Lightning Strikes for Richard Pryor

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Greased Lightning was an important movie for Richard Pryor because it was his first starring vehicle. He said, “I was blown away when a movie that seemed to have substance came along and the producers wanted me to star.”

Go behind-the-scenes of the film below.

1. It’s based on a true story.

Greased Lightning is based on the life of Wendell Scott, who was the first African American to win a race in NASCAR’s Grand National Series in 1963. He held this record until 2013. In 2014, Scott once again made history when he became the first African American driver to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

2. Scott and Pryor got along.

Wendell Scott served as a consultant for the film and showed Pryor how to drive. “Scott is an amazing person, more amazing than in the film,” Richard said.  At first, Pryor was very hesitant to go fast behind the wheel, but with some training he found himself pushing the limit. At one point, he almost got into trouble because the engine blew when he was going 90 miles per hour. Scott said, “I had a very good relationship with Richard. I would tell him how to do things, and he was very cooperative.”

3. Pryor wasn’t given the role first.

Cleavon Little, known for Blazing Saddles, was actually the first actor given the role. However, the producers changed their mind and offered him the part of Peewee instead. Little wasn’t interested, but took the role anyway in order to appease the studio so he could make a movie with director Robert Altman (which didn’t end up getting made).

4. The title was inspired by a musical.

The original title was Good Ol’ Boy, which was also the name of the documentary about Wendell Scott which inspired the project. After the first director Marvin Van Peebles left the project, Michael Schultz took the helm and renamed the film Grease Lightning because of the car in the hit musical Grease with John Travolta and Oliva Newton-John (read about Grease here).