Jesse Williams is best known for portraying Dr. Jackson Avery on ABC's medical drama, "Grey's Anatomy" for the last four years. He's starred in other TV series, including "Beyond the Break," "Greek," and "Law & Order," among others. In the theatrical film world, he has also been featured in, among other movies, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," "The Cabin in the Woods," the upcoming film, "The Butler," and the upcoming TV movie "Washingtonienne." To prepare for the role of Don Prudhomme, to whom Williams bears a striking resemblance, Williams got to spend time hanging out with and observing the real-life Prudhomme, and immersing himself in the world of drag racing.
"It is a nice kind of exploration into a time period we did not have the privilege of exploring," says Williams. "There are some things that are heavy. There is some tragedy. And there is also some kind of fired-up passion. We're trying to tell a story about two men at different stages in their lives, but who loved the same thing for different reasons. Snake loves driving, and he is excellent at it, certainly one of the best. And Tom loves the flair of it. You have these two guys who are incredibly skilled, but are rivals turned friends, turned business partners, turned the faces of a global children's brand."
Veteran television and feature film star Noah Wyle portrays Mattel toy executive Art Spear—a real-life executive who took the risk of partnering with Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen to give birth to the modern era of corporate sponsorship of major auto racing teams, drivers, and vehicles. Perhaps best known for his role as Dr. John Carter in the hit TV series "ER," Wyle more recently starred in the TV sci-fi epic, "Falling Skies," and is currently filming the Civil War era miniseries, "To Appomattox," in which he portrays legendary Union general George Pickett. He has also headlined "The Librarian" series of television movies, portrayed the legendary Steve Jobs in the TV movie, "Pirates of Silicon Valley," and has had roles on "Friends," "The Larry Sanders Show," Sesame Street," and dozens of others.
A feature film and television actress, Ashley Hinshaw portrays Don Prudhomme's real-life wife, Lynn Prudhomme, in "Snake and Mongoo$e." A model and theatrical actress since she was young, Hinshaw has performed in feature films such as "Chronicle," "Rites of Passage," "LOL," "About Cherry," and is slated to appear in five upcoming features in addition to "Snake & Mongoo$e." Hinshaw's role as Lynn Prudhomme is a crucial one, since Lynn shared her husband's ups-and-downs from his earliest days as a drag racer, through his rivalry and partnership with Tom McEwen, and into the present day.
"I have never had the opportunity of playing somebody based on a real person," Hinshaw explains. "This was a real treat for me because Lynn is such a strong woman. And that is an exciting opportunity as an actress to play a woman who has control and is an important piece of the puzzle, which Lynn is in the whole scheme of Don's life and his whole career. So it was really nice to get to know her, listen to her stories, and see those experiences through her eyes, which is sometimes a lot different than through the guy's perspective."
Former NFL player and television star Fred Dryer portrays famed motorsports racing engineer Ed Donovan in "Snake & Mongoo$e." Donovan was an associate of Tom McEwen who gave him the name "Mongoo$e" as part of a strategy to fuel his rivalry with Don Prudhomme. Dryer starred for many years on the gridiron, first at San Diego State University, and then for the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams. Upon retiring, he began seriously studying acting and earned roles on several TV shows, including "Cheers," "Hart to Hart," "CHiPs," and many others. Then, in 1984, he landed the starring role in the hit police drama, "Hunter," which ran for seven years on NBC, and also executive produced many of those episodes. He returned as the character Sgt. Rick Hunter in a TV movie in 1995 and a reboot of the show in 2003, and has also had prominent roles in several feature films.
Wayne Holloway is a highly acclaimed video and commercial director from the UK whose work shooting commercials for NASCAR, numerous car companies, and Adidas' 2000 Olympic advertising campaign over the years made him a natural fit for the drag-racing backdrop of "Snake & Mongoo$e." Calling himself a "performance director" and proud of his eclectic background that includes an undergraduate degree in Literature, a Master's in Ideology, and a PhD in Philosophy, Holloway co-wrote the film's screenplay and helped design unique and exciting visuals for the piece. He has also directed two acclaimed short films, "God's Wounds" and "We're Staying Home," and is currently prepping his next feature—an as-yet unnamed film about the world of Punk Music, starring Paloma Faith and Jessica Brown Finlay.
