 Gold Cup in dramatic -- and now historic
"I can't even tell the story today without tears coming to my eyes,
it was such a wonderful experience," said Mike McCormick, 38, and
himself a hydroplane owner and driver from Owensboro, Ky.
McCormick was only 10 years old at the time, but he hasn't forgotten
a single detail of the race or the celebration in the pits afterward.
He says he still watches the ABC-TV footage of the race "about
three times a year."
But Mike McCormick won't have to tell the story much longer. A new movie,
tentatively called "Madison," is being filmed on location
over the next two months to recreate the sights and sounds of that storybook
Written by brothers William and Scott Bindley of Indianapolis and directed
by William Bindley, an independent filmmaker, "Madison" will
focus on the McCormicks father-and-son relationship, culminating
with the Gold Cup victory.
"It's a true-to-life story that Bill has written after talking
many times over the years with dad and me," Mike McCormick said.
"But dad was the main storyteller, because it's his story."
The against-all-odds victory before a crowd of 100,000 was Jim McCormicks
first as an unlimited hydroplane pilot. Averaging 101.522 mph, McCormick
and the underfunded Miss Madison team outdueled the rich Miss Budweiser,
Atlas Van Lines II, Notre Dame and Pride of Pay N Pak. Famed hydroplane
driver Bill Muncey watched from the shore because his boat, Atlas Van
Lines, was one of three that had sunk during earlier heats.
Greeting them in the pits afterward were celebrity guests Guy Lombardo
and Indiana Gov.
Edgar Whitcomb, as people cheered and cried, and car horns blasted along
Vaughn Drive and throughout Madison.
Adding to the irony, the town was only awarded the Gold Cup that year
after having been the only race site to apply for it before the American
Power Boat Associations deadline. The APBA Gold Cup used to rotate
among the race sites each year. Today, the Gold Cup race remains in
Bindley first approached the McCormicks in 1993 about producing the
movie. Jim McCormick died on Feb. 12, 1995, at age 61 from heart failure
just days after undergoing emergency open heart surgery.
Bindley has pursued the project, and his company, Addison Street Films,
has raised $10 million to produce the film. The company, which has formed
Madison Miracle Productions, LLC to produce this project, has also signed
10-year-old actor Jake Lloyd to play Mike McCormick. Lloyd, who attended
last month's Madison Regatta and served as the grand marshall of the
parade, recently starred in "Star Wars: Episode I -- the Phantom
The lead role of Jim McCormick has not yet been announced, however,
Bindley in mid-July was meeting with actor Jim Caviezel (Thin
Red Line) for the part. Actor Bill Paxton (Twister)
turned down an earlier offer. Bindley also approached Dennis Quaid,
with no success.
Bindley's film crew has already taken up residence in Madison. The crew
has booked several bed and breakfasts for the months of September and
October, and in July opened an office on Second Street.
A casting call for extras was scheduled for late July, according to
production supervisor Greg Malone, 42, of Indianapolis. In all, the
film and boat crews will encompass about 85 people, including about
20 workers to be hired locally.
Once production begins tentatively set for mid-August
it will take up to seven weeks to complete filming at various locations
around downtown Madison, Malone said. Scenes to be shot require fictional
locations for McCormicks house, the boat garage, a diner, the
mayors house and the pit area at the riverfront. One scene, depicting
the McCormicks wedding anniversary party, takes place aboard the
Delta Queen steamboat, while another has the father and son talking
inside a cave.
We may go to Clifty Falls (State Park) for that one, or else up
to Marengo Caves (in Marengo, Ind.), Malone said.
The crew may also have to construct its own boat house, since the original
one that stood at what is now John Paul Park no longer exists. They
also need a large tree, from which the boat engine hung during repairs.
Interestingly, many of the real names are being used in the film
the McCormicks, racing team manager Tony Steinhardts and
boat mechanic Harry Volpis. Bindley has talked with Madison Mayor
Al Huntington and others about playing bit parts in the film.
We wont start casting Mrs. McCormick until after we have
signed an actor to play Jim McCormick, Malone said. We want
to make sure the two look like they could have feasibly produced Jake
Go or blow
Hydroplane racing fans got their first look at potential scenes in the
movie during last month's Madison Regatta, at which vintage hydroplane
boats from Seattle and New York recreated the 1971 Gold Cup race while
a helicopter hovered above with a movie camera.
A vintage boat painted to look like the old Miss Madison retraced McCormick's
run around the Ohio River with vintage boats depicting the Atlas Van
Lines and Miss Budweiser in close pursuit. The scene brought back memories
for many race fans, especially those involved in the real event 28 years
"It was a very emotional day," Steinhardt recalled. "There
was a group of five of us who had worked a long time to be able to attempt
to win a major race, and it all came together in Madison."
