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Casting The Film
When casting Death Race, the filmmakers looked for performers who embodied the gritty realism of the world Anderson imagined. After meeting him, the director felt British actor Jason Statham was his Jensen Ames. "The idea was to fashion a very bluecollar hero,” offers Anderson. "That's why I thought Jason was a perfect choice to play Jensen, a man who's got a hard-luck story.”

Through Ames, Anderson sets up the future. In the violent, impoverished world, there is little hope, but Ames has found a reason to live. "He's working in a crumbling, rust-belt town as a steel worker. The steelworks is closing down, and he's just lost his job,” says Anderson. "This is a tough guy who's been to prison before and would've gone back if it weren't for the fact that he's found this woman who loves him. They've had a child together, and she's his second chance at life.”

It didn't hurt the lifetime athlete's chance at landing the part that in his long résumé of action films—from The Transporter series to Crank and The Bank Job—he has done a good deal of his own stunt work. Apart from the attraction of such a role and fast cars, Statham was also impressed by how intricate Anderson's vision of the near future was. "Paul was a wealth of information about this story,” recalls Statham. "It was so detailed: pictures of the cars, the emotion of the character; he knew every beat of the story. I thought the script was emotional, fun, dark, violent and sexy.”

Statham, a self-professed "massive car geek,” especially liked the sketches of the cars Anderson showed him, particularly those of the Mustang that he'd be driving as Hennessey's "Frankenstein.” "We've seen cars with nitrous oxide systems before, but I've never seen anything like what Paul does in this movie,” Statham says.

For the warden who forces Ames to become her star driver and the coach who trains him, the producers didn't want stock character actors. They looked to dramatic performers such as Joan Allen and Ian McShane to add credibility. "You're not used to seeing Joan Allen in a movie like this,” laughs Bolt. "It was awesome to hear her swearing like a trooper, because I associated her with roles like a female president or a headmistress.”

Tony Award-winning and three-time Academy Award® nominee Allen was asked to play Warden Claire Hennessey, a well-tailored jailer who has all the power on Terminal Island. "It was a very cool script, and I was really taken with the characters,” Allen recalls. "I thought the cars were amazing and the concept was exciting. It reminded me of Road Warrior and Blade Runner in look and feel. After I met Paul and saw how he was conceiving it, I just thought, ‘Wow, this could be really incredibly cool.'”

The actor looked forward to taking on a character like no one she'd played before: an extremely pious sociopath. "Hennessey is an interesting study of somebody who gets wrapped up in the media and numbers and forgets human lives are at stake,” Allen continues. "My character only sees Death Race as an incredibly popular show that people really want to watch. She takes pride in that and gets kickbacks from it.”

For the role of Frankenstein's Coach, the filmmakers turned to Ian McShane, most recently seen on Broadway in Daniel Sullivan's revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming. The actor was interested in being a part of a film he describes as "like NASCAR to the death, inside prison. Everybody tunes in to watch convicts kill themselves in their cars and blast the crap out of each other around this racetrack.” For his part, McShane believes, "Coach is one of the good guys—an honest man who's been in prison for so long that he's adapted and made it his home. As the chief mechanic, he knows all the cars, but he mainly works on Frankenstein's Mustang.”

Multiplatinum-selling musician and actor Tyrese G

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