'Speed' hits live-action high gear


After years of idling, the big-screen, live-action version of "Speed Racer" is ready to zoom, this time with Larry and Andy Wachowski behind the wheel.

The Wachowski brothers are writing and will direct the movie, which will be produced by Joel Silver. The movie will be the duo's first directorial outing since completing the Silver-produced "Matrix" series in 2003. They are reuniting with several of the creative behind-the-scenes talent from the "Matrix" films, including executive producer Grant Hill and visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, who won an Oscar for his work on "The Matrix."

Based on the classic 1960s series created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida that later was retooled for North American audiences, the big-screen "Speed" will follow the adventures of the young race car driver Speed in his quest for glory in his thundering gadget-laden vehicle, Mach 5. The movie will feature other characters from the show, including Speed's family and his mysterious archrival, Racer X.

Silver has been trying to get the film version off the ground since the early 1990s; in 2004, Vince Vaughn even pitched a take that cast him as Racer X. When Silver worked on "V for Vendetta" with the Wachowskis, he approached them about tackling the project. The duo were reluctant to do it unless they could figure out a way to bring something new to the table.

"They are approaching these racing scenes in a way you've never seen before," said Silver, adding that the brothers are designing the movie's look as they write. Silver also said that unlike the more adult-oriented material of the Wachowskis' past — "Vendetta," the "Matrix" movies and "Bound" were all rated R — "Speed" will be family-friendly.

"They wanted to do something that could appeal to everybody," Silver said.

The plan is for the Wachowskis to shoot in summer 2007 for a summer 2008 release.

Courtenay Valenti is overseeing for the studio.

"Speed" will be a Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, of a Silver Pictures production.