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To this day, Randy Bernard isn’t sure who shared his phone number with Jeffrey Katzenberg. Bernard figures it was probably his good friend Bernie Taupin, the famed lyricist, but no worry. All that matters is that the CEO of DreamWorks Animation wanted to talk. Katzenberg called that day in December 2010 to invite Bernard to Los Angeles to discuss a movie DreamWorks planned to produce about a superpowered snail who fulfills his dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500. Bernard, then the CEO of IndyCar, responded, “When? I can be there tomorrow.”
A week later, Bernard was in California, taking a meeting. He signed a nondisclosure agreement and took home a script with his name plastered all over it to prevent unauthorized distribution.
“I was sitting in bed reading the script one night, and my wife walks in and says, ‘You do not have tears coming from your eyes.’ But it was great. I couldn’t put it down,” Bernard says, his enthusiasm not dampened by the fact that he had to resign from IndyCar last fall, ending his controversial two-and-a-half-year tenure. He has since become CEO of RFD-TV, a cable-TV and media company based in Omaha, Nebraska. “I’ve probably read 150 to 200 scripts in my life,” he continues, “and when I read this, I knew it was a winner. I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Katzenberg. His record speaks for itself—what is he, 16-for-16 on movies?”
The film is called Turbo, and “I’ve never seen anything that has this potential for IndyCar or DreamWorks,” Bernard says. By potential for DreamWorks, he means a worldwide hit that yields nine figures or more in box-office receipts, as the Shrek franchise has. By potential for IndyCar, he means piggybacking on the popularity of a movie (with a marketing budget DreamWorks will peg only as multimillion-dollar) to hook a younger generation on motorsports. And by motorsports, he means the Indianapolis 500.
Everything came together as Bernard hoped. IndyCar contracted to allow DreamWorks to use the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar trademarks for an undisclosed amount, and to ensure that the movie would have the right look and let IndyCar shine. (“Which it does,” Bernard says.) This month, the publicity push for the July 19 theatrical release begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where drivers who had a hand in the movie (Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Mario Andretti) will be preparing for the race, and voice talent like Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, and Snoop Lion (formerly known as Snoop Dogg) may pop in for appearances.
But movie stars aside, an important question remains: Will a snail, even a supersonic one, be powerful enough to reverse the aging of IndyCar’s fanbase?
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