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TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY

About The Production
The idea for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was the brainchild of co-writers Will Ferrell & Adam McKay, who have been writing partners since meeting on the set of "Saturday Night Live” — where Ferrell was a fledgling cast member and McKay a show writer — nearly a decade ago. Their collaboration continued after they left the show, most recently on the outrageous send-up of 1970s newscasters, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (produced by Judd Apatow, who also produced Talladega Nights).

A comedy about NASCAR had been racing around their minds for several years. "Will and I talked about NASCAR racing while he was making Elf,” McKay recalls. "We were in New York City and he was set to take a break before we started work on Anchorman. We noticed how fascinating the world of NASCAR racing had become. It's gigantic. We weren't even huge NASCAR fans at the time, but after we started going to the track, we got swept up in the phenomenon.”

It was Talladega Nights producer, Jimmy Miller, who first invited them to join him at a NASCAR race in Fontana, California, where they experienced the heady sights, smells and sounds of a NASCAR event.

"As soon as we heard the roar of the engines, we knew there was something here to make a movie about,” says McKay. "The crowd was huge — like a city, with campers and bonfires outside of every race. I was told that during the Talladega Race [the UAW-Ford 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway] each year, the speedway becomes the second largest city in Alabama.”

Ferrell is a longtime sports fan and studied sports information for his degree from the University of Southern California before choosing acting as his career. Although he was previously aware of stock car racing, he had never been to a race before that fateful day in Fontana.

"I knew a fair amount about NASCAR just because it had grown in popularity,” says Ferrell. "I knew some of the top drivers and had a fairly good working knowledge of the sport. But I never understood the intensity of it all until we started writing the character of Ricky Bobby. The challenge for us became writing a movie that was both a comedy and a racing film, because we really wanted the audience to experience the amazing visceral reaction we had had while watching these cars fly around the track at 200 miles per hour.”

The character of Ricky Bobby owes a great deal to classic sports films. "Ricky is a typical sports movie character,” Ferrell claims. "He came from simple beginnings and, as a boy, enjoyed the need for speed. His motto became ‘If you ain't first, you're last' — something his daddy taught him early in life. That meant either winning or wrecking, a go-for-broke attitude that eventually would lead to his downfall.”

"As soon as Will came up with the voice for Ricky, I was hooked,” says McKay. "I told him then that it looked like our lives for the next two years would be dealing with race cars.”

Ferrell and McKay continued attending NASCAR events and became friendly with the drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

As the project began to take shape, the participation of the NASCAR organization became a reality, enabling the filmmakers the possibility of filming in the pits and garages of some of America's most popular racing arenas. "We were very lucky to get NASCAR involved in the movie,” says producer Judd Apatow. "We showed them the script early and hoped they would come onboard. If they didn't, we would have to come up with a new racing league. But they got it and we were excited that NASCAR could have a sense of humor about it and really allowed us to be a part of their world. During filming, occasionally some guy at NASCAR would pitch us a better joke than we had, and then we were embarrassed that they could ride cars at 150 miles per hour<

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