DETROIT -- So how much did General Motors Co. pay to place a well-worn 1978 Chevrolet Suburban in a prime role in the hit film ‘Crazy Heart’?
The truck was driven by leading man Jeff Bridges -- ironically, the voice of Hyundai commercials. On Sunday, Bridges finally won his first Oscar for his performance in the film after five nominations.
One might suspect a bidding war for product placement between GM and Ford Motor Co. to win heavy screen time for a long-lasting SUV set in the prime truck territory of Texas and New Mexico. The Suburban shows its durability even after Bridges’ character, over-the-hill country singer Bad Blake, rolls it in the film.
But GM was better lucky than good. The automaker had nothing to do with the placement, didn't pay a dime and essentially got a free, long-form ad for the SUV.
The 1978 Suburban “is what the director wanted,” said Robert “Bear” Molitor, whose Santa Fe, N.M., outfit, L&B Production Services, provided two identical Suburbans for the film.
First-time director Scott Cooper -- who started as a child actor growing up in Appalachia's Abingdon, Va., listening to bluegrass music -- co-wrote the Crazy Heart screenplay. Cooper, 39, shot the movie in 24 days with a budget of $7 million. The film had tallied U.S. box office earnings of $377 million as of early March, according to published reports.
GM is “very happy” about the Suburban's role in the movie, said an executive close to the automaker who asked not to be identified. GM's Steve Tihanyi, who oversees GM's Hollywood and TV placements, wasn't available for comment by deadline.
Last year, Suburban sales echoed the flagging U.S. market, plunging 24 percent in a light-truck market that also fell 24 percent.
Molitor said he was surprised that another movie wanted his same Suburban after filming of Crazy Heart wrapped -- for The Book of Eli. That post-apocalyptic film starring Denzel Washington is directed by Albert and Allen Hughes. The twin brothers were born in Detroit on April 1, 1972.