George Lucas is best known as the creator of Star Wars, but as a young man, Lucas had more earthly interests—he dreamed of becoming a race car driver. While at high school in Modesto, California, Lucas would often race his Autobianchi Bianchina at an underground circuit. He gave up his high speed dreams after a bad accident, but the influence of cars on the young filmmaker can be seen in his Oscar-nominated 1973 film American Graffiti. Lucas is still a fan, and he’s a regular at the Monaco Grand Prix.
James Dean’s love for racing cars was well known as he made his rapid rise to fame. He owned a $7,000 Porsche Spyder, and became acquainted with professional race car drivers. On September 30, 1955, Dean’s need for high-octane risk taking caught up with him: He was killed when he hit another car at an intersection. Three hours earlier, Dean had gotten a speeding ticket. Legend has it that his car, nicknamed the Little Bastard, was cursed. After Dean’s death, a dealer sold the car’s parts, which were transplanted into other cars. Many of those cars were subsequently involved in fatal crashes.
Paul Newman’s interest in car racing began while he was training to play a race car driver in the 1969 film Winning. In 1972, he had his first professional race in Thompson, California. In 1979 Newman finished in second place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, driving a Porsche 935. He continued to race as a hobby and co-owned a racing team. Newman even voiced the character of Doc Hudson in the 2006 Pixar flick Cars. In 2009, he was posthumously inducted into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame.
Patrick Dempsey is most easily recognizable in his green scrubs as Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, but he’s also often seen in a driving suit and helmet. Dempsey has competed in high-profile races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolez 24 at Daytona. Dempsey drives the Mazda RX-8, among other sports cars in his collection. He’s the owner and lead driver for Dempsey Racing, a team that races in the American Le Mans Series.
British actor and True Blood vampire Stephen Moyer is another celeb who loves life in the fast lane. In 2011, Moyer’s car flipped in the Toyota Pro Celebrity Race. Luckily, he came out unscathed and even managed to raise $15,000 for charity in the process. Moyer has said his love of racing dates back to his teenage years when he started driving before he had a license.