crew, extras give film thumbs up
at Heartland Film Festival premier
(November 2001) Indianapolis That popping sound
you might have heard the night of Oct. 18 was caused by
the buttons flying off the chest of Madison, Ind., as
those watching the long-awaited showing of the movie Madison
swelled with pride and emotion.
& Scott Bindley
Playing to a hometown crowd
for the first time, the Heartland Film Festival premier
of the not-yet-released film gave this sellout crowd of
1,750 a night to remember as they watched with excitement
and often emotion their home town come to
life on the silver screen.
Not since the 1959 movie Some Came Running
had the Ohio River bridge connecting Madison, Ind., to
Milton, Ky., served as the scenic backdrop to the opening
of a feature film.
Only this time, the sweeping aerial shot of the river
valley gave way to a dramatized account of the true story
of the late Jim McCormicks victory in the 1971 Gold
Cup unlimited hydroplane race aboard the community owned
Miss Madison. Seymour native and pop star John Mellencamp
reads the opening and closing narration in the film. Mellencamp
is writing an original song for the final cut.
From the moment the first frame lit up the big screen,
applause filled the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown
Indianapolis. As expected, the crowd only got wilder as
the film progressed, making stars out of many local landmarks,
legends out of several residents who played extras, and
heroes out of brothers Bill and Scott Bindley, the films
director and writer, respectively.
Since its filming on location in summer 1999, Bill Bindley
has tried to secure a distribution deal in Hollywood for
a nationwide studio release. After a couple of false starts,
the film now appears scheduled for release in spring 2002
by the newly formed Premiere Market and Distribution Group,
headed by Mitch Goldman, a former executive at New Line
Cinema. Goldman plans to release the film in April in
2,000 theatres, bolstered by $15 million in advertising
and promotion. Bindley must still negotiate a $2 million
deal for a final score for the film.
Making the film cost $15 million, according to executive
producer Carl Amari, 38, a Chicago businessman who financed
one-third of it himself.
Bindley says he plans some of kind of spring premier in
Madison, either at the Ohio Theatre on Main Street or
on a giant screen to be set up at the riverbank on Vaughn
I just want to thank the people of Madison for their
patience, and I hope that very soon everyone will have
a chance to see the movie, said Bindley, 39, an
Indianapolis native who studied filmmaking at Northwestern
University. He called the premier a special and
emotional night for me because of so many family
and friends in attendance.
The movies premier served as the official opening
of the weeklong Heartland Film Festival, which was marking
its 10th year. Festival officials put on a real show.
With the Oh Boy Oberto-Miss Madison unlimited hydroplane
parked outside the theatre in downtown Indianapolis, the
actors arrived Hollywood style and posed for photos on
a red carpet leading from the theatre door to the Circle
Inside, the anxious crowd awaited their arrival and introductions.
For many who had made the two-hour trip from Madison to
Indianapolis, it was like watching a home movie at a family
Familiar faces that sprinkled many scenes drew shouts
and cheers. There was frequent laughter and applause.
But for those perhaps most touched by the films
true story Bonnie McCormick and her 40-year-old
son, Mike, there were tears flowing almost throughout.
It was hard to hold back the tears, especially when
youve lived with this story your entire life,
Mike McCormick said afterward. I could see my dad
up there, and it brought back a lot of memories.
It was wonderful, and it meant everything to me,
Bonnie said. Im so proud, and its a
great legacy to Jim.
Mike McCormick is played as a youth in the film by then-9-year-old
actor Jake Lloyd (Star Wars The Phantom Menace).
Lloyd is now 12 and living in Indianapolis. Jim Caviezel
(The Thin Red Line) plays McCormicks
father, Jim. Filling the films other main roles
are veteran actor Bruce Dern (The Cowboys), Paul
Dooley (Breaking Away), Mary McCormack (Private
Parts), Chelcie Ross (Rudy), Vincent
Ventresca and Frank Knapp. Caviezel, Lloyd, Ross and Knapp
attended the Heartland premier, along with many camera
and film crew members.
But on this night, the bigger stars were the city itself
and those locals who made their way into a scene, either
as extras or actors. Three local residents had brief speaking
Ovo Cafe owner Greg Thomas, who had studied acting in
New York, earned an entire, albeit brief, scene with McCormack.
Tony Steinhardt, the Miss Madison crew chief in 1971,
is played by actor Brent Briscoe. But aside from providing
technical support and allowing filmmakers access to his
personal collection of hydroplane photos and memorabilia,
Steinhardt himself delivers a line on screen.
