For a certain group of moviegoers heading to the multiplex to see “Baby Driver,” the new action film from director Edgar Wright of “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” fame, the attraction isn’t stars Jamie Foxx or Jon Hamm. It’s not even a swaggering Ansel Elgort, who plays the title character, a speed-demon getaway driver high on the heady mix of gas fumes and rock ‘n’ roll, or Lily James, who plays his waitress-turned-girlfriend.
It’s the car: the bright, red 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX.
Long a favorite of “The Fast and the Furious”-style racing crowd, the WRX runs up hard against Subaru’s more mainstream marketing image as the automotive equivalent of a trip to REI — all dogs, babies, families, mountain bikes, coconut water and dad’s old Jack Johnson CDs. But, for Subie freaks, there’s way more to the story.
That’s one reason why Subaru WRX owner Hunter Wooten of Keller, who loves the cars for their performance and handling, and is part of the North Texas Subarus Facebook group, is glad to see “Baby Driver” making a big splash. “They’ve had great sales recently with their new model but they’re going to be even better now,” he said in a phone interview.
And he’s looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend. “I’ve seen the trailer multiple times,” he said.
Similarly, Frisco friends Justin Pringle, Josh Kay, Allen Aniobi, and Tyler Stewart — WRX drivers all — can’t wait to see it. “As far as Hollywood goes, they’ve kind of stayed away from Subarus and imports,” Pringle explained in an interview. “Everything is always about muscle cars, going back to the first ‘Fast and the Furious’, at the very end was Dom [Vin Diesel] in the big Charger. Subsequently, it was always American muscle, American muscle. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just not what I want to go for.”
For WRX owner Christopher Stark of Las Colinas, getting this kind of push has a ripple effect. “Exposure drives up demand which, in turn, gives us better WRXs in the future,” he said in a Facebook message.
He does worry though about the downside. “I just have to be extra careful around police that have seen the movie,” he said.
Subies at Alamo Drafthouse
To be fair to other car manufacturers, the Subaru isn’t the only car in the film — there were some 150 cars of various makes used in “Baby Driver” — but it’s the WRX that seems to be making the biggest impression. After all, both Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters in Dallas and Richardson have a red Subaru Impreza parked out front as part of their “Baby Driver” promotion and they will be there all weekend.
Full confession: I’ve driven nothing but Subarus since 1998 (not a WRX though) and when I saw “Baby Driver” at South by Southwest in Austin in March, seeing the car play such a prominent role was a nice little Hollywood shout-out. So I called my car dealer, Aaron Dunson at Subaru of Plano, who drives a WRX, to see if the movie has spawned much consumer interest yet.
“I haven’t heard too many customers mention it yet,” he said. “[But] I’m sure it’s going to generate a lot of attention for the WRX at least. ...When I first saw the trailer and immediately I knew it was a WRX, you just get pretty excited to see your car featured in some type of Hollywood [production] — like Steve McQueen’s Mustang [in ‘Bullitt’] or ‘The Italian Job’ with the Mini-Cooper.”
But Subaru fans certainly have been talking about it online.
“I’ll see it to support the car lol,” RocktheBox50 said on the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club forum.
“Saw the premier...great movie. I wish the WRX was used more but really cool movie for sure,” said Mkivmike117.
“wrx needed more screen time,” complained Blackseafleet and that’s a sentiment echoed by Aaron Brown, an editor at the automotive site TheDrive.com, who has been writing quite a bit about “Baby Driver.” “I wish the WRX had more of a presence in the film,” he said via e-mail. “It made sense that the car had to be changed for each job that the crews completed, but as a WRX geek, the more the better.”
At the Alamo Drafthouses, programmer/creative manager James Wallace, says the Subies — provided by Sewell Subaru in Dallas after Wallace reached out to them — have had moviegoers stopping and gawking.
“People walk in, they see the movie, and come out and get really excited, which is really funny to me,” he said. “It wasn’t something I expected to be as much of a hit as it was. I’ve seen people taking pictures and posing in front of it.”
For at least one Subaru fan though, this wave of cinematic popularity has its drawbacks. Posted edkwon on the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club forum, “Expect Subaru insurance rates to climb as loser owners are inspired to recreate scenes and think they can score hot waitresses.”
Despite the good reviews the film is getting — it’s at a stellar 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — and all the buzz, it might not be enough for some moviegoers who haven’t been bitten by the Subaru bug.
“I told my girlfriend I wanted to go see it and she looked at me like a 13-year-old,” said WRX owner Tyler Stewart by phone. “She shook her head and walked away.”