Stephen Nemeth has produced 10 feature films and 15 documentaries during a long Hollywood career. Among those projects are "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Dogtown and Z Boys," and "The Surrogate," which won the 2012 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He founded and runs Rhino Films, the independent film company that originated as a division of Rhino Records, and he also works in partnership with Amnesty International on their Artists for Amnesty program to develop and produce human rights-related film and television projects. Among them is the 2007 documentary, "War/Dance," about the child soldiers of Uganda, which was nominated for a 2008 Best Documentary Academy Award and was honored at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.
"This story is, at its core, a great buddy rivalry, sports story. I think it is one of the greatest, if not the greatest rivalries in the history of sports," Nemeth declares proudly.
Gary Barlough has been scoring Hollywood projects since the mid-1980's during a long career as a composer, songwriter, singer, guitarist, and synthesist. In the music world, he has worked with, among others, Pink Floyd, Yes, Berlin, and Mark Isham. He won a Grammy Award for his work on Kitaro's "Thinking of You," scored Oliver Stone's "Heaven & Earth," produced "The Soong Sisters" film score, and has also scored and mixed music tracks for several television movies, among other projects. Because "Snake & Mongoo$e" covers 20 years in the lives of its protagonists, he strategically produced a rock-and-roll-based score that adheres to the music of those eras and the authentic aesthetic of the world of drag racing during the heyday of the rivalry between Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen.M
" 'Snake & Mongoo$e' is an exciting blend of 'cards and guitars,' " Barlough says of the film's score. "The main title has some contemporary rock elements, and the inner parts of the score follow the eras of the movie, from 1958 to 1978. It really needed a rock score, with a few transitions to dramatic orchestra. We had some great players contribute their talents, and the resulting blend is a really fun ride."
Richard Blake has an extensive television resume, with major roles on such shows as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "Cold Case," and "Drop Dead Diva" among others. He also had a role in the martial arts epic feature film, "Dragonball: Evolution." Blake spent many weeks with the real-life Tom McEwen as he prepared for the role, and put himself through a strict food regimen in order to gain 20 pounds so he would look more like the real-life McEwen during the two decades of his life portrayed in the movie.￼￼￼
"I had known of the fierce rivalry of the two guys, but I did not know Tom McEwen's path that brought him to all the success," Blake relates. "It is a very touching story. There are things I did not know that evoked a lot of sentiment in me. And it is a very heartfelt story. It was very unexpected. When I read the script, it added an extra dimension to me that was so compelling. I was very happy to be part of this."
Tim Blake Nelson is one of Hollywood's busiest actors, having appeared in over 30 feature films, including most recently Steve Spielberg's "Lincoln." He had previously acted for Spielberg in "Minority Report," for Terrence Malick in "The Thin Red Line," for the Coen Brothers in "O' Brother Where Art Thou?", and in other films as widely ranging as "The Incredible Hulk," "Meet the Fockers," "Syriana," "The Good Girl," "Child of God," and dozens of others. Also a writer, director, and producer, Nelson was attracted to "Snake and Mongoo$e" because of the chance to play the colorful Mike McAllister—a composite character representing aspects of several colorful drag-racing track announcers from that era.
As Judy McEwen, Kim Shaw plays the other key player in the complicated Snake-Mongoo$e inter-relationship. Her character's difficulties adjusting to her husband's long absences from home and his children, and the impact their martial issues have on the Snake-Mongoo$e rivalry, are central to the film's plot.￼￼￼￼
The Canadian-born actress has starred on the television shows "Gossip Girls," "Sex in the City," "Royal Pains," "Law & Order," "White Collar," "Glory Daze," "The Good Wife," "I Just Want my Pants Back," and the miniseries "Blackout," among others. She has also starred in feature films like "Greetings from the Shore," "Did You Hear About the Morgans?", "She's Out of My League," and "Shotgun Wedding." Her performance is among the film's most important because, unlike other characters, her character neither wants nor needs the racing life that fuels her husband's existence, and of course, she is a mother.
