Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: Casting the ‘Days of Thunder’ Sequel, Pt. 3

OK, I promise I’m done with this fun little series after this week … until Days of Thunder 2 does get officially announced, whenever that might be.

We’ve passed the final blockbuster releases of the summer with the “Barbenheimer” meme — some friends and I did the double feature this past weekend. For what it’s worth, both Oppenheimer and Barbie are great.

It was absolutely worth it, and it was reassuring to see SO many people turn out for one or both films. The movies are back, baby.

Then again, we don’t have much in the way of huge features the rest of the summer. Haunted Mansion? Meg 2? Blue Beetle? None of these really pique my interest; Gran Turismo is the only other film I have high hopes for.

So let’s ride the blockbuster wave and distract ourselves from the absolute brick wall that is August movie releases by fantasy-casting the final parts of a potential Days of Thunder sequel cast, from auxiliary characters to cameos and more.

See also
Reel Racing: Casting the ‘Days of Thunder’ Sequel, Pt. 2

The Competition: Drivers

Here, I’m going all-out with casting some of the best younger talent in Hollywood as competition. These actors might not get the most screen time here, but they’re among the best at making an impact with limited scenes. I’ll cap myself at seven or so here, so things don’t get too crowded, but enough so that we get a number of recognizable faces in the field.

Bill Skarsgard is an easy choice for one of the antagonistic roles. Let’s slot him in as the top driver at a rival team. The dude’s played Pennywise in It and It: Chapter 2 as well as Marquis in John Wick: Chapter 4; I don’t want to typecast at all, but as we saw in Barbarian last year, he can also play harmless characters as well that might *seem* menacing. I think he could ride the line perfectly of playing a driver full of niceties off the track, but with a take-no-prisoners attitude on it.

Skarsgard’s teammate: Eiza Gonzalez. A veteran of action movies herself (Ambulance, Godzilla vs. Kong, Baby Driver), she’s no stranger to playing a villain (she did in the latter two) and has an intensity that’d fit well as the rival team’s No. 2 driver.

I’ll add in Jason Momoa as the third driver for that team, to match the stable of Cole’s organization. Momoa just had a villainous turn in Fast X, but playing grizzled characters (Dune, the DCEU) could fit him perfectly as the leader (but not star) of this team, one who disagrees with his younger teammates’ tactics. This all culminates in him foiling one of those teammates’ plans to take out one of Cole’s drivers in the climactic race.

The Competition: Rounding Out the Field

Other drivers with smaller roles, but who are still prominent within the film, are crucial to completing a well-rounded cast.

Let’s cast Anya Taylor-Joy as a fellow up-and-coming driver. Though her experience is primarily within the horror sphere (The Witch, The Menu, Last Night in Soho), her dramatic skills in productions like The Queen’s Gambit, The Northman and Emma. are just as refined. She does have Furiosa, the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel, coming up, so there’s a bit of action in her filmography.

Austin Butler, Daniela Melchior and Amanda Seyfried round out the primary field. Butler, most recently nominated for an Oscar for Elvis and who also appeared as Tex in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is also set to star in Dune this year.

Melchior is an action veteran at this point, having played Ratcatcher 2 in The Suicide Squad, a supporting role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and a presumably-expanding role in Fast X. She’s seven movies into her career, and nearly half of those have been respective entries into three of the past decade’s biggest franchises (and all three combined made nearly $2 billion). That’s impressive.

Seyfried just got nominated for an Oscar a couple years back for her role in David Fincher’s Mank, and also has comedic turns in everything from Mean Girls to Ted 2. Recent, more dramatic roles include First Reformed and Twin Peaks: The Return.

I see Butler playing another up-and-coming driver, but one who’s levelheaded and calculated. Melchior fits a more reckless role, while Seyfried would be playing a driver of a more veteran status — maybe a mentor to Cole’s drivers while also competing against them.

Finally, let’s go with Jon Bernthal as a veteran, soon-to-be retired driver in his waning year or years on the circuit. I considered Adam Driver, but let’s stick with mostly actors who haven’t been in a racing film prior to this (OK, he WAS in Ford v Ferrari, but not in a lead role).

Bernthal can play leads, supporting characters and antiheroes — from Fury to Baby Driver to The Wolf of Wall Street to The Punisher to Mob City, the latter a short-lived TNT series that I highly recommend.

The Competition: Owners & Crew

Maybe it’s because I just finished the newest season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but Glenn Howerton would be a perfect owner of the aforementioned rival team to Cole’s stable.

tools-always-sunny

Howerton’s ability to balance comedy on the show with his character — occasionally implied to be a maniacal serial killer and psychopath but never confirmed — has always been wildly impressive, so he could fit the role (minus the implied murderous tendencies) well. Perhaps also rope in Charlie Day from the show as well to be Howerton’s character’s lackey.