He said the film brought him to tears. Weve
always said that the Miss Madison was our floating chamber
of commerce, and how much better can it get than having
a whole movie about it? Despite the fictionalized
story line in the movie when Steinhardts character
desserts the team and later comes back, Steinhardt assured,
I never walked out on that team. We were all together;
we were inseparable.
Fourteen-year-old Kyle McClanahan of Madison also has
a brief line and is seen at least twice. Betsey Vonderheide,
who in real life works as special projects coordinator
for Madison Mayor Al Huntington, plays Gertie, who without
speaking provides a humorous stamp on things
in a brief shot.
Dozens of other locals grace the screen as extras. Bindleys
own father, Bill Bindley, has a line in the scene that
was filmed at the Brown Gym. Bindleys own 9-year-old
son, Will, is an extra.
In this business, you never know if your scene will
even make it to the screen, said the elder Bill
Bindley. One time I spent a whole day on shooting
a scene for my son in another movie and it wound up on
the cutting room floor. So I know how exciting it is for
the other extras to watch for themselves in this movie
Whether they saw themselves on screen or not, Madison
residents absorbed it all with pride. There were
a lot of people in the theatre from Indianapolis and Madison,
and it made me feel proud to be one from Madison,
said extra Kelly Campbell, 25. I was also excited
that Jim Caviezel remembered me.
It was a lot of fun to see Jake again, said
McClanahan. I just hope the movie comes out soon
because I want everyone to see it.
There were so many familiar faces back here tonight
it made it even more exciting, said Thomas, who
plays a construction worker in a scene with actress McCormack.
I think the movie portrays Madison perfectly with
beautiful shots of the river and Main Street.
Scott Tebbe, Madison Regatta festival chairman, played
an extra on the Miss Madison boat crew in the movie and
said the film should do wonders for the sport as well
as the city of Madison. It was great to see all
the hard work over a decade long come together on the
screen. It portrays Madison and the people in a great
light and it should increase the awareness of unlimited
hydroplane racing nationwide.
Except for parts of the movie shot in Miami, Seattle and
San Diego, Madison area landmarks, such as Shipleys
Tavern, Hinkles Sandwich Shop, Rogers Corner,
Vaughn Drive, the Brown Gym, Crystal Beach, the Indiana-Kentucky
Electric Corp. power plant and Madisons Main Street,
provide much of the local setting. Scenes were also filmed
on the Belle of Louisville, at Hanover College, Clifty
Falls State Park and Marengo Caves.
In addition to the real actors, local landmarks and townspeople,
however, the stars of this movie included the vintage
hydroplanes, many of which had to be reconstructed and
retooled and transported to Madison from around the country.
Many of the boats were driven in the movie by their owners,
who had to follow strict instructions on formations to
recreate race scenes called for in the script. On many
days, the boats broke down or failed to start. And
its not easy to find parts for World War II era
Allison aircraft engines, Bindley said.
Given the obstacles he faced in casting the movie and
reviving 50-year-old boats, plus only a three week preproduction
schedule, Bindley now admits, What we did was insane.
While addressing the crowd in the moments prior to the
premier, Bindley said, What we have been through
in making this film has been incredible. It was a real
community effort. We closed down Main Street, we closed
down the Ohio River and we closed down Shipleys
Tavern on more than one occasion.
Bindley joked that the recent victory by the Miss Madison
at the 2001 Madison Regatta spoiled the movies tag
line, which states that the Miss Madison is still racing
on the circuit but hasnt won a race since
1973. The closing narration by Mellencamp also says
the real Jim McCormick retired from racing in 1975 and
died in 1996. Bindley told the crowd he regretted that
McCormick did not live to see the finished movie, which
has been in the making since Scott Bindley began writing
the script as a college project in 1989.
Nevertheless, Bindley said he fulfilled his promise to
the late McCormick to get the film made. Bindley pays
tribute to McCormick during the films credits by
showing the original ABC-TV black-and-white footage that
was shot that day in July 1971 at the Madison Regatta
when McCormick emerges from the Miss Madison and is interviewed
on the dock by broadcaster Keith Jackson.
The young, handsome Jim McCormick is then whisked up the
riverbank and showered with congratulatory hugs and cheers
from his crew and the crowd. He is wearing Rayban-type
sunglasses. He makes his way up through the crowd, high-fiving
shirtless men and signing autographs for young and old
alike. A young Mike McCormick is seen at his side peering
up at the camera and at his father with adoring eyes and
a wide smile.
Bonnie McCormick said that while visiting the movie set
of Madison in 1999, she gave those very sunglasses
to Caviezel to keep as a momento. When I saw him
at the premier, I asked him what he did with Jims
sunglasses. He said they are in a very special place.