1978: Hollywood holds 'mock Little 500' for ‘Breaking Away’ film

Breaking Away Filming
Posted at 5:30 AM, Sep 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 13:47:35-04

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Although Indiana University’s Little 500 is usually held in April, 45 years ago students and spectators had the opportunity to see a second Little 500.

Little 500 filming

A film crew re-created the iconic race at the Tenth Street Stadium for the movie "Breaking Away,” in Sept. 1978.

The coming-of-age flick tells the story of working-class friends who are navigating a post-high school world in Bloomington. They ultimately end up competing in the town's annual bike race.

The film was written by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates. Actors in the film included Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, and Paul Dooley.

Indiana University President Dr. John W. Ryan also appeared in the film.

“I think it’s good for everybody to have a standby profession just in case you get fired from the one that you’re in,” Ryan said.

The Little 500 scene was one of dozens shot around Bloomington.

Dennis Christopher
Actor Dennis Christopher holds a Coke bottle.

Earlier that year, WRTV reporter Rick Sallinger caught up with Dennis Christopher to ask if it was difficult to portray a Hoosier on the silver screen.

“I don’t think so,” Christopher said. “People are the same pretty much everywhere.”

Sallinger also spoke to a man hoping to make his mark in the film as an extra.

“This could be the start of something big,” he said after reciting lines from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Breaking Away Filming
Film crews shoot scene at Tenth Street Stadium in Bloomington.

"Breaking Away" was released in 1979 and generally well-received. It won Best Musical or Comedy at the 37th Golden Globe Awards. Steve Tesich won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.