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Adrien Brody is taking his talents from the film set to the racetrack when he competes in the 2014 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race on Saturday.
The Grand Budapest Hotel star will be getting behind the wheel on the 1.97-mile street course in downtown Long Beach, Calif., as part of the 38th annual charity race, but it is far from the first time that he’s put the pedal to the metal.
“I have always loved race car driving and appreciated the sport,” Brody tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I grew up drag racing, but I never had track training.”
Born in Queens, New York, Brody explains: “On my block pretty much all the kids had a fascination with muscle cars. We would build cars on a budget and they all went very fast and didn’t really handle well, so that’s how we learned to drive. There was never any fear!”
For the Grand Prix, rather than homemade muscle cars, the vehicles of choice will be 210-horsepower Scion FR-S race-prepped cars in which stars will whip around the track to raise money for Raising for Kids, a charity that supports children’s hospitals.
“We will be pushing 120 or 130 m.p.h. and definitely at full throttle,” Brody says. “You are pretty much flying on adrenalin when you are out there. The key is when you make a mistake, not to get sidetracked and lose focus. There have been accidents on the track — a couple of years ago someone crashed right in front of me and there was no where to go, so I’ve seen some hairy incidents.
“You don’t want to be in an accident even in a car with a roll cage and helmet but you can’t be gun shy and race. You just have to be as smooth as possible and hope that something doesn’t happen — that’s why you don’t do this on the streets.”
While events like this weekend’s in Long Beach are fun, Brody says he really just loves driving. “I wanted to do this race for 20 years, as there is a lot of precision required. The key is to channel the adrenalin and be very smooth because as soon as you make a mistake, someone is going to be gaining on you,” says the meticulous method actor.
“I like the idea of taking the opportunity to apply that, more than just going to the races,” he explains, revealing that his training on the track has helped his skills on the open road. “It doesn’t make you drive faster, but it makes you drive better. If you are on a nice canyon, you can assess the road and the apex — you can drive the lines more properly.
“The advantage is that you’re taught to look far ahead so you are not just watching the car in front of you and your level of perception is enhanced.”
While he is not usually revving up a Grand Prix car, Brody says he drives “a cool muscle car. If I had more time, I would get some fun toys, but at the moment I am away too much.” Fortunately, his work sometimes involves play. “If the script was good, I would love to do a racing movie,” he reveals.
“I actually did all my stunts in King Kong. Peter Jackson let me do that whole scene in New York City in a taxi cab running through the alleyways from Kong and doing breaking turns.
“They had a souped-up 1930s taxi with a modified engine and transmission. I showed up for work and Jackson said: ‘You’re driving!’ That is very rare. The crew stuffed a bunch of cameras around the vehicle that I would have destroyed if anything went wrong. That would have been a costly mistake,” he laughs.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race takes place on April 12, and Toyota will donate $5,000 to Racing for Kids in the name of each participant. A national nonprofit program benefiting children’s hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, the car company has donated $2 million to it since 1991. For more information, visit ToyotaRacing.com.
Also included in the starting lineup are for the Grand Prix are Cole Hauser (Transcendence), Olympic gold medal sprinter Carmelita Jeter, Vanessa Marcil, and Lisa Stanley (K-EARTH 101 FM).
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