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A Driving Personality
Voted "North American Car of the Year" for 2003, MINI is most certainly a character in the film. First introduced into the story as the car driven around Philadelphia by Charlize Theron's character Stella, the tiny cars later are essential to the film's plot in that they prove to be the perfect vehicles to maneuver in and out of tight spots and weave through seemingly impossible pathways.

Because he wanted to use stunt doubles sparingly, Gray felt it was important that the cast members understand how to drive the cars during the extensive chase sequence. To that end, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham and Mos Def went through extensive driver's training prior to the start of principal photography to better understand the dynamics of the compact car.

"The training was great!" recalls producer Donald De Line. "We went out to the Willow Springs Racetrack past Lancaster with stunt drivers and stunt specialists, and everybody learned how to control the cars at high speeds. doing controlled slides, three-sixties, one-eighties and reverse one-eighties."

According to second unit director Alexander Witt, who was responsible for coordinating many of the stunts, the actors did a lot of the driving themselves. "Audiences are getting too sophisticated and they often know when a stunt double is used," says Witt. "That's why, whenever possible. Mark, Charlize and Jason were actually behind the wheel — even during some of the scenes in which the cars are driven down stairs!"

Stunt coordinator Kurt Bryant, who worked on "Pearl Harbor" as well as on TV's popular reality show, "Fear Factor," says that the actors were true sports.

For Mark Wahlberg. learning to drive a MINI was a mixed bag. "They're really a great car to drive." he says. "but you don't want to be in the passenger seat when the stunt driver is showing you how to do the tricks.. .especially after a big breakfast."

Theron, who enjoyed the challenge of driving school and learning how to really push the MINI to its limits says. "it's not every day that you get to drive a car on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard over the stars of James Dean and Jean Harlow!"

Seth Green, who portrays computer genius Lyle, does play the man responsible for manipulating traffic signals to create havoc on the streets of Los Angeles. "I play the guy who controls where all the cars, get to go," says Green. "It's a great ensemble piece, and we had a wild time making it."

Jason Statham, who portrays Handsome Rob, a genius of sorts with the ladies and behind the wheel, was able to handle the MINI like a racecar driver. A former Olympic diver, who represented the UK in the 1980s and early 1990s. Statham put his athleticism to the test in driving school and says he loved every minute of his experience.

"I was really in my element," recalls the actor. "The new MINIs are almost like an elaborated sort of go—cart.

For Mos Def, who portrays explosives expert Left-Ear. working on "The Italian Job" actually gave him the opportunity to get his driver's license. "We took courses, learning how to do doughnuts and stuff." remembers

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