Gone in 60 Seconds - Leading Lady
Thanks to its release as a Combo Pack, the original Gone in 60 Seconds is refocusing attention on the original Eleanor
MM: Is that what gave him the idea for the movie, Gone in 60 Seconds?
Denice: He was 15½ when he came out from New York to California with an uncle who couldn't read or write, so he worked on cars to make a living. Later he owned a towing and impound business where he got to know the local police. He loved the police; they were his buddies. And then somebody talked him into investing in a movie. He was on the set one day and said to himself, “I can do this." So he took what he knew, cars, and merged them into a movie. That's where it all came together.
MM: Why did he pick a Mustang for Eleanor?
Michael: He says it in the movie—it was the last of the Mustang fastbacks. Ford was coming out with the Mustang II and everything was going to change because of the fuel crisis. Denice has letters he wrote to Lee Iacocca to try to get a Mustang for the film.
Denice: What's so creative about him is Eleanor. He takes this Mustang and makes it a leading lady. Eleanor is the only Mustang in history to receive a star title credit.
MM: He was working on a strict budget, correct?
Denice: It was the price of one lunch for the 2000 remake (laughs). With independent film-making, you only have so many dollars. He was just starting off. Not only was he the writer, he was also the stunt driver, director, actor, producer, and financier. What's funny, there's a crash scene on the bridge and he's driving a Cadillac in a lady's hat and wig. He actually drove a lot of the other cars because he knew how to drive them.
Michael: He did gorilla film-making. He owned the sheriff's tow-truck impound lot, so he knew what was going on. He didn't always get permission to film, so he'd shoot on a Sunday because he knew the people who watched for that sort of thing weren't working.
MM: In the documentary, we learned that he got hurt during the movie's climactic final jump.
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Denice: Toby got a compressed spine on the famous jump at the end of the chase. When you watch it in slow motion, you can see how dangerous it was. It was close; Eleanor almost went over. That was done with ramps. There were no special effects.
Michael: He did all the stunts himself. He prepared Eleanor for her 128-foot jump, going 30 feet in the air, by welding skid plates underneath and bars all the way through her. He also had a pair of brake handles mounted on the transmission tunnel, so whichever way he wanted the car to go, he could spin her. His jacket had slits in it so you couldn't see that he was wearing a harness.
Denice: He spent 250 man-hours putting in a NASCAR rollcage and a special belt for himself, which was good because of that big crash into the telephone pole.
MM: Which was really an accident by accident?
Denice: Many of them were. He would have to stop, get her fixed, and go on.
Michael: When he hit the telephone pole, he had to load Eleanor on a truck and take the pole too because they needed it for the next frame. They came back the next Sunday, dropped the pole off in its spot, and started filming again. They had to take the pole because if they didn't, the city would pick it up and they wouldn't be able to shoot the next scene.
MM: Was there more than one Eleanor?
Michael: Actually, there were two. The second one was in the car wash at the end. There's really only one Eleanor that did the stunts and 40-minute chase scene. Denice still owns the original Eleanor.
MM: We understand Toby was filming Gone in 60 Seconds 2 in 1989 and Denice had a part in it.
Denice: Toby's Gone in 60 Seconds 2 has a great story about an international thief and I was going to star in it with Toby as his accomplice. What is great for Toby's fans is that he shot the action first because that was important to him. There were over 400 cars, 80 police cars. I am working on making a new Gone in 60 Seconds 2 based on his 1989 movie.
MM: Can you tell us how Toby was killed?
Denice: It was during the filming for Gone in 60 Seconds 2. I had just handed him a cigar and started to walk away when I heard someone yell—to this day I believe it was him—“Run, Denice, the tower is falling!" So I just ran. There was a pole tied to a 160-foot water tower for one of the stunts. And when the tower started to fall prematurely, the cable snapped, hit one of the power poles, and the pole hit Toby. We had been together for six years but had been married only three months, so it was devastating to lose him in the same summer that we got married.
MM: How were you able to keep the copyrights to Toby's movies?
Denice: It was 1989 when Robert Kardashian came in to help me. I knew nothing about attorneys and the probate court to save Toby's legacy and films, so I needed help. He was actually the middle man between me and the attorneys so he could explain to me what they were talking about and explain to them what I needed. Through that, we fell in love and got engaged. I actually lived with Robert from 1990 to 1996 and helped him raise his four children. To this day I'm very close with the kids (Ed. note: Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Robert Jr. from the reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians).
MM: How were you involved in the remake?