Barry Newman, the star of the iconic car movie Vanishing Point, is dead at 93. The actor also co-starred in The Limey.
Just a few days ago, we published a list of great car movies (which is about to get a follow-up), and one of the movies we highlighted was 1971’s Vanishing Point. Many people consider it the greatest car movie ever made, with Quentin Tarantino paying homage to it in Death Proof, with the “hero car” a 1970 Dodge Challenger, just like the one featured in that movie. Sadly, the star of Vanishing PointBarry Newman, is no more, with THR reporting the iconic seventies actor has died at 92.
In the movie, Newman plays Kowalski, a disaffected ex-cop turned car delivery driver who makes a wager that he can drive from Denver to San Francisco in two days. Hopped up on speed and driving up to 160 miles an hour, he quickly runs afoul of the law, but nothing will stop him from delivering the Dodge Charger by the agreed-upon delivery date. He soon becomes a counter-culture hero, and the film is cut from the same cloth as movies like Easy Rider. Newman barely speaks in the film, with Kowalski more of a cipher than a flesh and blood man, and the film became a cult hit that, as Newman admitted in an interview with Money into Light, became a hit first in England:
When the film first came out, it was the second feature to THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), but when it opened in London at the Leicester Square theatre, it was critically acclaimed and people lined up around the block to see it. In England I was a hero, and in America I was just a guy picking up his bags at the plane terminal! It opened again in America after playing Europe and people then started getting on to the film. It became a cult film without me even realizing it. To this day, I’m always being asked to talk about it somewhere.
In addition to Vanishing Point (which was remade as a TV movie with Viggo Mortensen in the 90s), Newman also starred in the 1968 movie The Lawyerwhich was a big enough hit that it spawned a TV series sequel that he starred in, Petrocelli. In the nineties, he saw a bit of a resurgence as a character actor, appearing in Bowfinger and, most memorably, in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limeywhere he played Peter Fonda’s gun-toting fixer.
If you have yet to see Vanishing Point gold The Limey, I recommend checking both out. If you want to see more Barry Newman car action, also give fear is the key a look. He was a pretty cool action star in the mold of Steve McQueen and he will be missed.