See the Cast of ‘Days of Thunder’ Then and Now
Released in 1990, director Tony Scott’s ‘Days of Thunder’ starred Tom Cruise as a young, up-and-coming stock car driver who gets his big break and a chance to compete at the top level. The first of three films to pair Cruise with Nicole Kidman, ‘Days of Thunder’ received mixed reviews from critics but was a smashing success at the box office thanks to the charisma of its leading man. As film critic Roger Ebert noted, the film had many elements of previous Cruise movies, which had developed a sort of formula for success. Twenty-four years later, we revisit the cast of this classic and see what they’re up to now.
Tom Cruise, Cole Trickle
Then: Tom Cruise, best known for his previous roles in films like ‘Risky Business’ and ‘Top Gun’ (among others), played Cole Trickle, a young stock car driver who gets a chance to prove himself in a NASCAR race.
Now: Cruise is a blockbuster star, known for his roles in ‘Interview with the Vampire,’ ‘Jerry Maguire,’ and for playing Ethan Hunt in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ films. He’s also starred in sci-fi actioners ‘Minority Report’ and ‘War of the Worlds,’ as well as portrayed darker characters in films like ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Vanilla Sky.’ More recently, he’s appeared in the films ‘Rock of Ages,’ ‘Jack Reacher,’ and ‘Oblivion.’ Up next, Cruise is keeping things action-oriented in the sci-fi thriller ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ with Emily Blunt, and he’ll reprise his role as Ethan Hunt in a new ‘Mission: Impossible’ film.
Nicole Kidman, Dr. Claire Lewicki
Then: A then little-known Nicole Kidman portrayed Dr. Claire Lewicki, a neurosurgeon who starts a relationship with Cole. In real life, Kidman fell in love with Cruise on the set of ‘Days of Thunder,’ and the pair married in 1990.
Now: Kidman reunited with Cruise in 1992 for the film ‘Far and Away,’ and also starred in ‘To Die For’ and ‘Batman Forever’ before reuniting with Cruise again in 1999 for Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ In 2001, Kidman and Cruise divorced, and since then, the actress has starred in films like ‘Moulin Rouge,’ ‘The Others,’ ‘The Hours,’ ‘Stepford Wives,’ and ‘Australia.’ More recently, she’s appeared in the films ‘The Paperboy’ and ‘Stoker,’ as well as the HBO film ‘Hemingway and Gellhorn.’ You can catch her next as actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly in ‘Grace of Monaco,’ as well as in Werner Herzog’s new film, ‘Queen of the Desert.’
Robert Duvall, Harry Hogge
Then: Veteran actor Robert Duvall played Harry Hogge, Cole’s crew chief on the circuit. Duvall’s previous credits included roles in ‘The Godfather’ films, ‘Network,’ and ‘Apocalypse Now.’
Now: Duvall kept up the pace, appearing in movies like ‘Newsies,’ ‘Falling Down,’ and ‘Sling Blade.’ In 1997, he wrote, directed, and starred in the film ‘The Apostle,’ which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He’s also starred in ‘Gone in 60 Seconds,’ ‘Crazy Heart,’ ‘The Road,’ and in 2012, he reunited with Tom Cruise for ‘Jack Reacher’ and with Nicole Kidman for ‘Hemingway and Gellhorn.’ Recently, Duvall starred in ‘Jayne Mansfield’s Car’ and ‘A Night in Old Mexico.’
Michael Rooker, Rowdy Burns
Then: Michael Rooker, best known for his role in ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,’ played Rowdy Burns, Cole’s first rival. Rooker’s car in the film was modeled after the one driven by legendary race car driver Dale Earnhardt.
Now: Rooker went on to appear in ‘JFK,’ ‘Tombstone,’ and ‘Mallrats.’ He’s also well known for his role in James Gunn’s films ‘Slither’ and ‘Super,’ as well as for playing Merle on the AMC series ‘The Walking Dead.’ Rooker has guest starred on shows like ‘Psych’ and ‘Burn Notice,’ and recently lent his voice to an episode of ‘Archer.’ Up next, you can see him in a supporting role in James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’
Cary Elwes, Russ Wheeler
Then: Cary Elwes played Russ Wheeler, a novice driver who fills in for Cole on the circuit but later becomes his rival. At the time, Elwes was best known for his roles in ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Glory.’
Now: Since then, Elwes has starred in spoof comedies like ‘Hot Shots’ and ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights,’ as well as thrillers like ‘The Crush’ and ‘Kiss the Girls.’ He’s also starred in ‘Saw,’ ‘Ella Enchanted,’ and ‘Georgia Rule,’ and in 2010, he returned to the ‘Saw’ franchise for the final film, ‘Saw 3D.’ He had a recurring role on ‘Psych,’ and in recent years, he’s appeared in ‘No Strings Attached,’ ‘The Adventures of Tintin,’ and in the Lifetime movie ‘The Anna Nicole Story.’ You can see him next in the upcoming film ‘Reach Me’ with Sylvester Stallone.
Randy Quaid, Tim Daland
Then: Randy Quaid played Tim Daland, the wealthy car dealership and race team owner who recruits Cole from the stock car circuit to race for NASCAR. Quaid, brother of fellow actor Dennis Quaid, was best known for playing Cousin Eddie in the National Lampoon’s ‘Vacation’ films.
Now: Quaid went on to star in ‘Kingpin,’ ‘Independence Day,’ ‘Not Another Teen Movie,’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ His last acting credits were parts in the films ‘Real Time’ and ‘Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach,’ in 2008 and 2009, respectively. In 2010, Quaid and his wife Evie were accused of burglary and have been living in Canada as refugees. Recently, Quaid sued an Indianapolis bond company that bailed him and his wife out of jail after the incident, claiming they never authorized the company to do so.
John C. Reilly, Buck Bretherton
Then: One of John C. Reilly’s first roles was as Buck Bretherton, Cole’s car chief in ‘Days of Thunder.’
Now: Reilly met up with Paul Thomas Anderson for ‘Hard Eight’ in 1996, and reunited with the director for the films ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Magnolia,’ further drawing attention to his talents. He also appeared in ‘The Good Girl,’ ‘Gangs of New York,’ and ‘Chicago’ before reuniting with Nicole Kidman for ‘The Hours.’ In 2006, he returned to the world of racing in the Will Ferrell satirical comedy ‘Talladega Nights,’ and teamed with Ferrell again for ‘Step Brothers.’ Reilly has also taken interesting roles in dramatic and indie films like ‘Cyrus’ and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin.’ In his spare time, he plays Dr. Steve Brule on the Tim Heidecker- and Eric Wareheim-produced Adult Swim series ‘Check It Out!, With Steve Brule,’ a character originated on ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!’ Reilly was also the voice of the lead character in Disney’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph,’ and recently provided narration for the studio’s nature documentary ‘Bears.’ Up next, he appears in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and the dark indie comedy ‘Life After Beth’ with Aubrey Plaza.