MEET A MONTREALER: JACQUES VILLENEUVE

Posted on June 23rd, 2011 by .

Montreal’s Jacques Villeneuve is a hometown hero: only the third motorsport driver in history to have won championship races in CART, the Indy 500 and F1. The Montreal Buzz caught up with him to talk racing, his role in the French version of the Pixar movie, Cars 2, and where he spends his time in Montreal…

He was born in the Montreal suburb of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in 1971, the son of the legendary F1 driver Gilles Villeneuve, who was tragically killed in a crash in ‘82 and after whom the beautiful and scenic F1 and Nascar track in Montreal is named. Villeneuve is a renaissance man of the racing world: Since 2007, when he left F1 racing, he has driven in the Le Mans 25-hour series, Speedcar, TRV6 and NASCAR. Montreal race fans will be happy to know that he’ll be behind the wheel at the Montreal Nascar race on August 19-20.

He also launched and owned Newtown, the happening Montreal resto/nightclub, until recently. He has a record, Private Paradise, and is a race commentator for F1. Now, he’s trying his hand (or rather his voice) in movies, too: In the recent sequel to the Pixar classic Cars, he’ll be voicing a race commentator (named after himself) in the French version of the movie, Les Bagnoles 2, coming out this Friday. Villeneuve sat down with us to talk about the recent, rainy F1 and his homebase of Montreal.

Photograph by: Shaun Best, REUTERS

Montreal Buzz: So that crazy watered-down F1 two weeks ago: Is that a race you’d like to have driven?

Jacques Villeneuve: I always enjoy difficult conditions, and that was definitely the case there. I just think they spent way more time fiddling around than they needed to. When it was a swimming pool it made sense [to shut it down], but there were other times that it was dry enough for the cars to get around, and they just weren’t there. I think it was a little bit embarrassing that they waited so long to get racing again. As soon as it started to dry out, they should have been out there. There were some guys took the restart, they were on normal tires, they weren’t even on full-wet tires.

MB: Did you stick around for any of the parties, at Newtown or elsewhere?

JV: Not really. It’s not my restaurant anymore, for one thing. This year I wasn’t too involved with the proceedings, what I’ve always done was the driving, not the parties. I’ve got kids now, too.

MB: Do you love the first Cars movie? Is that why you wanted to be in this one?

JV: I love the Cars franchise! And I have two little boys and they love the first one. I watched the first one because of them, and I couldn’t help but love it. But that’s what’s great about Pixar; kids love them but there’s a lot in there for grownups, too. Everyone can get something out of them. When I got a call to see if I was interested in doing the voice, I didn’t think twice.

MB: How was the experience of doing movie voicework? Studio voicing can be tricky, it’s an art in itself.

JV: It was exciting! This is first time I do something like that, it’s risky–you can find of burn yourself doing new things like that in public…but it was fun! It’s fun doing something like this because I know my kids will be proud of me. And honestly, we are all still kids when we watch movies. I forget I’m a grownup when you’re watching cartoons, and that’s great! Besides, Cars 2 os well written not baby talk, doing voice so even though the dialogue is somewhat realistic, it’s still not stuff that would happen in real life, it’s not realistic.

MB: In the movie, the race genres are all mixed up- there’s cars from NASCAR and F1 all hanging out. That would never happen in a real-life scenario—but it’s sort of fitting since you’re a multi-sport driver too.

JV: Yeah, in the movie, the cars race in Italy, France, Tokyo, and it’s a bunch of different type of cars racing together, which of course wouldn’t happen in real life, but they’re mixing all kinds of influences—Europe, Asia, America, so it’s quite fun for kids. Anyway, the racing is an excuse for all the storylines, and for the characters to have their own lives—it’s not 100% related to racing, it’s a cartoon!

MB: So now you live full-time in Montreal. What are some of your favourite things to do here? Any favourite things to do with your kids?

JV: So far, my kids have been too young to do much with besides take them to the park near our house, you know? I like summer in the city, we go a lot of parks, so it still feels like a village, you know? They are just getting to the age now where this summer, we’ll be starting to do some fun stuff. It’s more the adventurous side of me that comes out with them, we’ll do all the same stuff I did growing up in Quebec—karting, going to the countryside and riding motocross. I’ll let other people take the kids to museums. It’s more the outdoor stuff, skiing and stuff that I like to do with my kids.

MB: What about grown-up stuff?

JV: I like going to restaurants. I’ll go out for a special meal in the Plateau or Old Montreal somewhere. Club Chasse et Peche, that’s my favourite. And also DNA is fun

A

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Montreal NASCAR, August 19-20, 2011

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