The Australian stars in the latest Dundee blockbuster, The Very Excellent Mr Dundee aren’t all actors – one is a classic Aussie car – an AU Ford Falcon.
The humble and often unloved Ford AU Falcon makes a cameo in The Very Excellent Mr Dundee alongside actors Paul Hogan, Shane Jacobson, Olivia Newton-John, Luke Hemsworth, Rachael Carpani and Paul Fenech.
Dressed up as a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car, the black and white AU Falcon is one of the stars of the car chase that is a key scene in the movie.
It is a rare Australian vehicle in a sea of American machines.
But as with the movie – which follows the story of Paul Hogan being nominated for a knighthood for his roles playing Mick Dundee – not all is as it seems with the cars in the chase. Whereas it looks like much of the scene was filmed in Los Angeles, it was shot in Melbourne.
“It was all done at Essendon Airport”, says the Action Vehicles Coordinator for the movie, Leigh Sheehan.
“It’s all private roads around there, so while we had to stick to the speed limit, we could otherwise basically do what we wanted.”
Sheehan was responsible for assembling the largely American four-wheeled cast, something that led to some lateral thinking.
“It was all shot about two years ago,” says Sheehan, adding that the entire car chase was nailed in two nights.
“If that had been Hollywood if would have taken two months.”
The main cars in the police chase were genuine Ford Crown Victorias – until recently the cop car of choice for most American police departments – albeit dressed in new stickers signifying they were from the LAPD. But during filming a decision was made to have one of the police cars crash through a bus stop near the end of the chase.
Sheehan decided the collector who owned the two Crown Victorias may not appreciate such damage, so went on the hunt for a Ford Falcon because “it’s sort of got the same lines”.
The car used for the stunt car crash was bought mid-way through filming for $1000 from an enthusiast who’d done some modifications to make it faster.
Sheehan felt bad telling the seller it was unlikely to be running at all within a few days. Some more stickers and fake Californian number plates – they’re plastic knock-offs made in Melbourne – and the AU Falcon was suddenly one of LAPD’s finest, albeit briefly.
It was even driven on public roads to and from filming, police lights and all.
But that’s only part of the car story with the latest Dundee movie, which has a stellar cast that includes John Cleese, Chevy Chase, Wayne Knight, Reginald VelJohnson and Nate Torrence.
Enthusiasts may notice the Chrysler 300C that Hogan, Cleese and Torrence outrun the cops in morphs into a Dodge Charger as it pulls into the driveway of their Hollywood mansion, which is actually a house in Brighton in bayside Melbourne.
“The engine on that Dodge blew up, literally in that shot of it pulling into the driveway,” says Sheehan. “It was taken away on a tow truck”.
Because the scene was shot in Melbourne – using many left-hand drive cars – Sheehan had to scramble to find something that would fit the bill. A Chrysler 300C hire car was the best on offer, substituting its sedate daily life chauffeuring travelers to and from the airport for some stunt-driving action.
Other cars in the movie include a Cadillac Escalade pulling up at a swanky Hollywood do, which happens to be a restaurant on the fringe of Albert Park Lake.
Many of the scenes were carefully chosen Melbourne locations designed to look like LA; the shot of Jacobson dressed up as a try-hard Mick Dundee impersonator on Hollywood Boulevard was Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. And the LA police station was the St Kilda Town Hall.
Hogan also goes shopping in a Ford F150 Raptor, which was a car imported to Australia to be converted from left- to right-hand drive. And there was a Mach 1 Ford Mustang used by Hogan’s agent in the film, Angie (played by Carpani); it was actually two Mustangs, one in Melbourne and another used for some scene-setting shots in Los Angeles.
“That was a lot easier [matching the cars] because it was an older car, so we could get a left-hand drive one in Australia,” says Sheehan.
The Very Excellent Mr Dundee is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
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