In the recent Australian Falcon tribute post there were a couple of comments about the Falcon’s movie and tv roles, starting with the obvious; the Interceptor Special from the Mad Max movies. This was one of the most iconic movie vehicles ever, and nearly as much a character in the film as any of the actors. Looking at Falcons on the big and small screen there are some prominent cases and some that are a little more obscure, so let’s have a look at some of them…
Do I need to say much about the Mad Max Interceptor? Perhaps yes, as there are probably a few misconceptions about the car still. The car started in real life as a repossessed 1973 Ford XB Falcon GT hardtop, one of just 891 built. With the addition of a “Concorde” fibreglass front end styled by Peter Arcadipane, who went on to design Mercedes-Benz, a fake supercharger, some Zoomie-style side pipes and the giant tyres that the rear flanks were designed to hold, it had some real screen presence.
The budget of the first film was so tight that the hero car was given to the mechanics that built it to settle the bill, so the producers had to buy the car back for the second Mad Max film. This was filmed in the NSW outback near Broken Hill, with some fairly major changes such as a pair of huge fuel tanks in the back.
The car was destroyed in the final car chase, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Max somehow returned from the land of the north and rebuilt the Interceptor, which is one explanation for how he ended up driving it in Mad Max: Fury Road.
I don’t think I should entirely ignore the other Pursuit cars from Mad Max, as they are also iconic enough as to have inspired people to build replicas. There were a pair of former HWP XB Falcons that would also have been powered by 351 Cleveland V8s, plus an ex-taxi XA Falcon that would have been a 6-cyl.
They played a part in some pretty impressive stunts, back when stuntmen earned their money and computers did not have graphics on their screens. The above shot is the car that crashed into the Mazda Bongo van and then through the caravan – where Charlie copped a saucepan to the throat.
Another GT Falcon hardtop, this time an XA featured in the gang-money-delivery-gone-wrong movie Two Hands (1999) as the ride of gang leader “Hando”, played by Bryan Brown. The movie is perhaps more important as Heath Ledger’s break-out role that set him on course for Hollywood. The XA played a suitably menacing presence in the film, stalking Ledger and co-star Rose Byrne as they ran. The car is still around in essentially the same form as in the movie (with a new registration number), with the main change from stock being a blacked-out grille.
Running On Empty dates from 1982 and could be compared to Two Lane Blacktop, with a couple of mates doing a bit of street racing, a country road trip, more street racing, another road trip and yet more street racing. The movie is as hokey as you might expect for a low-budget film with a pop star in the lead role, but a bit of good clean fun overall. The XY GT Falcon is the main car, including being completely rebuilt after it is destroyed (oops, spoiler! Not in the shot above either), but the other main cars, a Hemi Challenger and blown 55 Chevy are not bad either.
Wolf Creek (2005) is an outback serial-killer horror movie that has an XD Falcon station wagon as the victim’s car, and is well-cast as a typical backpacker-mobile.
The Hard Word (2002) was a heist film where a gang led by Guy Pearce rob the bookies after the Melbourne Cup, one of the richest horse races in the world and “the race that stops the nation”. The gang use a mid-1990s Falcon wagon in the course of the robbery and getaway.
There was another XA Falcon GT, this time a sedan, driven by the character Simmo in the film Chopper (2000), that gave Eric Bana his break. The car played a fairly minor role in the telling of the story of one of Australia’s most infamous criminals; the name Chopper refers to what he did to his ears.
Perhaps one of the most insignificant movie cars, but one that played a fairly integral role in its movie, it was the Falcon in Road To Nhill (1997). You’ve probably never heard of the film that featured some confusion about the location of a group of lawn bowlers who have crashed their car, and now that you’ve heard the plot outline I doubt you will feel the need to see it.
The 1967-69 children’s tv show Skippy that featured a remarkably intelligent and resourceful kangaroo also featured a couple of Falcon station wagons that were driven by Ranger Mike, the one above (XR) and the next model (XT).
The much-loved soap/drama A Country Practice, about a small country hospital and its surrounding community, ran for 13 years and 1,058 episodes. One of the main characters was plumber Bob Hatfield (Gordon Piper) who drove an old 1969-70 XW Falcon ute and got into numerous scrapes with his mate Cookie the cook at the local pub (hotel) in their schemes.
This is one of the few that have survived, and has been restored very nicely.
Every police show under the sun featured Falcon police cars, which mirrored real life at least from 1965-ish onwards, which was when they also took on a starring role in the police show Homicide, which ran for 12 years (1964-76). Everything from Matlock Police (1971-76) to Blue Heelers (1994-2006) and Rush (2008-11), but in most cases the Falcons were part of the scenery.
The other art-imitates-life role that Falcons can be seen basically everywhere is as a taxi. The 2015 film Last Cab to Darwin is the story of a taxi driver who is told he has terminal cancer and travels to Darwin where euthanasia is legal, and a Falcon station wagon is the titular vehicle.
Perhaps some of the more surprising Falcon appearances were in some big Hollywood blockbusters, as the country became a popular production location in the 1990s and 2000s. Some of these include Jackie Chan’s Mr Nice Guy (1997) which was filmed in Melbourne and surrounds, Mission Impossible II (2000) in Sydney above, the Matrix trilogy (Sydney) and many more.
Falcons often featured in car chases in these movies either in plain sight, or disguised if the film was set elsewhere as is the case with these police cars from Death Race 2 (2010) – note that this was actually shot in South Africa, where Falcons had been exported.
So that is it – I have avoided a couple of execrable ‘car movies’ and I know there will be more movies where the main characters drive a Falcon (or Fairmont or Fairlane), but are there any others I should have included here?
Most images sourced from the Internet Movie Cars Database http://www.imcdb.org/