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DENNIS MCCARTHY INTERVIEW: THE MAN BEHIND THE CARS OF THE FAST AND FURIOUS – FC THROWBACK

Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 26th November 2020

Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous features. This week it’s an interview with Dennis McCarthy from 2013. Forget your Vin Diesels and Paul Walkers. The real hero of the Fast And Furious Series is this fella – the bloke who gets ‘em the cars!

Feature taken from Fast Car magazine. Words Midge Photos Universal

So Dennis – how would you describe your job?
I supply cars for movies, it’s that simple.

And how many have you worked on?
Quite a lot over the past few years, like 25-movies. All kinds like Die Hard 4.0, Batman Begins, Total Recall and, of course, every Fast and Furious movie since Tokyo Drift.

How do you co-ordinate so many cars for the Fast and Furious series?
They’re out and out car movies, so you have to. I have a large, dedicated team though, both here and at every main location. Anything we can source locally we do, anything else we ship. The trouble is it’s rarely just one car, you need to find multiples for all the different shots in a movie.

Did you have a favourite European you had to find?
The Mk1 Escort was cool. It’s kinda like the UK’s ’69 Camaro. It’s a legend and not easy to find a great one, let alone 7. It was one of the special hero cars, I think it definitely had the most character.

What others can we expect to see in the European sequences?
It was a big deal and I had to have a huge team over there. In all we had to source around 300 cars for Europe. There’s everything from Aston Martins and Mercedes and a whole fleet of BMW M5s. Only then can we get the parts to make them all look the same.

Who modifies them?
We do – it’s all done in-house. We roll into town like some sort of huge messed up circus bringing our workshop, transporters and 60-70 staff with us. It’s a vast, vast operation.

How do they differ from other films?
Each movie is different. These tuner cars are awesome and built to be modified. In some other films you have to go crazy with machine guns and custom builds. The cars in the Death Race films were fun, but a lot of work.

What’s the most of any single car you’ve had the find?
Working on the Green Hornet I had to find 27 1965 Chrysler Imperials to modify. I think we had every one in the US – we had to go to Canada for the last one.

Do you ever get sad at them getting wrecked?
I used to, but you become immune to it. Taking a sledgehammer to the side of a brand new M5 is just part of the job. It is a shame with some of the older, rarer stuff but, to be fair, most of the cars we buy in that category start out as wrecks. The vast majority are rebuilt shells that would never be able to go on the road anyway. There are plenty of recycled ones too.

Recycled?
Yeah some of the ‘69 Chargers in Fast and Furious 4 were former General Lees from the Dukes of Hazard. That sort of thing, you’d be surprised what turns up.

Do the enthusiasts get on your back when you break ‘em?
Sometimes when they don’t understand. If it’s mega rare and important we generally don’t kill it. In Fast and Furious the rare Buick GNXs we wrecked sent people nuts – in fact they were only dressed up Buick Regals.

How do you decide on the cars?
The script usually dictates the cars, like in Fast and Furious the muscle stuff is usually Vin’s and the tuner stuff Paul’s. A lot of times there’s a few they ask for and we suggest the rest.

Where do you get them?
Apart form the ones realised by the manufactures, mostly the same as anyone else. Trawling through classified ads, on the web, car auctions, pretty much how you would find one.

Do you tell the owners where their cars are going?
No, never.

Do the manufactures ever refuse to give you cars?
Yes, all the time, sometimes even if you’re paying, but I don’t push it. You can’t be too insistent because you can wreck a whole fleet of cars from a company and then it all gets cut out of the film. When you’re condensing 6-hours of film into 2 hours sometimes that happens.

Do you have to work on a strict budget?
Of course, in Hollywood there’s always a budget – or we’d be smashing up Veyrons all day long.

What do you drive yourself?
Not a Veyron, and certainly not a Prius! I have a Cadillac CTS-V which is a bit like a 567 horsepower Vauxhall. I also have a ’65 Chevelle SS and a few bits and pieces knocking around.

And what did you do before you got into film?
Just build fast cars, I always have, I always will.

Interview taken from Fast Car magazine issue 330, as promotion for Fast & Furious 6