Jeff Gordon Q&A: Movies, racing future & more
September 29, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
MORE: FULL CHASE COVERAGE
"The Crossing" -- an original series created and produced by NASCAR Productions -- gave four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon a chance of a lifetime to connect with Hollywood film director and producer Ron Howard. Their meeting gives glimpses into one another's storied careers from child stars and prodigies to successful adults -- each champions in their respective field.
Gordon sat down with NASCAR.com to share his behind-the-scenes perspective about the five-part series:
How did the idea of pairing you and Ron Howard for this new project originate?
"We were asked to put a list of some people together that I'd be interested in meeting and talking to and getting to know and Ron was one that came up. It was purely just because I liked the way he goes about what he does and also the movie "Rush" he just directed, the tie to racing and the timing. It all came together. "We met at Indianapolis, and I just became a huge admirer of him because I saw what a good person he was.''
You got to spend some quality time with Howard both trackside and in Hollywood. What were your impressions?
"As a kid growing up and watching "Happy Days," knowing who Ron Howard is and then also being a fan of Apollo 13 and some great movies he's done and knowing he was going to do a racing movie, I was really looking forward to meeting him.
"I was so impressed. He is just such a humble guy. He works extremely hard. You'd never know this is a guy that's been working in Hollywood since he was a kid. It was very refreshing, and I feel like we connected in some ways through the whole experience because I think while he learned a lot about racing, he has more respect for race car drivers through this. I have always respected him, but gained a whole new respect because I saw how passionate he was about making sure the movie was done well and is authentic. He genuinely wanted to know what people's thoughts were."
What were your thoughts on Ron Howard's newly released movie "Rush" and its addition to a long lineage of racing movies?
"Before I even saw anything Ron had done, I thought the best racing movie is going to be the one that has the least amount of racing in it. I think it's because it's very hard to capture the speed and excitement and the thrill of it, and that's what I love about the movie "Rush." He did do a good job of capturing the racing but also it has such a great storyline to go along with it. It complements the racing, and the racing complements the story.''
You got rave reviews hosting Saturday Night Live in 2003, are a popular and recurring co-host on "LIVE with Kelly and Michael" and have made several popular commercials. Is acting a possible second career for you?
"I'd never consider myself having much talent in that area (acting), but I also know I'm a risk taker, I'm comfortable being in front of a camera. I don't have any skills necessarily that allow me to pull off any role, but with the right thing, I have a good time and let go of who I am and can make fun of myself and enjoy it. "Saturday Night Live" was certainly a stretch, but I had a lot of fun doing it and I said, if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right and make the best of it. And it turned out great. Or if I'm hosting with Kelly (Ripa), I'm not always the most comfortable going into it, but somehow, it seems to come together in that moment."
Throughout your career you have represented a new generation of NASCAR fans crossing over in platforms and eras.
"I do feel like we made conscious efforts over the years to find those opportunities to do more crossover. I think NASCAR is a great sport, it's great racing, but I feel like it's capable of so much more and by doing more crossover, it could help expand the audience and help the sport grow and me personally from a branding standpoint.
"You take advantage of opportunities."
In "The Crossing," Ron Howard talks about his move from childhood star to a role behind the camera. Does that hit home with you?
"It was something that genuinely interested me, that transition because he was a successful actor, but obviously he's been probably an even more successful director. You would think it would be tough to go from being in front of the camera to being behind the camera, but at the same time, the knowledge you gain from being in front of the camera and working with these crews could benefit you greatly.
"That's why I feel like I always want to be in racing. [My future] needs to be competitive, and it needs to be racing-related because that's what I know best. That's what's driven me and given me these opportunities. I just won't necessarily be behind the wheel.
What stands out most to you from this experience?
"My big takeaway from it is the one common thing I find about people that are successful. They are passionate about what they do, they work very hard at it and they always want to be better. That's what I found in Ron. He's such a great guy and cares so much about making sure the product he's providing will be pleasing to the audience. Not because he's getting a big check. He genuinely cares about it. He found an arena he didn't know a lot about and learned all he could and excelled. That's what I took away. Here's someone that had every right to not be humble, had every right to not be down to earth, and he took me under his wing and couldn't have been nicer or more down to earth.
Some might argue the dramatic ending to your regular season and your subsequent Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth would make a good Hollywood ending?
(Smiling) "I'll call Ron one day and say, 'Hey I've got something for you.'''