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Revving Up For Death Race
It is not surprising that British filmmaking partners Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt were fans of executive producer Roger Corman's Death Race 2000. Considering the duo first gained notoriety for Shopping—a dark tale about joyriding youth set in the near future—it seems only natural the world created by producer Corman and director Paul Bartel in 1975 would inspire their choices.

Recalls Anderson of his memories of the original: "I was a big fan of the Corman movie. I saw it on video when I was still living in England as a teenager. It was the movie your parents didn't want you to see, because it was just packed with senseless violence and unmotivated nudity. So, of course, I just loved it.”

At a screening for Shopping at the 7th Annual Tokyo International Film Festival, producer Bolt and Anderson first met Corman and discussed the idea of reworking Death Race 2000 for a new audience. At the time, Anderson and Bolt were about to make Event Horizon for Paramount, the studio where they first met Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise. The production partners had just launched C/W Productions and expressed interest in developing the project.

Bolt recounts: "I met with Paula at the Dorchester Hotel in London, and she thought it was a fantastic idea. They came aboard, optioned the material under their deal with Paramount and started to develop it. At that point, the idea was a movie similar in spirit to Roger's film. In other words, it was slightly satirical.”

More than a decade would pass before the project would finally gel. Taking their cue from society's current obsession with reality television, Anderson and the producers decided to set the film in a dystopian near future. There, they would incorporate the most extreme of reality TV and turn the drivers into prisoners fighting a gladiatorial battle.

Anderson, who by this time had written and directed successful actioners such as Resident Evil and AVP: Alien vs. Predator, took over writing duties, and the project found a home at Universal. Of the Earth he imagined, he explains, "It's a slightly rougher world than we live in now, but still very much recognizable. The explosion in crime rates and the fact that reality television is big have led to the Death Race. It's the ultimate in reality television: nine racers who race to the death on this sealed course. They're the gladiators of our time, and the racetrack is their coliseum.”

While this action-thriller is quite different from Corman's classic, one thing would not change. The fans are just as zealous in their passion for favorite drivers to massacre competitors. The more blood shed, the happier these Romans.

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