Movie Release

Hydroplane movie ‘Madison’
to put city in national spotlight

Actor Caviezel stars as 1971 Miss Madison driver

By Don Ward

(April 2005) – It took nearly six years for the movie “Madison” to go from filming to silver screen. But fans and those who participated in making the movie say the wait will be worth it once the movie begins showing in theaters nationwide on April 22. The independent film, made in 1999 by Madison Miracle Productions and distributed by MGM, is loosely based on the real-life story of driver Jim McCormick and the Miss Madison Unlimited hydroplane’s victory in the 1971 Gold Cup in Madison.

Jim Caviezel, Jake Lloyd

April 2005
Madison Edition Cover

“It’s wonderful and it’s about time,” said actor Frank Knapp of Nashville, Tenn., who plays real-life crew member Bobby Humphrey. “No one’s going to know who Jake Lloyd is when he comes to the premiere.”
Lloyd, now age 16 and a sophomore at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind., played 10-year-old Mike McCormick in the movie. The story of the late Miss Madison driver Jim McCormick’s victory is told through young Mike’s eyes and narrated by rock singer John Mellencamp.
Moviegoers unfamiliar with Unlimited hydroplane racing are about to get an education on the sport, while those who grew up with the Madison Regatta or in other hydroplane race towns will celebrate what they know to be an impressive display of power and beauty when the vintage hydros thunder across the screen.
“I loved it, but it’s hard to be unbiased when it’s about your hometown,” said Kelly Sutton, 30, a Hanover, Ind., native and now a morning TV show co-host at FOX-17 in Nashville, Tenn.
Sutton saw a press screening in Nashville in early March, then interviewed actor Jim Caviezel on her show in late March.
Caviezel, 36, of Mount Vernon, Wash., gave up his salary to play Jim McCormick in “Madison.” That was before he was a household name among movie-goers. He later landed several roles, including the lead in “The Count of Monte Cristo” (2003) and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (2004).
“It’s a beautiful snapshot of Madison, and they did a great job of capturing the race action,” Sutton said of “Madison.” “The storyline was a little exaggerated, but that’s Hollywood. The soundtrack is incredible; it really added to the overall experience. And the fact it is a true story is the cherry on top.”
Sutton’s parents live in Hanover, but she rarely gets home to visit them, she said. She remembers being home in 1999 and saw a bit of the movie being filmed. She also was a Little Miss Regatta contestant at age 5. “I remember going down to the little Regatta office to get my wristband as a kid. It was a fun time in Madison, especially with all the fireworks.”
She previously worked in Evansville and covered the hydroplane races there.
Like many who worked on the film, Knapp said he was frustrated for a long time when it appeared the movie may never come out. Several who had participated in its making had given up after some false starts over the years when distributors announced a release, only to have it cancelled by corporate buyouts or bankruptcy.
“I’ve learned a whole lot about the Lord, and it’s not my time, but His time when things work out. It’s a lot better this way,” said Knapp, who in addition to acting is a country music singer-songwriter and professional skydiver.
Knapp has been in touch with his fellow actors from “Madison,” and he said most are planning to attend the premiere party being planned in Madison. The event was recently moved to Sunday, April 17, so that Caviezel could attend. Caviezel’s acting stock has dramatically risen since his portrayal of Christ in “The Passion.” A recut of the film was released in mid-March for the Easter season.
In a March 11 interview with RoundAbout, Caviezel said his schedule is determined by his current work on Simon Brand’s independent film, “Unknown,” and was uncertain if he could attend. But those associated with the film’s production have gone to great lengths – including moving the premiere from its original date of April 16 – to make sure he is there. In fact, it’s possible that all the principle actors may attend by contract obligations, sources said.
Madison city officials had been planning a premiere on Saturday, April 16, but in late March were asked by MGM officials to move the date to accommodate Caviezel, said Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Linda Lytle. She and co-organizer Betsey Vonderheide of the mayor’s staff had hoped for a surprise appearance by Mellencamp, who lives near Bloomington. But the date switch will likely make it impossible for Mellencamp to show up because he is on tour and scheduled to play a concert in Louisville on April 17.
City officials have struggled to keep up with the everchanging demands by MGM to produce and pay for the premiere party, Vonderheide said. MGM offered only $5,000 toward the project, while the Jefferson County Board of Tourism in March voted to provide up to $20,000. Lytle has requested the additional $15,000 she needs from the state’s Commerce Department but so far has not received any word on whether she will get it.
Lytle told the Board of Tourism that she expects to reap a profit from the premiere and give the proceeds to the Madison Riverfront Development Committee.
The cost of tents, tables and fencing alone amounts to $11,000, she said. Another $10,000 or more will pay for first-class airfare to bring in the principle actors. She must also cover the food catering expenses.
As of press time March 28, Vonderheide said the latest plan was for 880 Gala premiere screening/reception tickets to be offered, with about 300 going to those associated with the film. Another 100 or so will be reserved for local and state dignitaries, which could include Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has been invited. The balance would be sold for $40 each at the tourism office after April 12, she said.
Only 880 seats will be available for watching the movie simultaneously on four screens in town. They have arranged to show the movie on both screens at the Ohio Theatre in downtown Madison and on two screens at Great Escape’s Madison 6 Theater on the hilltop. Screening time is tentatively set for 5 p.m., with a catered VIP party to follow in a gated area to be set up on Main Street between Mulberry and West streets in front of the Ohio Theatre. Fans without tickets will be able to access Main Street but not the gated VIP area. City officials had arranged to close two blocks of Main Street on April 16 but must now ask state transportation officials to allow them to close it on April 17.
All the actors have been invited to attend the premiere. Besides Caviezel and Knapp, the list includes Jake Lloyd, Mary McCormack, Bruce Dern, Brent Briscoe and Mark Fauser.
In addition, Bonnie McCormick, the widow of the late Jim McCormick, son Mike, and two grandchildren are planning to attend. McCormick’s daughter, Kim, is not expected to attend.
“It’s going to a be a great party and a great time for everyone associated with the movie. I can’t wait,” said Fauser, who plays the fictional team member “Travis.”

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