Renner to portray underdog Bill Caswell

Courtesy photo

Bill Caswell (left) and co-driver Ben Slocum at the 2010 Rally Mexico finish.

What tops beating pro drivers in their super cars with a junker you made yourself? For Bill Caswell, it's signing a film deal with a major studio and having today's "it" actor play you.

Rally fans the world over are dying to know: What is it like going from desk jockey investment banker to rally racer fueled by little more than gutsy bravado? Caswell captured the imaginations of weekend racers who dream of hanging out with legends like Ken Block and throwing back cold beers with Petter Solberg. If all things go according to course notes, unlike rally races, the story of Bill Caswell will roll into a movie theatre near you courtesy of Jeremy Renner ('The Hurt Locker') and Paramount Pictures.

Historically, WRC doesn't even blip on American radars when it comes to motorsport. Most think of NASCAR, and for the really exotic, Formula One. But there aren't many things which can broaden the taste of Americans like a good story projected on the big screen. Add star power and you have the makings of a defining moment for rally.

Renner is slotted to play Caswell in the biopic. He will also star in many-a-movie franchise you'll see over the next year, from 'The Avengers' to 'Bourne Legacy.' Renner and screenwriter Don Handfield had Caswell at hello. "A lot of people reached out after Jalopnik first published my adventure in Mexico but I was immediately impressed when I met Don and Jeremy," said Caswell. "They had done their homework and I knew immediately that they were the guys I wanted to tell my story."

Renner is known for studying his characters intensely, and has said music plays a big part in his preparation. "I put together a CD of different songs -- I'll figure out what kind of emotions are there, what makes me feel like that character," Renner told Venice Magazine. To get in the Caswell groove, part of Renner's mix will likely include the Rolling Stones' 'Brown Sugar,' and the Talking Heads' 'Burning down the house,' which became an unintentional 2010 WRC Mexico anthem. Caswell also digs Peter Shilling's 'Major Tom.' Like Major Tom, Caswell launched his lone Beamer on a trajectory towards the impossibly distant stars.

Caswell's story has all the ingredients of the stranger-than-fiction underdog legend Americans love. Though he plays the part well, Caswell is not just an average guy. He earned a MBA from the University of Chicago. He's a guy who reportedly loved studying chess books, and ran out of reading material. Still, embellishment and dramatization won't be needed here. The Slingshot plot summary might go something like this:

Opening scene: Caswell and co-driver dodge a Mexican drug cartel shootout. Flashback to quieter days: Caswell dreams of pro rally racing but is trapped in a cubicle. Caswell gets a sweet severance package during the recession and decides to take on the rally giants. In his arsenal: a car repair manual, a welding gun and a rusted 1991 BMW 318i -- a Craigslist heap snagged for less than a set of new tires. He learns how to weld in his mother's garage with Rolling Stones blasting. He heads to WRC Corona Rally Mexico 2010 to race the Rally America class [no relation to the U.S. organization]. Back to opening scene: Caswell escapes getting killed by the bullets.

Once WRC Mexico is underway, Caswell battles car breakdowns, and almost swerves off a bridge. Still, he manages thirrd place in their class, shocking the rally world in their $500,000 cars [according to Motor Authority]. Cue adoring Mexican rally fans, and the ever humble Caswell signing autographs for hours after all the big guys have long left. And what's a Hollywood flick without chemistry? Co-driver Ben Slocum meets a nice Mexican fangirl. And Caswell is faithful to love interest Melanie, the medical doctor fiancee who said yes to a banker but now waits for the hoonigan -- the term for a hooligan driver -- to come home.

Unlike Major Tom, Caswell isn't star-crossed and disappearing -- he's just warming up. Caswell said, "[I'm] going crazy getting my M3 ready for Pikes Peak [Hill Climb, June 26]." All systems are go.

Related Content