Steinhardt's crew included Bob Humphrey, Dave Stewart, Keith Hand and
the late Russell Wiley, along with expert mechanics Volpi and Everett
Adams of Reno, Nev., members of McCormick's former Harrahs Tahoe
"As the race developed that day, we realized we had an opportunity
to win, and Jim took full advantage of it," Steinhardt said. "He
was probably the best (clock) starter I've ever known."
Despite Jim McCormick's knack for timing his starts, Mike McCormick
recalled that rookie driver Terry Sterett in the Atlas Van Lines II
took the lead into the first turn that day and opened a three-boat-length
lead on the backstretch.
"Then dad hit the nitrous oxide (a powerful fuel mixture that instantly
generates an additional 400 horsepower) and passed him," Mike said.
"After the first lap, dad was three-quarters of a lap ahead, and
he just coasted the rest of the way.
"People were screaming and going wild. It was the most amazing
thing that has ever happened in my life. When he came into the pits,
everyone was crying and hugging each other. I get goose bumps just thinking
Steinhardt recalls his last words to McCormick before the race as being
prophetic: When he left the dock, I remember telling Jim to get
the boat straight in the water and hold on tight because when you hit
those two (fuel injection) buttons, shes either going to go or
Steinhardt remembered seeing the boat momentarily lift out of the water
when McCormick hit the fuel injection buttons to the single Allison
aircraft engine. Then he just took off.
McCormick proved his victory was no fluke when, the following week,
he won at the Tri-Cities race in Washington. By the end of the season,
McCormick's poorly financed racing team fell just 69 points short of
a national championship.
Steinhardt recalled McCormick as being a professional driver in every
respect. "Jim was a very articulate individual who was precise
in his racing attitude and had a very strategic mind."
Steinhardt, who has read the movie script and helped coordinate the
Regatta weekend filming, has loaned to the production crew much of his
Miss Madison memorabilia -- race team uniforms, photos, articles and
Steinhardt said the script was "very good" and blended fiction
with fact to make it into a movie. Asked if he would be playing a part
in the movie, he replied, "I would love to, but I haven't been
The vintage boats are expected to return to Madison in September for
more filming, according to David Williams, executive director of the
Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum in Seattle.
Williams was instrumental in getting the vintage boats to Madison in
July, and he piloted the vintage Miss Madison during its recent visit.
While the boats circled the course, Bindley's film crew staged various
scenes along Vaughn Drive in Madison, using classic cars and extras
dressed in clothing of the era as the backdrop.
Meanwhile, the young actor, Lloyd, took in the action in the pits along
with his parents, Bill and Lisa, and his sister, Madison. Lloyd even
climbed into the cockpit of Mike McCormick's 5-litre boat and posed
"He seemed as enthusiastic about the sport as I was at his age,"
said McCormick, who exchanged autographs with the young star.
Young "Star Wars" movie fans hounded Lloyd the entire weekend
in search of autographs and photos. Race announcer Dave Taylor on Saturday
interviewed Lloyd over the loudspeaker while standing in front of the
In fact, Lloyd's visit and vintage hydroplanes nearly upstaged Miss
Pico driver Chip Hanauer's victory late Sunday in the final heat of
the 49th annual Indiana Governor's Cup race. That race included a dramatic
flip of the Miss Budweiser in the first turn, but Bud driver Dave Villwock
emerged safely from the escape hatch of the overturned vessel.
For most towns, the arrival of a movie production company is a dream
come true, primarily because of the potential economic impact and longterm
publicity. In fact, Madison plans to hold a new event this Labor Day
weekend to mark the 40th anniversary of the movie, "Some Came Running,"
filmed here in the fall of 1958.
In 1982, state officials created the Indiana Film Commission as a way
to promote economic development by luring independent and major motion
picture film crews to Indiana. Since then, 42 films have been shot in
the state, the most notable of them being "Hoosiers," filmed
in central Indiana, and "A League of Their Own," filmed in
"Any time a production of this size comes to Indiana, it brings
with it a large economic impact," said commission director Jane
Rulon. "It's always exciting for the citizens, and it's a memorable
experience because it's so unusual."
In addition to boosting tourism, the movie "Madison" should
also boost the town's image as a desirable film location for future
projects, Rulon said.
"The film industry is such a word-of-mouth business that if they
have a good experience, the word gets out and others will want to come,"
Rulon said. "It truly shows off Hoosier hospitality, and it's great
advertising for our state."
Madison tourism officials have recently begun promoting the town in
film circles by producing a "scene catalog" and by attending
film industry trade shows.
quotes by Linda Lytle
Other towns that have served as movie sites have experienced boons to
their tourism long after the production crews have gone, Rulon said.
"It's an exciting time for Madison," she said. "I guess
it was just a matter of time before a movie company came to Madison
to film because the town has so much to offer."
And McCormick's winning a boat race in 1971 didn't hurt.
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