"It was my first time playing a mother, and the idea of diving into seeing what that must be like from a parent's perspective, is really interesting to me," Shaw says. "And she is tragic in a way because she meets this man, they fall in love, it is a true love, but he has this kind of fancy lifestyle that didn't suit her needs. There are women around all the time, she has these kids, and she feels like she is by herself while her husband is away. So the idea of her kind of being by herself, whether she was or not, she felt like she was. I felt that was so wonderful and interesting to see how I would dive into that."
Alan Paradise was well suited to tell the story of "Snake & Mongoo$e" as a longtime automotive industry journalist and broadcast producer. He got the idea to turn the story of Prudhomme and McEwen into a feature film when he was originally commissioned by Mattel to work with the two legends on a documentary celebrating the 35th anniversary of their historic partnership with Hot Wheels. During that project, McEwen suggested he write a book on their rivalry/friendship, and eventually, that book idea morphed into the screenplay for "Snake & Mongoo$e." Paradise had previously developed the concept for "Sports Compact Car" magazine and served as its first editor, and has also worked on staff for many automotive-oriented publications, ranging from "Truckin' " to "EuroSportCar," "Street Rodder," "Miata Magazine," "PowerLine," "Motor Trend Insider," "British Motoring," "SpinOff," and "Celebrity Garages." He owns, builds, and restores his own collection of classic cars, muscle cars, and sports cars.
Robin Broidy has worked in film development and production for over 25 years and now heads up Entertainment Universe, a film marketing and distribution company. She served for many years as an entertainment industry attorney and senior business executive, including eight years at Twentieth Century Fox, where she was a Senior Vice President, and before that, as an executive at Cannon Films. She recently produced an acclaimed short film entitled "Mayhem," which is currently on the festival circuit while being developed as a full-length feature film. Having the privilege to work with Prudhomme and McEwen was the best part of making "Snake & Mongoo$e," Broidy says. "I mean, you have legends that are alive," she explains. "And you are able to ask your questions, and you are able to get the right answers, and you are able to get the information about what they wore, how they wore it, why they wore it, why they drove the way they did, what moved them to drive that way. It has been an extraordinary experience to work with both of them."
John Bailey is one of Hollywood's most eclectic and accomplished cinematographers, having photographed legendary films like "Ordinary People," "The Big Chill," "Groundhog Day," "In the Line of Fire," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," and many others, along with offbeat fare like Norman Mailer's "Tough Guys Don't Dance," Jason Miller's "That Championship Season," and genre-bending material like "Swimming to Cambodia," "A Brief History of Time," and "The Kid Stays in the Picture." Bailey believes there is a synergy involved in his participation in "Snake & Mongoo$e"—the opportunity to shoot the drag-racing movie closes a circle in his career, in fact. His first job on a major Hollywood film was as a camera assistant on the cult racing movie, "Two Lane Blacktop," in 1971, shot by his mentor, Gregory Sandor, for director Monte Hellman.
"The storied friendship and edgy rivalry of the two racers was a strong inducement for me to photograph the film, as was the promised participation of the legendary drivers. It's not often that a filmmaker has the opportunity to do a bio-film with the real life figures so deeply involved."
From the time he won an Academy Award for editing Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" in 1976, Richard Halsey has been one of Hollywood's top film editors. After learning his craft at 20th Century Fox from "Peyton Place" editor George Nicholson and working on that show himself for several years, Halsey broke through with "Rocky" and then went one to cut some 60 motion pictures through "Snake & Mongoo$e." Among them are "American Gigolo" (1980), "Moscow on the Hudson" (1984), "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986), "Beaches" (1988), "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), "Sister Act" (1992), "The Net" (1995), and dozens of others.