[40 years ago, BMW CCA’s Roundel magazine featured this story about BMWs being featured on screen. Reprinted from the July 1982 BMW CCA Roundel magazine, all rights reserved.]
Lights… Camera… Bimmer!
By Bob Roemer
“Would it be OK if we smashed the 633 into a wall and then hurl it off a cliff?”
(Top photo) “I wonder if this Coke will craze our metallic paint darling?” Ryan O’Neal and Candice Bergen snack on the hood of a 633CSi. One 633 owner/club member has commented, “I don’t care how beautiful she is, not on the hood of my CSi!” Photo: Brian Hamill
You may have noticed that lately, more and more BMWs are appearing in movies and television programs.
How they get there and why is as interesting as the movies themselves to many BMW enthusiasts. Carla Harmon, a Public Relations Representative from BMW of North America, has as one of her duties “placing” BMWs in major motion picture and TV productions. ”The job is not as glamorous as people may think,” says Carla, “but it does have its moments. We cooperate with the filmmakers and allow them to use our cars in their projects.
BMW certainly gets good exposure and it keeps the marque in the public eye.” Are there certain standards that BMW has for allowing use of their cars? “Oh yes, we have final script approval for any scenes involving our automobiles. Image is important, so we aren’t very fond of a scene that has the authorities finding $300,000 of cocaine in the trunk of a Bimmer. X-rated films are also out. The Porno King and Queen will have to find another mode of travel besides BMW!”
Perhaps the most famous role of a BMW in a recent movie was the 733i in The In-Laws starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in a rip-roaring comedy about a CIA operation in South America. The scene that makes most Bimmer Buffs blush and cringe is when Alan Arkin, being chased by the CIA, drives the 7 into what he thinks is a car wash to escape his pursuers. What he doesn’t realize is that the supposed car wash is also a custom paint shop that applies orange and red flames to the exterior of your car “WHILE-U-WAIT”! The end result is a Polaris 733i bedecked in a hot rod motif. However, The In-Laws is not the only production a BMW has starred in. J.R. Ewing’s nemesis on Dallas, Cliff Barnes, drives a 633 CSi that appears frequently on the popular series. “The car on Dallas is the one we hear most about,” Carla said.
What happens to the cars that the studios use? Actually, very little, most of the time. On some occasions, BMW will sign a long term agreement with a producer and the car will appear in more than one film or show. But that doesn’t mean that somebody gets to “joyride” the Ultimate Driving Machine over the weekends. For example, the 633 used in Dallas has been loaned to Lorimar for over two years now, but there is only a bit more than 2,000 miles on the car. Loaned cars are driven only in connection with actual filming scenes. Cars are returned to BMW in as new condition. Even the flames on Alan Arkin’s car came off. Carla says, “If they want to do anything out of the ordinary with our cars, they have to get our approval.” Well, you know the story about the 10% that never get the word …
When Avco Embassy was filming their picture The Howling, they “accidentally” blew a door off a 528i. Michael Mann Company has a 733 on loan and when Carla Harmon went with some friends to see their picture Thief starring James Caan, she was in for a surprise. “At the end of the film there is a big shootout and somehow the back window of our 7 was blown-out. I gasped out loud in the theater, ‘They didn’t tell me they were going to do that!’ It was rather embarrassing to say the least!”
Besides movie companies, Carla says the Public Relations Department at BMW NA receives several phone calls a week from famous and not-so-famous people all looking for free use of a BMW. “We have to politely tell all of them ‘No’. We do get some interesting requests since we took over the motorcycle importing. There are folks who want to ride a motorcycle around the world and they want to use a BMW. There are also sports figures and some entertainers who want to use a BMW to arrive at their public appearances. They’re all told the same thing. Thanks, but no thanks!”
What happens to the cars after the movie folks are done with them? Since most of the cars are on the west coast, they are returned to the Regional Office and given to dealers to sell as demonstrators/ used cars. I thought it would be a conversation piece to own the 633 used in Dallas; after all, the show is seen all over the world. Carla set me straight. “Well, first of all, it’s an automatic … and most importantly, who would want a car that Cliff Barnes drove?”