As much as Patrick Dempsey is known for his acting, he has also made himself known as a great racecar driver behind the wheel. He recently combined his passions, working as the executive producer for the feature documentary “Hurley,” telling the story of Hurley Haywood.
In the film, Haywood spoke about his success in racing, though also touched upon other sensitive subjects in his life, ranging being gay to Peter Gregg’s suicide. The film was completed last year, and is being released to the public through 2019. You can learn more about the film through it’s website at https://www.hurleyhaywood.com/.
Recently, POPULAR SPEED got the chance to speak with Dempsey after viewing the film, to talk about the contents as well as his own racing career.
POPULAR SPEED: What was it like for you to work on the movie with Hurley?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Oh, it was great. The initial discussion happened in 2013. Derek Dodge, our director, had come to LeMans to do social media for me and was shooting a bunch of stuff there around the track during the course of the race. At that point, he was introduced to Hurley and heard a little bit about his story, and he approached me at the end of the 24 Hour race asking if I’d be supportive if he could do a film about Hurley’s life in motorsports, and his personal life. I was like, ‘If Hurley is wanting to do something like that, I’m more than willing to support you with that,’ and that’s how it began.
I really liked it. I like documentaries anyway, so for me, I really want to do a lot more of these. I learned a lot through this process in the four years. The world was a different place four years ago than it is today, and I think the story is a pro-founding impact on many levels. Certainly we’re dealing with the LGBQ community and then also mental health, as well. There’s two big issues in the documentary that we tackle.
PS: One of the things that they connected the documentary with was your experience in running the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with the Brumos colors. What was that experience like for you?
PATRICK: Growing up, I’ve always been a big fan of motorsports. So that livery in particular is something that is iconic. To be able to race that for me was a personal accomplishment. Then to be that close with Hurley and really as my coach, he really helped me tremendously in my racing career with the feedback that he gave me and the support, and it was really exciting. We had a good result. It was a tough race. We had a lot of technical problems early on, but we battled back and he was there the whole time. That was a great experience to be apart of that.
PS: With everything that you put in the documentary, what are you looking for people to take away from it?
PATRICK: Well, I hope people that love the sport learn a little something new about it, and certainly learn more about Hurley. He’s such a kind, open rockstar in so many ways. He really opens himself up, and expresses himself in a beautiful way, and it was nice to be apart of that and support him in that. For people who don’t understand racing. I hope they come away with a new sense of appreciation for the sport that I love so much.
PS: For you, yourself, how did your interest in racing develop?
PATRICK: I always loved racing since I was a little kid. My dad was a team owner in short track in the south when I was growing up, and then he moved to Maine, but he always had this real passion for motorsports. That was something that was very important in my upbringing. I didn’t really get started in racing till much later in life. I didn’t start racing until I was in my 30’s, and then through my 40’s, I raced pretty much full time.
So I love ski racing, cycling, and car racing – those are my big sports, and to be able to go do that was a dream come true. And certainly to race at Daytona, which is an incredible event, and LeMans, and then doing the full season in the WEC for me was a dream come true. Now to be able to do films about the sport – the documentary, as well as the art of racing in the rain – it’s nice to have that perspective and hopefully tell more stories within the racing world.
PS: Now in making that switch to focus on racing, you gave up a lot of acting stuff, and a critical role with Grey’s Anatomy in playing Dr. Derek Shepherd. Was that a tough decision to make?
PATRICK: At the time, it wasn’t difficult at all because I knew I had an opportunity to where I had a full ride with Porsche to race an entire season in the WEC. I was 49 at the time, so I knew I had a limited time in my career and this was an opportunity for me to do that. In order to be successful, you need to commit 100%, and I was really happy to do that. For me, it has been live changing to be able to have this experience.
PS: You’ve done a lot of different endurance races, but is there anything on the bucket list that you still want to do?
PATRICK: I wish I had done Bathurst; I missed that opportunity. That was one of the races that I would’ve really like to have done. It’s really challenging, really tough circuit. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that now, but I’ll do some sprint races and do some vintage racing and stuff like that. But for me, endurance racing, I achieved what I wanted to in the sport. I still have a team in the WEC. We won at Sebring, and now our next race is at Spa and then back to LeMans.
So I’m still very active in the sport, and very active with Porsche, and I hope I can continue to do that in a way that I can have my home life; I’ve got three children that I want to be around, and in racing, as we talk about in the documentary, it’s a big sacrifice on one’s family because you’re on the road so much. So I’m trying to find a balance to where I’m maintaining my career as an actor and producer, but as well as a father and a husband, and then when I can, keep the racing active as well.
PS: For other young people getting their start in racing, what is your advice for them based on your experience?
PATRICK: Karting is a great way to get started, and then move up from there. There’s so many great series. Even if you’re older and want to get into it, you want to get into a proper school, learn the technique. For me, if I was a young man starting over, I’d really focus on Porsche. The SuperCup would be my objective as a young driver to shoot for and travel and race in Europe, although there’s some incredible series here in America as well.
One of our goals is to really start to develop a young driver program to bring young American drivers over to Europe and give them a ride with Porsche. That’s something that we’re working towards, and what we’ve done this year in the WEC is we have two really strong young drivers that have done an incredible job that we’d like to continue to develop.
But for me, my best advice would be to start karting. That’s a great way to get started. You’re seeing a lot of young drivers in Formula 1 that started at age five, and they had a real passion for it and worked their way up. Not everybody can do that, but it’s a great way to start.
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