Paul Newman fans are in for a real treat: His beloved character Doc Hudson plays an integral role in the new chapter of Pixar’s animated Cars franchise.
The late Oscar-winning icon and a longtime auto-racing enthusiast played the character of Doc Hudson, the wise, gravelly voiced mentor to hotshot rookie racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), in 2006’s original Cars. And thanks to unused lines from Newman’s old recording sessions, flashbacks featuring Doc’s sage advice bring an extra sense of gravitas to Cars 3 (in theaters Friday).
“There’s a soulfulness there for the story we’re telling, the story of generations,” says Cars 3 director Brian Fee. “Even though Doc’s not there anymore, it was important that McQueen is still learning lessons from Doc.”
When directing Newman in the recording studio for the first Cars, Disney/Pixar animation chief John Lasseter remembers the two bonding over their shared love of horsepower. Lasseter grew up in Whittier, Calif., working as a stock boy in the parts department of the Chevrolet dealership where his dad was a manager, while Newman lived the life not only of a famous actor but also a champion driver and co-owner of an IndyCar team.
“Paul would sit and talk with you about racing as long as you wanted to talk but when it came to movies or acting, he wasn’t interested,” Lasseter says. Newman was dedicated to making Cars feel like real racing and especially got a kick out of being Doc, a character based on the 1951 Fabulous Hudson Hornet that raced in NASCAR events.
Going through the tapes brought up a lot of old feelings for Lasseter. “I grew to really love Paul and we had such great times,” he says. “Listening to us converse, it was very nostalgic and very emotional for me.”
Adds Fee: “Anyone who’s a Paul Newman fan finds it haunting to hear his voice again — in a good way.”
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