Let’s cast Jon Hamm (another Baby Driver alum) as the crew chief for the team. An acting veteran with a take-no-s**t attitude on full display in everything from Mad Men to Baby Driver to Top Gun: Maverick, it keeps the Maverick pipeline going and he’d be an excellent, morally conflicted character at the helm of of Cole’s rival stable.

Finally, Mary Elizabeth Winstead gets cast as the lead crew member for that team — she has a history of playing badass characters, from Death Proof to Birds of Prey to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so she’d fit right in (but more on the villainous side of things in this instance).

NASCAR Personnel

Finally, the brass of NASCAR needs a slew of experienced, veteran actors who both fit the part and could turn in great performances.

There could be a million different people cast here, but I limited myself to three.

J.K. Simmons takes the NASCAR helm as the elder statesman president, equal parts grumpy and sympathetic. Whether it’s ruling NASCAR with an iron fist similar to Whiplash (“NOT MY F**KING RACETRACK”) or the Spider-Man films, or maybe a bit more comedic or sympathetic, Simmons fits the part.

Michael Shannon plays Simmons’ right-hand man, perhaps a bit more levelheaded. He’s got experience in all types of roles (from those on the right side of the law like Nocturnal Animals or Knives Out or those not, like Man of Steel or Bullet Train) and his veteran leadership is a great addition to any cast. He’s easily one of the most underrated working actors right now.

Rounding out our lead panel is Rachel Weisz, the two-time Oscar-nominated actress who has action (The Mummy, Black Widow) and drama (Yorgos Lanthimos’ incredible The Favourite) experience in spades.

Her performance — alongside the fantastic Emma Stone and the eventual-Oscar-winning Olivia Colman — in The Favourite, combined with her two co-stars, completes one of the best lead trios in recent memory.

Cameos

A couple of these ideas are personal preference, but we’ll also bring back some original characters from the first film.

Michael Rooker, of course, returns as Rowdy Burns, now retired and perhaps an ambassador of the sport — much like the legendary Rooker has become now.

Ever since 2018, in which this man appeared in five films — The Sisters Brothers, Stan & Ollie and a couple comedies among them — John C. Reilly has only been in a few things, including Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza (in a cameo role) and Claire Denis’ Stars at Noon.

What better way to bring back the man who brought Cal Naughton Jr., Dr. Steve Brule and Dewey Cox to life than by a cameo in a second Thunder film? Just kidding. Reilly has fantastic dramatic chops, and I’m not shortchanging him. But let’s bring him back regardless.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost also show up at some point. A genuinely hilarious duo most famous for being at the center of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), these two are absolutely hilarious, never fail to deliver and would be perfect to play a pair of bumbling British fans with little knowledge of NASCAR at their first race.

A personal cameo I’d love to see are the three guys from RedLetterMedia. I don’t keep up with much YouTube channels, per se, but Mike Stoklasa, Jay Bauman and Rich Evans would be fantastic additions.

They’re the minds behind such video series as Best of the Worst (watching older, oft-bad sci-fi, action or horror flicks from the 1980s and thereabouts), Re:View (reflecting, usually fondly, on classics) and Half in the Bag (reviewing newer releases), all while providing analysis on the evolution of film. They’ve even had Jack Quaid — who’s in Oppenheimer and who’s a racing film alum with Logan Lucky — on an episode last year.

I’d say cast these guys as either the most obnoxious race fans possible in a group, or separately as random people Cole encounters throughout the garage — perhaps as an autograph hound or someone yelled at for getting too close to the cars. Mike might be best for the former, Rich for the latter.

And finally, given their presence at several NASCAR races within the past year and avid Formula 1 fandom, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard swoop in with cameos as well.

Epilogue

As we close the book on this entirely hypothetical series of articles and castings, I can’t help but admit that the cast will likely consist of fewer A-listers than this … but that’s what fantasy-casting is for, right?

Let’s hope we hear some more soon on the Days of Thunder sequel, but it might be a bit. Joseph Kosinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and co. still have to make their Formula 1 movie, and that’s been put on hold due to the SAG-AFTRA strike.

I think it’ll happen though. Tom Cruise has enough money to do whatever he wants, and (I think) wants to do a follow-up to the original just like he did for Top Gun. Let’s get it made and pay a well-deserved tribute to Tony Scott.

Follow @adamcheek

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Deacon Blues

Another great fantasy cast! I’ve really enjoyed these articles; a series that provides additional fun, interest and intelligence to the Frontstretch site!

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