‘Hitchhiker’ film spotlights heavy equipment maker JCB

The $50 million film version of Douglas Adam’s sci-fi novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” featured an intergalactic plotline, exploding planets and singing dolphins. But it also made use of Earth-based equipment company JCB‘s machines and operators.

“Hitchhiker,” which has grossed more than $56 million since its release on May 1, used 12 JCB machines and a team of operators in rural Bedfordshire, England for eight days to film the movie’s explosive opening scene.

“They felt JCB was a good match for the part,” said Jenifer Duggan, a spokeswoman for JCB.

JCB’s U.K. product manager Michael Plummer pitched the idea to use the company’s machines to Touchstone Pictures, the film’s production company. Because the company’s yellow machines are seen commonly in England, Touchstone felt JCB meshed well with the setting.

The equipment maker didn’t pay to have its products shown in the film.

“Hitchhiker” opens with hero Arthur Dent awaking to find a group of machines poised to demolish his home to make way for a road construction project. Ironically, Earth has also been slated for a similar fate. Dent’s alien friend Ford Prefect whisks him to safety before the planet is destroyed.

A cast of 8060 midi excavators, a JS200 wheeled excavator, a JS130 wheeled excavator, a 722 dump truck, a 456ZX wheeled loading shovel, a 4CX backhoe loader, a 3CX backhoe loader, a 411 wheeled loading shovel and a 532-120 Loadall telescopic handler were used both on the set and off – JCB lent operators to construct sets and help with post-film cleanup.

The equipment is featured alongside Martin Freeman of “The Office” as Dent, “Love Actually” star Bill Nighy and rapper Mos Def as Prefect.

One of the film’s “demolition crew” was JCB demonstrator Paul Knapper. The 52 year old from Tean, Staffordshire, England, said the chance to star in a big-budget film was a great experience.

“In 30 years of driving for JCB, it’s the first time I’ve had to jump out of the cab to escape from an alien invasion,” Knapper said. “But it was great fun and a fantastic opportunity.”

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at pbeeson@randallpub.com.