So successful was The Cannonball Run (1981) with its all-star cast, that a sequel was a foregone conclusion. But how do you cast the sequel to a film that featured such illustrious names as Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Fonda?
Well, the producers of Cannonball Run II once again aired their cheque books and accumulated a mind-boggling array of famous faces.
Starring Reynolds, DeLuise, Martin and Davis again, with new additions Telly Savalas, Shirley MacLaine, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Doug McClure, Ricardo Montalban and Frank Sinatra, Cannonball Run II must be the starriest sequel ever made.
Like the first film, the sequel follows the adventures of the numerous contestants in a no-holds-barred cross-country road race from Los Angeles to New York. The idea for both films came from a real-life event called The Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash – an illegal and extremely hazardous affair in which director Hal Needham participated in 1979.
So impressed was he by the potential for a rip-roaring cinematic adventure that he encouraged all the 1979 contestants to keep a diary of their unusual experiences.
Needham himself camouflaged his Dodge van as an ambulance, convinced his wife to act as ‘patient’, and borrowed costly medical equipment to hoodwink any cops that may have stopped him. And so with siren and medical tunic in place, he zapped across the United States in the world’s most unpredictable race.
Named after the legendary pioneer long-distance auto racer Cannonball Baker, the Run was a good-natured, admittedly illegal, thoroughly anti-establishment fun-loving affair with absolutely no rules or regulations.
The story this time around is pretty much the same as before, but the prize money of one million dollars is now raised by an Arab King (Ricardo Montalban) who wishes to see the illicit race won by his own kind – ie: The Sheik, a quixotic moron played by Jamie Farr (with the grotesque Jack Elam as his ever-present physician and Doug McClure as his eunuch).
Others in the race – more for the money than the prestige – include two pseudo nuns (Marilu Henner and Shirley MacLaine), two pseudo cops (Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.), one pseudo chauffeur (a recalcitrant and overdressed orang-utan!), a giant (Richard Kiel) and a pair of gorgeous but conniving cleavages (Susan Anton and Catherine Bach).
JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds) and his schizophrenic sidekick Victor (Dom DeLuise) – alias Captain Chaos – pose as the military carrying a vital nuclear device to New York. Sid Caesar, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Hal Needham, Telly Savalas, Henry Silva and Frank Sinatra fill in as roadside participants.
Victor Prinzim / Captain Chaos / Don Canneloni
Sammy Davis Jr.
Jackie (Mitsubishi Engineer)
Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing
CHP Officer #1
CHP Officer #2
Pvt. Homer Lyle
Don Don Canneloni
Charles Nelson Reilly